Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmases Past

I'm writing this for the younger folk in the clan...hell, after turning 75 this fall, everyone is younger, save a handful. I want to tell some stories from the 1940s.

My first memory is 1945...when I was 4. Dad made it home for Christmas after being away in the Army for 3 1/2 years. I do not remember specifics other than Dad's presence after waiting for him at the train station in Mahoningtown until (if memory serves) after Mid-night. I was not sure I was as happy to see him as the rest of the family seemed to be. That's another story, however. Christmas of 1946 is a different matter.

Joe graduated from High School in January 1946 and promptly went into the Navy. With his departure Mom and Dad hired an Amish man, Jonathan J. Byler (then 19) to work the farm...with Dave...which meant he would live with us as well. So by Christmas, Yone as we called him, was very much a part of our family. He lived in the room behind the kitchen, later became Bonnie Lutz' room, then the TV room, for those of you who remember.

He showered in the cellar near the furnace. A shower head was installed among the floor joists, and a drain was in the floor there, or so I recall. No matter, there was always a thin layer of coal dust down there, so it was not the most enticing place to shower. It was still there when the house was sold, but not used after Yone left. I remember Jim and me using that shower only once or twice over the years. But Yone was like a big brother.

On Christmas morning 1946 he and Dave were back in the house after milking the cows (6 or 7 by this time) and the furnace was stoked and heating the big house. The old place had little or no insulation so the heat went right up to the roof and melted any snow that was up there. This year there was plenty and just as Jim and I were stirring there was a big snow-slide off the roof and onto the back porch below (this is a year before the garage went on so there was quite a drop to the shed roof of the porch.) Jim and I slept in the little room on the North West corner of the house. With a loud crash the snow hit...I had heard it before and knew what it was, but this time Yone tried to convince us that the sound was Santa leaving the roof of the house...naaa....he didn't fool me: too late in the morning, it was daylight, it was snow, I just knew it. That pretty much ended my belief in the old elf. Too much empirical data indicating otherwise.

We were not allowed to open gifts before Bonnie and Pop-Pop arrived, so we were focused on seeing their gray car come done the road and park adjacent to the barnyard gate. They never came up in the drive, as I recall. They were driving a 1935 Ford...the black 1948 showed up later. Of course, Tottie was with them. But as I think about it, I am not sure if in 1946 she was with them. I am guessing yes, however. When she was in the country she would take the train to New Castle for Christmas. Her presence was off and on those early years since she had stints in Puerto Rico and then Greece.

Tottie added significant flavor to the Christmas experience. She brought trinkets with her; trivia from abroad or New York City, either of which was coveted by us kids. Most of the "in" games at the time showed up for us at Christmas...Pit, Authors, Scrabble to name just a few came to Luacres courtesy of Aunt Tottie.

By 1947 Yone was gone. Joe was released from the Navy early due to the shrinking armed forces after WWII, which meant he was back in the house...we were all home together, once again.

Dad started a tradition this year. He purchased a "trophy" with a plastic base and had a athletic figure in gold plate affixed to the top, its was hand raised and sported a crown of laurel on his head. There were gold-plated plates on the front and back suitable for engraving. Dad bought it from our three season neighbor and jeweler, Sam Tieche. It was to become an annual award for some fete of a member of the family. I was awarded the "trophy" that first year, which said: "1947 - Tom - Swim". I guess Dad thought it was of note that during the previous summer I learned to swim while I was not yet six. I know that there were discussions about what constituted such an annual award...in later years Jim "won" it for "Art" (1948); Joe and Shirley were immortalized for their marriage (1949) and Dave's name was included in 1950 for Delta Theta Sigma (which was inscribed in Greek letters)....and there were other awards, but for the life of me I do not remember after 1950....51? and presuming 1952 Dave and Tillie. Chickie? Probably something, but I forget.

I wonder what happened to that thing? The engraving was done by Tieche, but each year he used a different font so the honor or names all fit on one line, so it did not look symetical as I recall.

Christmas of 1948 was much different that the previous two. First, Pop-Pop died in October of that year, so there was sadness. Also, Shirley and Joe were an item, so there was an added person at the opening of the gifts and as somewhat different eating schedule. Joe and Shirley were often with her family at the same dinner time. Dave and Tillie were also an item and I embarrassed myself in front of here more than once.

The fall of 1948 was also the first year we were not milking cows. They all went when Dave graduated from high school in June. It would be almost another ten years until bovines inhabited the old barn...and then not milking stock. The days of shipping milk from Luacres was over. The spring house no longer cooled milk in the old trough.

Bonnie Beal was always with us at meal time...Ed was there some years and not others. He had shown up several weeks after Pop-Pop's funeral and while he was functioning he was not always sociable. Ed, too, is another story, which I won't detail here. He was Mother's baby brother, but he was an alcoholic and was abusive to his bride and Mother held no quarter for that. There was tension.
We did not celebrate with Bonnie Lutz in those years....by 1950 Bonnie Lutz was living with us when she broke her hip. She was there until she died in 1952.

Joe and Dave headed off to college (Slippery Rock and Edinboro, respectively) in 1948. They were headed to Penn State's Ag school, but were farmed out their first year due to the influx of students due to the GI Bill. By 1949 Joe and Shirley were married and off to State College. Joe was the beneficiary of that legislation, which is how he and Shirley could manage married life...well, and the fact that she worked at the Navy's Underwater Research Lab located just off Penn State's main gate.

I was drinking this all in...year by year, decision by decision by my older siblings. Christmas was a significant event because the family always was together.



Friday, November 18, 2016

Lots of Luck


In the May 2016 edition of The Atlantic writer Robert Frank outlines the role he and others think luck plays in our lives. Frank knows something about luck when his heart failed and he was rescued by paramedics just minutes after his heart stopped because they were in the area rather at their home base miles away. He was revived when 90% of those afflicted don’t make it. He goes on to outline what researchers have found about the role good fortune plays in our lives.

This got me to thinking about my own life retrospectively (something I do all too often Aleene says) and what Lady Luck has made possible for me.

RC drinking his morning coffee...about 1960
My dad used to say we should be grateful (read that lucky) that we were born into a loving family. This was in the late 1940s when there were half as many people in the United States and we as a nation were still in the afterglow of having WWII behind us. He thought to have love was important and I am sure it is, but it never occurred to me that a child would not be born into such surroundings. I took love for granted.

Circa 1946
I thought I was lucky to be born into a family where I was the youngest and was doted upon by my older siblings (not the one closest to me in age, however.) I guess I could have been a little prique and not received their attention, so I was lucky. I understood how to keep that affection flowing my way. Turns out I was not #5 in our family I was really #8 and had it not been for the deaths of a brother and twin sisters (who were five months premature) I may not even have been conceived. Was that luck or as many think, God’s will?

Our farm house as it looks today
Luck was involved that my parents thought it best to seek a farm as a place to live when Dad was called back into the Army when WWII broke out. It turned out to be a learning lab for me  in many ways. I was lucky I had role models to emulate in the area of hard work and love of nature. I was lucky to learn how to drive a tractor when I was 12 so that I felt a certain amount of independence when I was out in the open air mowing or raking hay. That was my “happy place” in those days. That feeling stayed with me for five years as I took over some of the farming operations. The farm turned out to be much better than the city for a place to spend my teen years.

I was lucky to be born with some musical talent and to a mother who shepherded me toward vocal music and the experiences I gained from rehearsing and performing. I should also  mention the satisfaction I got out of appreciating great musical works. Lucky me.

Fortune played a role in my life choices, I am sure...where I went to college, what classes I took and the young men with whom I lived. I know that I made good choices, but where there was no reason to go one direction or another; I was lucky I chose the roads I traveled.

I was lucky to be ordered to a ship on the East Coast vs. the West Coast during the Vietnam War. I served in the Mediterranean instead of Yankee Station. My good fortune continued while serving on board Roosevelt, since I served with some fine officers and men. When comparing notes with contemporary navy junior officers, mine was an uplifting experience not a sad one.

The only time I did a comprehensive job search with a resume and all, I chose Campbell Soup (and they chose me) when there were other good options and multiple offers. When I arrived for my first day of work five of the twelve men in my department were former Naval Officers….and two were Penn State grads. Was that luck in that I had made those choices which made me more attractive to that organization? You see I learned so much at CSC and after all, they moved us to West Michigan where we stayed for 35 years. I feel lucky that we raised our family there.


Then there was my choice (or her choice) for a marriage partner. Lady luck smiled on Aleene and me as she put us on the same track to find each other and discover our common bond: a strong family. While circumstances and choices pushed us close together, I really think that making a marriage decision at a young age (Aleene was 21, I 23)  had a  lot to do with luck.

We were lucky to be able to conceive children, a boy and a girl, and that they turned out to be Jeff and Amy. Yes, there is a lot to be grateful for whether it was luck or fate or God’s will.


Frank concludes his Atlantic article by saying that each time he introduces his study of luck he gets people to reflect on their lives and it inevitably ends up making them happy. As Garfield the cat famously said, “I resemble that remark.”




Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Consider and Hear Me

Presented October 16, 2016

Psalm 13

1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? 3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, 4 lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him," lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. 5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. 6 I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
I learned the words to this Psalm when I was 14. It was given to me as sheet music by my voice instructor to memorize. Entitled “Consider and Hear me,” It was my first solo. I remember practicing it at the top of my lungs when I was plowing with my John Deere revved up loud so as to hide my singing. The words have never left me. I have to say that I have used them over and over as the need presented itself. I learned it, of course, in King James language.
One of my concerns of the contemporary world is the trend...the statistic...that many young folk are leaving the traditional church. This demographic in our society has a different view of the world than those of us who were born in the middle of the  last century. And one of the traditions they seem to have discarded is the value of a spiritual life...a belief in God and a practice of worship.
I despair for them, because as I tried to point out to the children this morning...those of us who need to discuss things...pray and lament out loud, as it were... they have no connection with their creator. They have neither the language nor the passion...and I might add...the pleasure of verbally processing their concerns with God either through words or music.

Is this a serious deficit? When might this be a problem for them? Well, you never know….when did you need to talk things out with the Creator? When did you call upon your spiritual background to get you through a dark place in your life?

Let me tell you a story about a friend of mine who put his faith and his spiritual background to use in a time of extreme need.

Capt. W. R. Alcorn
It is my pleasure to introduce you to Wendell Reed Alcorn...farmer kid born in 1939 in Western Pennsylvania...a tough kid...who dogmatically went to church every Sunday...learned the hymns, and the prayers of the church and went off to Penn State to become a forester. That’s where I met him.

We became fraternity brothers...not the frat boys you hear about, but part of a group of 48 guys who lived together in the early 1960s who all were in school to study agriculture….we were all farmer kids.

Wendell was two years ahead of me and while I was unsettled on my career choices, Alcorn was fixated on flying jets, not, as you might think, managing stands of trees. Upon graduation he was off to Navy flight school. Two years later I followed him, not in aviation, but into the Navy nonetheless.

During the summer of 1963 we intersected in Newport, RI as I was finishing up my training before entering the fleet and Wendell was going to Justice School before he joined his squadron to fly a jet.

His squadron was attached to the USS Enterprise. I on the other hand, was headed to the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D Roosevelt. I to the Mediterranean and Alcorn, ultimately,  to Yankee Station in the South China Sea. I did not see him again for over 25 years.

Alcorn was now going by the name Ray since his initials were WRA… and he felt Ray was easier to remember than Wendell...I still stumble when I talk to him.

Ray was shot down over North Vietnam and spent the next 7 plus years in the infamous Hanoi HIlton. To add some perspective, let me read you a portion of what he wrote on his release in 1973:

On 22 December 1965 after twenty days and twenty-nine combat
missions, I was shot down and captured in North Vietnam.       
I was sustained during those long years in prison by my faith in God, faith in my government, and faith in my fellow countrymen. I knew I had not been nor would I ever be forgotten. Upon my repatriation, I was overjoyed to find that these faiths which gave me so much help and comfort were not merely figments of my imagination, but were very true and real. I thank you great American people for your support, your prayers and for your faith in me. God bless you all.


I first heard that Ray was Missing in 1967 just before I got out of the Navy. But it was not for another two years that I learned that he was considered a POW. His initial status was MIA. During this time of uncertainty, and if you remember...these were troubling times...there was little information coming from the captors in the North.

As you may recall, our prisoners, all 580 of them were returned in early 1973 in a negotiated deal. We saw them arrive live at Clark AFB in plane after plane.

Some years later Aleene and I traveled to a reunion of these 1960s vintage frat boys which was being hosted by Ray and his wife Karen in Tahoe City, California. There I heard, first hand, about his experience in the North Vietnamese prison.

We have connected several times since then and I have shared his story with some of you personally. But before I put this presentation on paper I emailed him to ask permission to share it with you.  He simply said that it was good for him to talk it through with those who understood and were willing to listen.

Ray told me his tale years ago and reviewed it again this fall when I checked in with him. What followed were several phone conversations...each lasting over an hour and a half. I wanted to be sure I had my facts straight.

The, then, 24 four year old was flying his A-4 Skyhawk over North Vietnam with his wingman (who did not survive)  when they ran into a wall of anti-aircraft fire….remember this was his 29th mission...he had seen that before.

A shell penetrated the canopy of his jet, cut his oxygen hose and grazed his neck. When the oxygen hose separated there was a flash fire from the hot metal in the presence of pure oxygen. Ray was burned, blinded and knew he had to bail out.

“In that fraction of a second before I ‘punched out’,” he said, “I uttered the first prayer that entered my mind: God I’ll need your help with this one.” He was crying out as was the Psalmist in our scripture this morning….Consider and hear me, O Lord my God...

Ray was raised during a time when farm  families went to church every Sunday. That’s what they did. “We were always in church,” he told me. But for the previous two years or so, he recalled he had fallen away from that habit. “He knew God,” he said, “but I hadn’t talked to Him much in months.”

He parachuted to the ground mostly uninjured except for the burns and the  wound to his neck. He has an ugly scar there now….to which I can attest.

He was surrounded by a small group of people who seemed friendly, but soon after he gathered his parachute and took a few steps the group grew larger and men with guns showed up...they motioned to him to join them.

Incredibly the DOD sent him this picture
about 20 years after his release. That is him.
He explained: “I thought things were going pretty well as they marched me along the road to Hanoi, then we stopped in a village and some rabble rousers began to whip the crowd into a frenzy. That’s when things got ugly.” He explained that one of the men spoke English and told him that there was a man there with a gun who wanted to shoot him and he might not be able to keep him from doing so. Things went from bad to worse and the armed man held the gun to his head.

Ray continued, “The English speaker told me that he would count to ten at which time he would be shot.” The count began: 1-2-3-4-5…”about this time I felt a warmth, a peace like I had never felt before,” he said, “….6-7-8-9-10”  A shot was fired but not from the gun aimed at him.

He went on, “...about that time a woman with a shawl  covering her head stepped forward, pressed something into my hand, made the sign of the cross and disappeared into the crowd.”

What had the woman placed in his hand? Was it a cross? A pebble? Whatever it was, when he was telling me his story it caused him to choke up. What was the object, I pressed?

He responded when he had collected himself….“A cake or cookie….When I finally was put into a cell that night after my first interrogation, I worked the ropes off my arms and realized my right hand was still clenched shut.  Upon opening my hand I discovered the cookie now crushed and covered with dirt and blood.  I took a small bite and decided that was my first, and it turned out, my only communion in North Vietnam.”

Refreshing your memory...all of Vietnam had been controlled by the French from about 1900 until 1954 with the fall of Dien Bien Phu as the French quickly left the country.  The country was split in half by the UN. It is not surprising that there existed a strong Christian, Roman Catholic, presence.

Ray felt that he had received a blessing from God; a sign that he was not alone. The woman had been God for him. This incident was instrumental in getting him through what turned out to be 7 years and 3 months of captivity.

The first four years of captivity were brutal...sometimes daily beatings, being hung by the arms for hours, solitary confinement, not allowed to communicate. He said by late 1969 after Ho Chi Minh died, conditions got better.


a cell in the Hanoi Hilton 
The prisoners came to understand they were political prisoners...to be used as bargaining chips...so while treatment was brutal, it was not lethal….although several of his compatriots did die.

He said that from the beginning of his captivity he learned the tap code that the growing number of prisoners used to communicate...and each Sunday the senior officer….in Ray’s case, James Stockdale would tap C C for church call….and if they were alone or later in groups they would pause for some sort of divine service. “I usually recited the 23rd Psalm.” Ray said haltingly…Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not be afraid: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” With that, tears welled up in his eyes and he paused…”You can tell I still get emotional when I think about it.”

There are more stories, of course….
Doug Hegdahl the young sailor who was repatriated after a year of captivity out of "First in, first out" order. He had memorized over 300 names of prisoners either came in contact with or heard about. He used “Old McDonald” as a memory tool. And others, too numerous to mention here.

I asked how he endured for over seven years:
“You live from day to day….week to week….month to month. When I got captured I felt that I would be released or rescued in a month...and I could survive for a month. Then I could survive another month...then I could survive for six months...then a year....and then another year. Being unable to communicate with others, I did a lot of communicating with God...my friend and my companion.”

One of the captured airmen had been an altar boy in the Anglican Church. He knew the liturgy inside and out...he would lead them in prayers week after week.

The last three years they had choirs and choir competition...singing hymns that some could remember...often at the risk of being beaten. The choirs, of course, were voices not standing together, but coming from individual cells up and down a long hallway. They paid a price for this but persisted.

Near the end of the his captivity they were permitted to assemble outside in a courtyard and they really began singing in a real chorus.

Were most prisoners believers, I asked?
“No...we had all sorts...conservative Christians… Jews,... Mormons… Catholics and Presbyterians like me,” he said. “One guy focused solely on his wife...everything he endured he did in the hope of seeing his wife. Unfortunately when we got back she had filed for divorce and two years after that he was gone.”

Ray and I had two mutual acquaintances who were prisoners, it turns out. One was a pilot from my hometown in Pennsylvania. Another was a pilot friend with whom I served in Roosevelt. A third was prominent name most of you would know...John McCain. While Ray was in the same camp with McCain he was not in the same cell or cell block. He was, however, in the same squadron right after they both began flying again after their release. He has many McCain stories...some are even  positive.

My story about Ray’s prison experience is my attempt to share with you the impact it had on him and through him to me. It is a compelling tale of strength, faith and courage…and how God works through others to furnish strength.

In 1998 he was part of a group of 12 former prisoners who went back to North Vietnam to visit Hanoi and the old prison. It gave him some peace as he met with civilians who were willing to discuss their memories with the group. And those conversations played a role of forgiveness in his healing.

I recall that when we concluded our first reunion twenty years ago.....I will never forget...as he fought back tears and looked me in the eye and said,  “I know I am going to Heaven, Tom...God has been with me throughout my life, every step of the way.”  

You can draw your own conclusions about Ray’s experience.  But the ability for those downed pilots to maintain a spiritual life, the ability to call upon scripture and hymns...from memory...all played an important role in their survival. It has been so in my experience as well and many of you can add your stories of similar life events.

God does give strength in time of need to those who ask Him to...Consider and Hear Me...

Ray and Karen the last time we
were together
Amen.

 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Bonnie Beal

I am sure all of us Grands have our stories, so I can only share mine. Part of my memories of her are colored by Mother's filling me in on her childhood.

She was stoic...the only time I saw her cry or lament was when her dear Will died in 1948. We rode in the care behind the hearse and that is where I saw her in tears. She recovered quickly and I never heard her lament about her loss again. I was seven and spent days with her in the summers between 1949 and 1956.

She and Dr. Beal (Will, Pop-pop) took over at the farm while Mother was in Butler VA Hospital (Deshon) for weeks with Chickie...and as far as I know, we never missed a beat...other than the time I sneaked into the bathroom and indulged in some chocolate flavored Ex-Lax and barfed...yep, I do remember that.

She was positive and loving to her grandson...always had room on the couch for me when I was in Junior High School...after band concerts or dances...she was always available.

I "squired" her, as Dad referred to it, to her door on countless Sundays after church. Each time playing the role of the model woman...Aunt Ann used to kiss me on the cheek when I squired her, but Bonnie never did.

Bonnie had the disposition of a saint...she was not Quaker, but she espoused Quaker values...never heard a cross word come from her...never, about anyone.

She would not let Aunt Nell defend her living with her brother-in-law in Aurora, IL when she returned to New Castle; "Now Nellie, that's enough about that...."

We were always in church together...she sang alto...very accurate tone-wise...and it is how I learned to harmonize. I preferred sitting next to her for the "Helps" and besides she tolerated my squirming. Dad, on the other hand, would squeeze my leg to make me sit still...back in the day. When it came to religion I know I have often said to myself...If it was good enough for Bonnie, it is good enough for me.

So...loving mother, grandmother, stoic, even tempered, good natured, and independent to the end. She lived alone at 413 until she was 96...then lived with Mother for four years before she moved in with Ms. Smith in New Wilmington until she passed at 103.

I often thought Mother got short shrift when it came to Bonnie. We all made over Bonnie and loved her, but Mom was the one with the responsibility and had to do the work...right down to the end. Bonnie had 38 years of being the doted on dowager in our family Mother had less than a quarter of that time...but that is a different story.

Bonnie was every grand-kid's favorite, to be sure, and a model of decorum and faithfulness.






Friday, April 29, 2016

Lots of Luck


In the May 2016 edition of The Atlantic writer Robert Frank outlines the role he and others think luck plays in our lives. Frank knows something about luck when his heart failed and he was rescued by paramedics just minutes after his heart stopped because they were in the area rather than at their home base miles away. He was revived when 90% of those afflicted don’t make it. He goes on to outline what researchers have found about the role good fortune plays in our lives.


This got me to thinking about my own life retrospectively (something I do all too often Aleene says) and what Lady Luck has made possible for me.


My dad used to say we should be grateful (read that lucky) that we were born into a loving family. This was in the late 1940s when there were half as many people in the United States and we as a nation were still in the afterglow of having WWII behind us. He thought to have love was important and I am sure it is, but it never occurred to me that a child would not be born into such surroundings. I took love for granted.


I thought I was lucky to be born into a family where I was the youngest and was doted upon by my older siblings (not the one closest to me in age, however.) I guess I could have been a little prique and not received their attention, so I was lucky I understood how to keep that affection flowing my way. Turns out I was not #5 in our family I was really #8 and had it not been for the stillborn deaths of a brother and twin sisters I may not even have been conceived. Was that luck or as many think, God’s will?


Luck was involved that my parents thought it best to seek a farm as a place to live when Dad was called back into the Army when WWII broke out. It turned out to be a learning lab for me  in many ways. I was lucky I had role models to emulate in the area of hard work and love of nature. I was lucky to learn how to drive a tractor when I was 12 so that I felt a certain amount of independence when I was out in the open air mowing or raking hay. That was my “happy place” in those days. That feeling stayed with me for five years as I took over some of the farming operations. The farm turned out to be much better than the city for a place to spend my teen years.


I was lucky to be born with some musical talent and to a mother who shepherded me toward vocal music and the experiences I gained from rehearsing and performing. I should also  mention the satisfaction I got out of appreciating great musical works. Lucky me.


Fortune played a role in my life choices, I am sure...where I went to college, what classes I took and the young men with whom I lived. I know that I made good choices, but where there was no reason to go one direction or another I was lucky I chose the roads I travelled.


I was lucky to be ordered to a ship on the East Coast vs. the West Coast during the Vietnam War. I served in the Mediterranean instead of Yankee Station. My good fortune continued while serving on board Roosevelt, since I served with some fine officers and men. When comparing notes with contemporary navy junior officers, mine was an uplifting experience not a sad one.


The only time I did a comprehensive job search with a resume and all, I chose Campbell Soup (and they chose me) when there were other good options and multiple offers. When I arrived for my first day of work five of the twelve men in my department were former Naval Officers….and two were Penn State grads. Was that luck in that I had made those choices which made me more attractive to that organization? You see I learned so much at CSC and after all, they moved us to West Michigan where we stayed for 35 years. I feel lucky that we raised our family there.


Then there was my choice (or her choice) for a marriage partner. Lady luck smiled on Aleene and me as she put us on the same track to find each other and discover our common bond: a strong family. While circumstances and choices pushed us close together, I really think that making a marriage decision at a young age (Aleene was 21, I 23)  had a  lot to do with luck.


We were lucky to be able to conceive children and had a boy and a girl and that they turned out to be Jeff and Amy. Yes, there is a lot to be grateful for whether it was luck or fate or God’s will..


Frank concludes his Atlantic article by saying that each time he introduces his study of luck he gets people to reflect on their lives and it inevitably ends up making them happy. As Garfield the Cat famously said, “I resemble that remark.”

Thursday, January 21, 2016

An update on a fifty year-old story

I published a blog back in 2012 that was my account of a flight I took from Mayport, Florida to Tyrone, Pa in 1965 with a shipmate, LCDR (then) Tim Grier. He was going north for a board meeting of a family operated exclusive school for girls, grade 7-12. If you read the details of my blog I also revealed that I had visited the school in 1962 as a member of the Penn State Glee Club.

By chance I ran into the URL of Grier School the other day and went through the entire site to see if I recognized any buildings or names. There were references to several Griers, but no mention of my associate, Tim. I was feeling nostalgic for something Navy, so I wrote to a name on the "Contact Us" list and explained my relationship with Tim. Next morning I got a reply saying that my email had been forwarded to the Board of Trustee President, Dr. Douglas Grier, Tim's brother.

We had a spirited exchange of emails...each recalling to the other about the aviational prowess of Brother Tim. Sadly, however, Dr. Grier revealed that Tim had passed last August after a bout with cancer. He was 83. I was sad, of course, but relieved to know that he had survived Vietnam, which is where he went after leaving FDR and that he had a good career in the Navy.

Dr. Grier also revealed that his son was about to take over the reins of Grier School which would make the 5th generation of Griers to lead the exclusive girl's school. 

It is not often that one is able to "close the loop" of time with an old associate even though the end of the road is death. Rest in peace Timothy.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Remembering my baptism


Granddad Beal and me; 1941
I don't often discuss my beliefs in my blog, but I am making an exception today. This post is about my Christianity....Methodism and family. You see, unless I miss calculated, one branch of our family has been Methodist for the last 150 years...or more. It's not about being better than other belief systems, but it is about legacy and connection.

Yearly, Methodists are reminded of their baptism. Perhaps it is because most of us are baptized...brought into the church...as infants. We are asked to simply remember the significance of the occasion. The only physical connection I have of mine is this picture and, of course, my baptismal certificate. The picture was taken on "my day" and is the only picture I have of Granddad Beal and me. He died when I was seven and my memory of him is fleeting...dental chair, calling grandma "Mother" and of course Christmas-time...his last in 1947. But...on the day this picture was taken, my baptism, he was focused on me and the possibilities of my life. That is what I call a blessing.

Today, when asked to remember my baptism I thought of this picture of Pop-Pop and me. Remember the old song, "Old time religion"? It is my guide when my faith falters at times...."if it is good enough for your (mother, father, or in this case grandfather), it's good enough for me." Somehow, people in my family who loved me, protected me, and reared me knew what I know, lived in a different time than I, but they fundamentally believed what I believe. Don't get me wrong, there are some differences that 75 years of experience has revealed (as per John Wesley's Quadralateral, which you can Google), but belief that we are put on this earth to love, show compassion, and to share has not changed.
Whipple Dam 1952

I was also recalled the picture to the left, which has little to do with my baptism, although they were all there and basically share my belief system. I thought of it because they all three nurtured me and for that I am most grateful. Dave, Jim, Joe and me...one of the few pictures when the four Lutz boys (off-spring of Dorothy and Raymond) were together at the same time.
How can I not remember these big guys in such a setting? Whipple Dam is located near State College, PA and the occasion was the graduation of the two big dudes from Penn State.

What does this all have to do with remembering my baptism? It is a time for reflection...for recalling...who was "God for me" over the years. We are asked to nurture those who are baptized in our community...and so off and on over many years I think of Joe, Dave and Jim serving in this capacity in my life.

Who is God for you?