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RagsToRich(mond)

  • End of the blog line

    Things have changed

    Read more ...

  • Mary Jean

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    Mary Jean

    by jim richmond

     

    A  chilly, late October rain was beating down, by the time Richard Mittelstadt and I bought the four rolls of toilet paper at Stack’s Pharmacy, and set out in the darkness of a late Friday evening to Mary Jean Gossey’s house.  We had a surprise planned for her.

    Mary Jean was a popular neighborhood girl, Italian with huge green eyes, full lips, an attitude and sense of humor that belied her small 5’ stature. 

    We were high school juniors.

    She had been my “girlfriend” for just two weeks, and every time I looked into those eyes, my heart raced and my hopes soared. 

    We had kissed just once, but I spent every chance at the Gosseys’ playing cards with Mary Jean, brother Bobby, and three older sisters.

    Looking back, why did I think the Friday caper Richard and I planned would impress Mary Jean or make her like me more? 

    How could I guess what a mess it would make of my life for nearly a year?

    Walking quickly up Penn Street for about six blocks, the cold Kansas City rain drenched our clothing and Richard’s enthusiasm.

    “Come on, Richard.  It’ll just take a few minutes,” I said, unwrapping the toilet paper rolls and stuffing them inside my wet jacket.

    “No, I ain't goin any further.  Wait for you across the street in the apartment building lobby,” Richard told me, chickening out as far as I was concerned.

    Rushing across the street, I quickly and silently tossed the toilet paper rolls up into the two large oak trees gracing the Gossey’s front yard – the rolls unraveling and decorating branches like July 4th rockets on the way back down.

    A classic tee-pee job! I thought.

    I ran up the steps on the Gossey’s expansive, wooden front porch and punched the doorbell with the palm of my wet hand.  What’s the point in tee-peeing if people don’t see it?

    Turning, afraid of getting caught, I sprinted back across the wet porch, slipped and slid its full length, and fell over the porch railing into the muddy front yard.

    I heard a loud snap.  Something was wrong. 

    I got up and started to run.  Part of my right leg went one way, the rest the opposite direction. I looked down to see bones sticking out of my pant leg.  I had broken the leg in six places, and compounded the injury by trying to run on it.

    Somehow, Richard and I hobbled to “Doc” Stanley’s house in the rain, cold and darkness… a few blocks away. 

    I would end up spending a week in St. Mary’s Hospital and 5 months in a cast from pelvis to toes, getting the leg healed.

    I never got another kiss from Mary Jean, although I don’t think the tee-peeing had anything to do with it.  She was, I realized then, and now, a little above my pay grade in looks and popularity.

    Getting out of the Navy in 1970, I was buying groceries in the “old neighborhood” Kroger Store one day, to see Mary Jean – now pregnant – and her husband at the checkout stand.

    By the time I paid for my groceries, she was gone.

    I never saw Mary Jean again.  Later, I heard she had died giving birth to that child.

    Now, as I approach age 75, every day on my morning walk, that old right leg sends me tingling reminders of that Friday evening in Kansas City long ago.

    And of Mary Jean Gossey’s big green eyes, full lips, and laughter.

     

  • HAADSMA HAS EARNED REELECTION IN MICHIGAN HOUSE 62

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    JIM HAADSMA: HAS EARNED REELECTION IN HOUSE DISTRICT 62
     
    By jim richmond
     
    No big surprise for anyone who knows Jim Haadsma, candidate for reelection to his second term for Michigan’s seat as representative of House District 62, serving Battle Creek, Albion, Springfield, townships of Bedford, Pennfield, Lee, Sheridan and nearby communities.
     
    In a recent interview, Jim turned to the impact of the Covid-19 virus and those individuals and families he represents and serves, and the crisis many face, losing their jobs and their ability to feed their families; keep safe and healthy in the face of the virus.
     
    Haadsma noted that he and his staff in Lansing have pulled out the stop – by interceding for nearly 1,000 District residents struggling to reach, get a call back or a decision about their unemployment benefits from a state bureaucracy caught largely off guard and unprepared for the deluge of people trying to apply for benefits.
    Haadsma has always been about and for the people.
     
    “Me personally, and staff members in my District office have responded, interceded to clarify with the State at times, helped our people. Most of them have been District 62 residents, put if they live in the area, we helped them,” he said.JimPlayground720x470@0.33x@0.5x.jpg
     
    Jim is known for being a 365-day-a-year supporter of individuals, families, social organizations in Calhoun County. He shows up, quietly participates, makes a difference in Battle Creek and the other somewhat urban and rural areas of House District 62.
     
    “I love Battle Creek. It’s the hometown I never had,” Haadsma reflected. His parents were missionaries, and Jim recalls traveling and living with them as a youngster in Africa and many other foreign lands.
     
    “But most of all, I enjoy listening and learning from people all across the District,” he added.
    With many people already voting with mail-in ballots, Haadsma is a big cautious about the election outcome against opponent Dave Morgan.
     
    But Haadsma hopes people will remember all he has accomplished for the District in the past two years.
    With a family of four grown children, Jim said he still makes time – mostly in the evening – to practice as an attorney specializing in labor relations and worker compensation.
     
    “I’m probably among the most conservative Democrats in the Michigan House today,” he laughed. "But constituent services, attending House sessions and House Committee work gets my priority."
     
    Still he has his family, takes a bit of time-off to read, hike “and, oh, I love to sing Karaoke, too,” he added.
     
    How fortunate we are to have Jim Haadsma representing us in Lansing. Let’s remember that Haadsma name in the polling booth on Tuesday, Nov. 3rd.
     
    Haadsma for reelection.
     
    Jim Haadsma  For all of us.
     
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
     
    NOTE: This article is exclusively the author's opinion. No compensation of any sort is reflected in this piece.
    PHOTO CAPTIONS:
     
    AT TOP:  Jim with Kate and Mel Evans
    IN ARTICLE: At the playground with Dawn DeLuca

  • Learners low key leaders for B.C. education, arts

    LEARNERS ‘LOW KEY’ LEADERS FOR B.C. EDUCATION, ARTS

     

    “I’m glad you made us smile,” said Joanna Learner, during a photo shoot for this article with husband Bob, recently at their home on Battle Creek’s far westside.

    A native of San Antonio, Joanna’s parents died when she was young, and she recalls spending many of her own young years helping raise 3 brothers. 

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    She attended Texas Woman’s University in Denton, and met Bob, a native of Chicago, while teaching an evening ceramics class in San Antonio, while he was an Army medical corpsman at nearby Ft. Sam Houston.

    Bob’s father was a medical doctor, and his family grew up in Illinois. Bob graduated from Beloit College in Wisconsin.

    A quiet spoken but articulate man, Bob moved their family to Battle Creek in 1971, after seeing a professional magazine ad for an opening at Kingman Museum here.

     He would serve as the Executive Director of the Kingman Museum for 26 years.  

    The Museum was owned and operated most of that time by the Battle Creek Public Schools, and It is hard to find many Battle Creek natives over 50 who do not remember elementary school trips to the Museum.

    Joanna, with prior teaching experience, continued to create art in ceramics, metal, and as a painter.  She was director of the Battle Creek Art Center’s “Arts Go to School” program, director of academic enrichment for the Battle Creek Public Schools, and taught 7 years at Kellogg Community College, while also earning a master’s degree from Western Michigan University.

    Both have long been equally engaged as champions and advocates for the arts and education over many years in Battle Creek.

    Now in their early ’80s, the Learners have lived in the same delightful rambling little house for 48 years.  It is reached at the very end of a street that near parallels a bend in the Kalamazoo River.  The Learners have expanded the home over the years and built Joanna a working art studio.

    A wooden deck wraps around their home, and a visitor can toss a stone from the deck down into the Kalamazoo River, the home nestles on a small rise so close to the water’s edge.

    Joanna takes pride in her sometimes-outspoken love and support of the arts and their importance relative to the education of children.BLwithEmilyPowell.Kingman.jpg

    “I get that from my Mom,” she said. Her mother went to college when “that just wasn’t done.”  She graduated from Kansas State University, took 3 trips to Europe. “She inspired all of us. And so, I have never set limits on myself,” Joanna explained.  

    Born in a cabin in Colorado, Johnna was to see her father die when she was just in the 4th grade. The cabin in Critchell, Colorado is still in her family.

    One of Bob’s hobbies is writing songs about dinosaurs.  That’s right, dinosaurs.  And he has a book of his songs scheduled for publication in several months.

    joanna'scottage.jpegHe takes pride in all the programs and exhibits, and educational opportunities provided at Kingman Museum during his many years; and is excited to see what innovations Eltine DeYoung, the Museum’s new Executive Director, will develop.

    The basement of the Museum is full of natural science artifacts collected during many world travels by the Museum’s first director, Edward Brigham.  

    “There’s a lot of potential there,” Bob observed, suggesting expanding the Museum’s physical size, and upgraded exhibits “could make it a very major educational and recreational draw for local and out of town visitors, much like what has been achieved by Binder Park Zoo.”

    That just might happen.

    The Learners are looking forward to next year, the Museum’s 150th Anniversary

  • Other People Make Life Worthwhile

    A bowl of cherries:
     
    OTHER PEOPLE MAKE LIFE A GIFT, AND INSPIRATION
     
    by jim richmond
     
    A lifelong, erratic, consistent sinner and occasional "saint," Mr. high performer and Mr. bottomfeeder .....
     
    These days on my long isolated morning walks I'll start to drift off into 75 years of regrets, projects not finished, train-wrecked relation
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    ships, what-ifs, etc
     
    ... and I almost always early in that hour or so.... along the winding rural Richland Michigan roads of cow shit smells, tractor fumes, speeding F-150 black tough ass trucks, multi-million homes and lake breezes, lift my spirits and my time, by picking and thinking about one or two of the some 400 stories and people I've written about the past 25 years, not for much money, but avocation and demon-defier. In newspapers. On this blogsite.
     
    The printed stories, maybe 90 percent, are about "ordinary people doing outstanding things " .... not all big-money outstanding ... often how someone listens to others, served a sick one before death, or reached out to make their community a better place.
     
    And my walking spirits turn, tilt and lift, as with so much in life, when one focuses on others.
     
    Boy, have I been lucky to meet some wonderful people over a near lifetime! Written about most but not all.... Some no longer with us -- like Bob Sparks, Velma Clay, Ann Rochelle, Kathy Mason, Betty Christ, Carrie Adams, Richard Mittelstadt, Bob Nichols, Sadie Penn, Russ Mawby, my parents, Admiral Ferris, Pres Kool, Clif Bullock, Brother Kevin, Uncles Teddy, Bobby, Johnny, Elizabeth and Guido Binda, Barb Hill, Bob Miller, Sr., others...
     
    But many are still 'hanging round' this world breathin in and out like me :-), Dottie Dorothy A. Johnson, Vianne Nichols, Bob Oakes, Laurie Sullivan and Mike, Barb Schweiger, Steve Jessup, Rick and Mary Maison, Barb Comai, Peggy and David Margaret Heitkemper, Bob and Ellie DeVries, Laura Davis, Kingery and The Queen Clingenpeel, Bill LaMothe,  Nolen Ellison, Lou Ann Mawby and Karen, Brenda Hunt, Tom Sherry, Rick and Julie Baron, Tom McEnaney, Shanon Legg, Karen Schweiger Komoroski, Peoria McNamaras, Kathy McNamara's wonderful dad and mentor Teddy...just to list a few.....
     
    Author Penelope Ward observed: "In the end, all we have is our memories."
     
    Hogwash.
     
    That's less than half of it.
     
    Life can be a bowl of memories...and cherries. :-)

  • Dr. Nolen Ellison: A Life 'Driving' to the Basket of Achievement

     

    Dr. Nolen Ellison:

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    Skin Color 'Ignored' in Life ...'Driving' to the 'Basket' of Achievement...."I knew I was as good as anyone else...'

    PHOTO: Dr. Nolen and Dr. Carole Ellison with granddaughter. Last fall.

    by jim richmond

    Dr. Nolen Ellison has been a 50-year hero, and former colleague and mentor of mine, long, long before my Kellogg Foundation days.

    A true leader, scholar, educator and friend. Tough. Strategic. Demanding. Visionary. 

    (Not a shabby basketball player either. NCAA Division 1 All American point guard while at Kansas, then both pro basketball and pro baseball offers.)

    Instead, went to Michigan State (after Kansas) to earn his doctorate...(on a Kellogg Foundation scholarship for future community college leaders!), then became the youngest community college CEO in America (Seattle District), then to the 30,000 student Cuyahoga District in Cleveland where we worked together, he as CEO, building and getting a tax levy approved for three new community college campuses. 

    Before retiring, he spent 9 years as HR Block Endowed Professor at the University of Missouri.

    And we recently reconnected over Facebook and have had long phone conversations. Always about working together in Cleveland…. About leadership challenges and approaches for educating youth. (The Ellisons now live in a Washington (state) retirement suburb.)

    (But, (on the phone recently,) he said: “I recall after Kansas …  then at MSU one day... a fellow from Kellogg was visiting, and he said to me: 'Nolen, you can head these (community college) institutions one day."

    And of course, Nolen did that, and much more.

    Wife Carol has an earned doctorate and has been a national advocate and leader in early childhood development.

    And again, over the phone, I thought: “He has the mental passion, speed, drive and talent of his All-American days leading the Kansas Jayhawks ….and major institutions of learning.  Speed thinks and talks on the phone as he always did.”

    In Cleveland, 40 or so years ago, building the three campuses, our two cars were often alone in the downtown College District parking many Saturdays.   I learned from Nolen how to REALLY focus and work hard. And his door was always open to me……

    Could we do something like that again…as two old men?

    "Jim, we need to write a book before we get too old, he said the other day. (He's 78. I, 75.). He went on about community colleges, young people, his belief that he was always as good as any white guy, and therefore acted and was that way throughout his life.

    Well, we have very few real heroes and role models in life, don’t we? (I have 2)

    And Lifelong connections are surprising, are they not? :-)

    Nolen and I are perhaps meeting in our Kansas City hometown hopefully by this summer to kick around the collaborative book project.

    Who knows……? Just lucky to have known and learned and been a friend of this great man.

  • "I Have Some WONDERFUL SALMON!"

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    Claudia:

    “I have some WONDERFUL Salmon!”

    photo and copy by jim richmond

    Claudia is 88. Lives alone in a tiny, bit ramshackled but comfortable and cozy house in Marshall, Michigan.

    We got to know each other about 8 years ago. I worked at Leila Arboretum in Battle Creek. She was a volunteer.
    We became friends, shared personal stories, liked each other.

    Her husband died 4 years ago, and she moved to the tiny house in little Marshall, 28 miles or so east of Battle Creek.
    With her overweight dog “Lincoln” and where – thank you very much – at 88 Claudia still walks her dog, cooks, gardens, in spite of the usual aged physical limitations,

    She quit volunteering at Arboretum shortly after losing her husband.

    And the doctor and State of Michigan took her car license away – getting a lift with Claudia driving had been like riding in a corvette that had lost its steering wheel.

    Since her move, I’ve called Claudia every four or five weeks, often drove over to Marshall, and we’d have a nice lunch and visit, or I sometimes have taken her to the airport, the bank, grocery store.

    Now, she calls “Dial A Ride”. And gets around just fine with her walker and has support from a nearby son and from a caregiver that comes in twice a week.

    No cry any tears for Claudia Crawford.

    She keeps 

    moving …. last year went to Ecuador with one of her sons for three weeks of bird watching. Or is in Chicago. New Orleans.

    My phone rang last week: “Jim, this is Claudia,” she exclaimed loudly, a bit deaf. “I HAVE SOME WONDERFUL SALMON. Come over for lunch next week. You like salmon, don’t you?” she said, hanging up with a “See ya.”

    "I love salmon" I lied.

    Before lunch today, I stopped in Battle Creek at Plumeria (thanks Elisha Hodge) and brought Claudia a lovely flower bouquet.We had a great visit.

    “Next lunch is on me, “I said. “We’ll go to Shuler’s Pub!”

    She replied, “Oh, I’d as soon have a good hamburger somewhere. You know the kind – not one of those FAT ones with too much meat.”

    She’s looking forward to spring. Working in her yard and garden. And using her walker to take woof-woof Lincoln on walks.

    Walker or no walker

    And I’ll see her again soon.

    Isn’t that what friendship, and aging, are all about?

    Even when you don’t like salmon.

  • 'And, Lord, what would you have me do?'

    Ezekiel 3:22

    'AND, LORD, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE ME DO?'

    by jim richmond

         50 YEARS AGO, young Catholic Rev. Michael J. Gillgannon was a minister to many of us attending the secular University of Missouri in Kansas City at the Newman House.Fr.Mike.jpg

         A dynamic, energetic, handsome, fun, young cleric, he was helpful to many of us in those changing days of Vatican II.

          He then decided to spend 2 years doing missionary work among the poor in Bolivia.

          Instead of two years, he stayed 40 years to serve there, only recently returning and retiring in Kansas City.

          Father Gillgannon is a Facebook friend of mine, and an individual and Catholic priest I hold in the greatest esteem. 

         Recently, he published a book on his experiences in Bolivia. A thoughtful, enlightening read that treads the difficulties of serving the Lord, the poor and political change.

    Available on Amazon.

     

  • PASSINGS ....

     

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    By jim richmond

         Like clockwork, the middle aged man drives slowly up to this grave, as I walk past in Memorial Park cemetery many days for more than a year.

         He stops briefly, as if saying in front of the grave: “Dad loves and misses you”

         The grave decorations break all the decoration “rules” of Memorial Cemetery. But staff never touch or trash these ornaments. That are tasteful and changed often

         There is something profound and unusual about this man, this grave, his dead teenager.

         Many, perhaps most of us, just internalize our grief, our longing, our fun memories of a dearly loved one now dead. Thinking of them suddenly, often, reminded….

         Today, there was a beautiful little Christmas tree with gold silk sash, an elaborate red and green wreath on the grave.

         A small yellow package of M and M candy

         A green unopened bottle of Squirt soda

         And a thin, white carton of chocolate covered mints.

         A young person’s death brings trauma that never goes away.

         But a better place for having been in our lives, in that place and time.

         I meander on my Memorial Cemetery walks….but they always take me by and for a small prayer, those or their who I knew, passed young or old.

         Most of all I remember the memories of time shared with them and their families: Nichols, McCann, Laws-Clay, Adams, Ptacin….others

         I pray, hope the young father with lost daughter can move on…… But if not, may his visits bring happy memories, love, as well as sadness

    It is never easy for any of us.

     

  • A CHRISTMAS STORY

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    A CHRISTMAS STORY

    by Jim Richmond

    In my 50 years of writing newspaper columns, and, more lately, infrequent blogs -- almost all have been about everyday people doing extraordinary things for others.
     
    The Powell Family Stands out.

    They belong to little Yorkville Community Church in Richland, Michigan -- a polyglot, some would say,  a true blended family of haves and have nots. On one side of M-89, people of poverty; the other side, some of great wealth along South Gull Lake.  All praying together on Sundays.
     
    The Powells, are a modest family that doesn't seem to see much about status and stature --- but, yet do, about matters in so many other warm, welcoming ways, about this Season, and their own family values.

    The four Powell kids....sets of twins (three girls), Carrie and Julie about 16, and Jack and Rachel, say 19, were home schooled ... enrolled in schools or colleges today.

    They are nothing short of breathless as expert young concert musicians -- all 4 -- but it isn't music that makes the world go round in the Powell Family.

    One suspects it's a sense of purpose, hard work, assisting others, since they attend Church most all Sundays.

    They decided as a family they would help those who worry about falling on the ice outside the Church,  with scheduled Powell Family member "valet parking" and helping arm on wintery Sunday morning.

    Jack, Rachel and one of the younger daughters also work in non-school hours waitressing at the Dandelion Cafe near South Gull Lake.

    I suspect this is just a glimmer, a fraction, a little light, on what the Powell Family contributes, does for others without publicity, notoriety.
     
    A wonderful light in this season of light, giving, and hope.
     

  • Leila's Lawn Chair Summer Concerts Continue

    LEILA CONTINUES FREE OUTDOOR

    “BELIEVE IN BATTLE CREEK” MUSIC CONCERTS

     

                  Leila Arboretum’s outdoor Rustic Stage will come alive again Thursday evenings this August, with a series of four “free” concerts, featuring an exciting range of music talents and audience interests.     

    In 2017, with key funding from the Battle Creek Community Foundation and the DeVries Partner in the Arts Grants Program, Leila Arboretum planned and launched the four Thursday evening series of concerts around the theme “Believe in Battle Creek.”

    In the past, the concerts have featured the Cereal City Concert Band,  a performance by the Sojourner Truth Youth Choir as well as others.

    The concert evenings have been an audience success and a charitable collaboration with other local art organizations since on most Thursday evenings proceeds from refreshments and a raffle were split between Leila Arboretum and its co-host charitable organization, including Sprout Urban Farms and the Battle Creek Music Center.

    Here is a schedule of the concerts.  All are free, and run from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and refreshments, soft drinks and beer will be available for purchase. Remember to bring your lawn chair or blanket.barefootblonde.jpg

    Barefoot Blonde – Thursday, August 1st -- A powerhouse female vocalist with a tight rock and roll band backup.

     This group has been a popular attraction at Leilapalooza in past years.  “You won’t want to miss this Thursday evening from the Rustic Stage at Leila Arboretum.  Charitable beneficiary: Sprout Urban Farms.

     

    Bobby Holly and Sonny Holley’s Motown Band – August 8thst -- Since the mid-1970s, local activist, former federal center employee and preacher Bobby Holly has put on a “Chuck Berry” style rock and roll show at scores

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    of locations, with five backup musicians usually draws hundreds of local and area lovers of his music, his moon-walk-style dancing, and his excitement.  Charitable beneficiary: Kingman Museum of Natural History and Science.

     

     

     

     

    LipstickWhiskey.jpgLipstick & Whiskey – Thursday, August 15th – a popular country and western band that has proven appeal to many in Battle Creek. Charitable beneficiary: Leila Arboretum Society.

     

    Cereal City Concert Band – Thursday, August 22nd -- Perhaps the genesis group and motivation for Leila’s Thursday evening concert series. The group performs big band and patriotic music that appeals to the largest audiences, especially senior citizens and couples who enjoy just bringing their lawn chairs, or their blanket, for a delightfully casual evening of musical memories and inspirations. Charitable beneficiary: Leila Arboretum Society

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    These groups expand the genre of music brought to Leila’s Rustic Stage.

    Individuals interested in donating to support the series or would like to volunteer one evening call Jerry Tilmann at 269.924.6951.                            

  • "That's not quite right, Bob."

    Author: Only rarely do I repost blog or FB columns.

    This is an exception.

    In my 41 years, ragtag roles in Battle Creek, I can only count a handful of civic leaders whose impact was truly profound, far reaching, totally selfless.

    Russ Mawby.

    Bill LaMothe.

    A few others.

    And then Ellie and Bob DeVries.

    Today, I learned they will be relocating to warmer climate, but a stimulating intellectual environment, to be close to their children. Sometime perhaps next fall. As they reach their mid-80s.

    I sat with a group today and chatted with Bob. And my sadness was second only to when Russ Mawby left us, and Battle Creek for the last time.

    The DeVries will be missed by SO many. And my blog, below, writting in 2017, tries to give a glimmer why.

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    “That’s not quite right,” Bob.

     

    By jim richmond

     

         So, interjected Eleanor (Ellie) DeVries, with more than a bit of warmth and controlled staccato, sitting across from her husband and soulmate of some 50—plus years, Robert (Bob) DeVries, in their attractive but modest southside home in Battle Creek, Michigan.

         Their animated, humorous, joie de vivre life stories continued to flow forward in beautiful, rhythmic form, but sometimes interrupted, with surprise and wonder.

         Much like Frank Lloyd Wright’s natural fountain flow genius in  home Falling Waters– punctuated with not infrequent points of surprising direction and interjection – so the DeVries conversation will take a quick turn, with perhaps a long forgotten detail from life’s bumps, barriers, bridges, happening so long ago.

         “I think you’re right about that one Mother,” Bob said, corrected at times.  

         Or,  

         "Sweetheart, just let Jim ask his questions,” Ellie would say, attempting to bring a long tale or brief story to an abrupt close or new direction.

          Over some 5 hours and 2 interviews, glancing from their face to face, expressions, eye contact, smiles and animation, I realized they weren’t “correcting” each other, but adding frosting to a cake, a delicious layer of cherry filling detail and richness to an already interesting story.

          Not teacher-correcting-student-over-imprecise-word-conjunction or memory.  Rather Frank Lloyd Wright's falling water flow, an easy, much repeated loving banter between the DeVries, tinged, complemented by two different but equally strong, precise, inquisitive minds, usually in sync, but of their own memory twists, turf of family territorial imperative, personality and persuasion.

         I’d arrived at two, 3 to 4-hour interviews with the DeVries with some trepidation, that’d followed me for weeks (among other difficult personal life changes of mine), as I struggled to determine where to begin this profile, what to include, and to where to end.

         Finally realizing it was not -- not page-on-page written plethora about life travels and their remarkable achievements that drew me like a magnet to metal. 

         But rather the uniqueness I sensed in them as individuals, and as a couple.

         The DeVries might seem conventional. 

         But they are not in several traditional ways  – in this world where money, status, branding and headlines drownes us on the daily news and in the lives who so many aspire to and envy.

         Bob and Ellie DeVries are organized but extraordinarily casual about it....

         Generous but demanding in what they think and want to help make happen.

         Rich in their professional, personal and life experiences but inquisitive, lively listeners.

         Like a second-rate, Sam Spade detective, I found myself just sitting up the street from their home on one occasion. 

         Thinking. 

         Trying to construct a basic understanding of these two people who've lived within the same modest home where they raised successful, very different adult children.  And provided their kids the best educations, regardless of impact on their own family budget or finances.

         And from this house, their church and strong religious beliefs, professions, community – have had quiet, but profound impact across a renaissance life style of exploration and personal growth.IMG_0164.jpg

         Ellie, the wife and mother and artist, went back to graduate school for more art studies, and whose work today graces its own separate gallery at a local college and at many other exhibit locations.

         I listened to her stories of casually searching back alleys of Beijing and finding breathtaking, four-color “peasant” Chinese art, while Kellogg Foundation program director and hospital administration expert Bob was on one of his 13 or so professional consultation or Foundation required trips. (See photo of Chinese art at top of page.)

         Bob recalls countless meetings with top echelon Chinese physicians on how to begin modernizing their antiquated hospital systems, to better serving Chinese’s near 2 billion comrades – 80 percent still rural poor.

         DeVries’ impact on worldwide leadership development, health and hospital care in the United States and Latin America has been covered in the Harvard Business Review, and scores of articles and research papers. 

         Little in their hometown of Battle Creek has not been the beneficiary of the DeVries’ family quiet leadership and personal philanthropy. 

         They are not known as the “we’ll write a check and then please go away version” of personal philanthropy,

         The DeVries have dramatically -  dramatically -  helped reshape the quality of life of their community – health care delivery, college access for poor kids, expansion and cultivation of both visual and performing arts, quality and access of thousands in 4 counties to prompt, lifesaving emergency medical care, development of a regional public zoo and private-public arboretum, both that draw thousands of visitors a year. 

         And, as one civic leader pointed out, the DeVries’ “brand” of hands-on philanthropy has helped propel growth and impact of the Battle Creek Community Foundation – one of the most vibrant, progressive, risk-taking  public grantmaking philanthropies in Michigan.

         These DeVries’ stories (with or without Ellie’s clarifications or corrections!) could go on. 

         And on.

         And on.

         But some 25 years ago, and with a bit of journalistic skepticism, I casually asked Bob and Ellie, why such smart, fairly well off financially, broad gauged people maintained so relatively unassuming lives in their hometown?

         Bob told me, “We decided to put whatever resources we accumulated into our children’s futures, in their educational and career opportunities. Not into cars or material possessions.  Whatever else, we would save and use for making life a better place for as many other people as we could. And for Battle Creek.”

         These many years have passed since he said that to me.

         And what they set as goals, as promises to themselves, their children, their community have come to pass.  And benefit many.

         Rising the other day from the comfortable sofa in the DeVries’  modest, unpretentious living room of the past 40-so years, Bob and Ellie then walked me to the door, then waving goodbye. 

         Ellie with the same wide, emphatic generous, welcoming smile, those clear eyes, leaning now slightly on her walker.

         It is not all the “things” we have in life.  But what we learn, live by and leave behind.

         Perhaps the best legacy.

         And – as others told me in researching this brief profile – that’s the difference in the lives of Bob and Ellie DeVries.

     *******


    Jim Richmond is a past vice president of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, former president of the Battle Creek Community Foundation and the Frey Family Foundation.  He is a published author, and writer of more than 300 newspaper columns.  Now semi-retired, Richmond recently lived 3 years in rural and urban areas of China.  He writes primarily as an avocation today.  No compensation is exchanged for his columns. 

    The accuracy of column content is his responsibility alone. For more of his blogs: ragstorichmond/blogspirit.com. 

    Richmond welcomes comments or criticism: jmadisonrichmond@gmail.com

    *********

    Copyright 2017 Jim Richmond

  • True Love More Than A Four-Letter Word

    TRUE LOVE MORE THAN A FOUR-LETTER WORD

    by jim richmond

    I've no right perhaps to be sitting here, tonight, typing this, tears clouding my eyes.

    The text message I'd be dreading for a year  arrived minutes ago.

    One of my very best friend's wife had died, after a long fight with cancer, that even included their selling their suburban Kansas City home, moving into a rental, about 10 years ago, so they could afford experimental cancer treatment for her in Houston.

    Surprisingly, gratefully, the treatment gave wife Leslie and her husband Jim --one of my earliest and  best friends from high school, university, navy and a  lifetime -- another  decade or more years together.

    Both had, I believe, rare cancers, they questioned,  and successfully challenged conventional cancer protocols in some ways.

    Then late last July, Jim called me.

    Leslie's cancer was back, he said. They gave her about 30 days to live and had started hospice care.'Could I come for her service, expected at the end of August?,' he asked.

    A very religious Jehovah Witness' couple, they kept their faith and their hope over all these years, medical travails.

    Leslie lived against the odds and the doctors' one-month predictions, until last Wednesday. 7 months longer....

    Supported by Jim, their grown children, their religious faith and commmunity members.

    Leslie died a handful of days after they celebrated with their family their 50th years of marriage together.

    I always thought Leslie was one of the loveliest woman I had ever seen, in our college days  and Jim was convinced of it. 

    One day, drinking beer in a third-story brick apartment on 41st and Main Street in Kansas City; where he lived in some college terms and I was hanging out, he said to me: "Leslie is the only woman I will ever want, Jimmy, believe it!"

    It proved true: They raised a wonderful family together. They had a wonderful, if medically challenging life together.

    The memorial service will be in Kansas City May 1st.

    "Will you be coming?," Jim asked in his text to me just now.

    "If the sun comes up that morning," I replied

    Love is more than a four letter word.  It was.  It still is for some people.

    It was a lifetime for these special friends.

     

    Photo One: Jim Donigan (left) next to me when our ships happened to be both in port, Subic Bay, Philippines, on the way to vietnam.

    Image may contain: 4 people, including James McNamara Richmond, people smiling, people standing and baseball
    Photo two: Leslie and Jim in College days.  Probably about 1966.  Third photo, shortly before Leslie found recurrence of cancer.
    Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling
    Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing and suit
  • 'Are you a Man of Faith?'

    A 'MAN OF FAITH'?

    "Are you a Man of Faith?," she asked after he'd driven 138 miles for a first date,  a few weeks of emails, phone conversations, a social media exchange when this area of inquiry had not been mentioned.

    She ... a Retired RN, quick witted, engaging ....

    sunset_atacama_desert.jpg

    They walked the small town, and University campus, in Indiana, where she lived. Watched a university track meet. Toured The library. Eat lunch in the three-tiered appealing student center surrounded by youth, their talk and laughter.

    Afterwards, sitting in her small, ranch style home, they chatted about their lives. Beautifully dressed in a casual long black dress that emphasized her thin face, unruly white hair, thin frame, and bright expressive eyes.

    She described shock about her younger sister, pointing to a nearby family portrait, who'd been killed with a shotgun in a kitchen by her estanged husband, after separating, and when he learned she had found another on the Internet.

    "It happened just up the block here," she jestured. "I had to handle all the details. It went on for a year. On and on. And then the TV coverage...." she said.

    They talked. After her own 40-year marriage, ended eight years ago by "boundaries broken," she said without explanation.

    "I'm not the crying type, about any of this, " as her eyes teared up.

    She suddenly asked: "ARE YOU A MAN OF FAITH?"

    He was near speechless....surprised, not wanting to give the 'wrong' answer.'

    He asked her to define.

    "Well, what happens from here," she jestured with her right hand, through and after here, " she motioned with her left hand, like holding thread during a darning process.

    "I'm an agnostic," he replied. "Not sure about a God, an afterlife."

    "Also, a man of other faith," seeing her face harden. "My faith is in the goodness of people, in change. I'm always open to learning, perhaps even 'faith' in the way you mean. "

    A curtain came down across her face.

    At the door, they exchanged a lingering hug.

    "Shall we see each other again?," he half joked, skeptically, turning back while opening his car door.

    "You know me!," she said, "I think about everything."

    He thought that seemed unnecessary.

     

  • From Boulder to Birmingham

    FROM BOULDER TO BIRMINGHAM

    by jim richmond

    She grew up within sight of The Bund, her Long March father guiding exports under Mao, then at 15 with the Cultural Revolution, joined mother, father, brothers forced to the countryside for 4 years of stoop labor and reeducation.

     

    Li Li had seen, suffered it all. Been at the highest highs. Lowest lows. Not easily shaken. Not easily impressed, now owner of a network of granite mines in southwest China.

     

    She sat regally, her long black hair and black silk dress emphasizing her oriental beauty, with her "new" American husband in the Kennedy Center, 2001, waiting for the concert to begin.

     

    "Lovely," she commented in near perfect Americanese, like a mirror, catching the admiring stares coming her way.

     

    "What do Americans do when you need healing?," she asked. Always questions.

     

    "Yào hépíng. Tài duōle," he laughed in Pidgen Mandarin. "Be peaceful. Too much."

    emmylouharris.jpg

    "Boulder to Birmingham," he finally answered, thinking about healing and the blues.

     

    Emmylou Harris walked out on stage.

     

    And began with Boulder to Birmingham.

  • 'Love is just a four letter word'

    ‘LOVE IS JUST A FOUR LETTER WORD”

    by jim richmond

    “My God, it’s hot!,” he thought, whipping through the front entrance of the small San Jose commuter airport lounge in August, 1969.

    Ahead, he spied a last empty plastic seat.

    Settling in, sighing, he glanced at the woman inches away in the chair next to him.

    She was shrouded in one of the popular straw basket hats that curve in, shading almost a full face.

    Glancing up from a well thumbed paperback, she tilted slightly toward the man, and half smiled, as if agreeing, ‘Yes. I know."

    The man turned to his own paper and she did not look up again. Neither said anything. Giving her privacy in the crowd.

    Joan Baez. Who lived nearby.

    Later, listening to her unique, soul searching rendition of a Dyan tune, reportedly her lover at the time, ‘Ah, ‘Love is Just a Four Letter Word.’Joan_Baez_Bob_Dylan.jpg

    Seems like only yesterday
    I left my mind behind
    Down in the Gypsy Cafe
    With a friend of a friend of mine

    She sat with a baby heavy on her knee
    Yet spoke of life most free from slavery
    With eyes that showed no trace of misery
    A phrase in connection first with she I heard

    That love is just a four-letter word

    Outside a rambling store-front window
    Cats meowed to the break of day
    Me, I kept my mouth shut, too
    To you I had no words to say

    My experience was limited and underfed
    You were talking while I hid
    To the one who was the father of your kid
    You probably didn't think I did, but I heard
    You say that love is just a four-letter word

    I said goodbye unnoticed
    Pushed towards things in my own games
    Drifting in and out of lifetimes
    Unmentionable by name
    Searching for my double, looking for
    Complete evaporation to the core
    Though I tried and failed at finding any door
    I must have thought that there was nothing more

    Absurd than that love is just a four-letter word

    Though I never knew just what you meant
    When you were speaking to your man
    I can only think in terms of me
    And now I understand

    After waking enough times to think I see
    The Holy Kiss that's supposed to last eternity
    Blow up in smoke, its destiny
    Falls on strangers, travels free
    Yes, I know now, traps are only set by me
    And I do not really need to be
    Assured that love is just a four-letter word

    Strange it is to be beside you, many years the tables turned
    You'd probably not believe me if told you all I've learned
    And it is very very weird, indeed
    To hear words like "forever" plead
    So ships run through my mind I cannot cheat
    It's like looking in a teacher's face complete
    I can say nothing to you but repeat what I heard

    That love is just a four-letter word.

    ----------------------------------
    Songwriters: Bob Dylan

    ----------------------------------

    Baez, 77, is in the middle of what she has said will be her last concert tour.

  • Random Sunday Thoughts: The NonFighting Irish, Gus and Call, Time For A Change

    random sunday thoughts:

    THE NONFIGHTING IRISH, GUS AND CALL, AND TIME FOR CHANGE

    by jim richmondwittliff_CallGus1988-web.jpg

    I didn't watch the Notre Dame loss to Clemson, 3-30 last night.

    As Irish as I am, Notre Dame played a weak schedule and got into the final four only because of its brand. We knew what was coming:. the point spread before kickoff, Clemson by 13.

    Area Catholic churches were reportedly packed with kneeling supplicants before game time: "PLEASE, TOUCHDOWN JESUS, JUST NOT ANOTHER ALABAMA EMBARRASSMENT! Make it close. Amen."

    So, instead I finished Larry McMurtry's prequel DEAD MAN'S WALK, wrote after the three Lonesome Dove novels, and in reverse order introduced us to Captain Augustus "Gus" McCrae and Captain Woodrow F. Call, two famous former Texas Rangers, and to the end of what some perceive as a slightly more accurate account of early Western history in the U.S.

    In the last several days, I turned the last page on Philbrick's MAYFLOWER; also on a contrarian historical account of WWII from the viewpoint of the Japanese, and another somewhat ambivalent work on Eisenhower's 8 years in the White House. (Better than we thought POTUS, built up military, hated Nixon, and probably deserves a D-Minus grade on Civil Rights.)

    About a week's worth of reading wrapped up.

    Not exactly topics on Fox Morning Friends, The View or The Five.

    Tomorrow, pulling the plug on television. I've said it before. I MEAN IT THIS TIME!

    I chatted with COMCAST/INFINITY for about 30 minutes the other day.

    Not always nice people when you call to tell them "good bye."

    They wanted my first born and proceeds of my 403b pension plan, to get out of their tv "agreement."

    (Sorry, son.)

    After my costly divorce settlement with COMCAST, will save about $70 a month. But it's not REALLY just about the money.

    I have nothing but distain for current day TV, except cable programs like LONESOME DOVE, or reruns of THE SOPRANOS, THE WIRE, and THE SHIELD. (Why are shows so in love with the definite article?)

    TV is permeated with overhyped sports, superficial news and sucks up your time quicker that a HOOVER vacuum or a donation pledge to disgraced WOUNDED WARRIOR.

    I try to walk 3 to 5 miles a day, take photos, and read several books in a typical week.

    Pretty boring life, huh? I love it.

    Now about giving up that first born ….

  • THIS LAND IS OUR LAND ... THIS LAND IS THEIR LAND

    peter-paul-mary-newport.jpg
     
    THIS IS OUR LAND...THIS IS THEIR LAND

    By jim Richmond

    On a very chilly Christmas Eve 5 mile walk. time to think. A time to write stories in my head. A time to appreciate nature. A time to think about all the people I miss and why.

    Corny, perhaps, But I often listen to Peter Paul and Mary songs. on the walk. Songs that sang About justice, hope, challenge, and love, when I was but about 21.jmrwalking.jpg

    My twin brother and I saw PP and M in live performances 

    At least five times during those years.

    And my last time was is 1964, when I was a young reporter for a Kansas City newspaper assigned to write a review of the concert.(I would shortly be drafted for Vietnam conflict service.)
     
    After the concert was over I wondered backstage and in a large vacant store room, I found Noel (Paul) Stookey Sitting casually on the floor with a group of about 30 college students in a circle. Just discussing issues of justice faith hope and charity. He did not know I was a reporter

    I went back and wrote the story and wondered how many stars, who had just perform for 2 hours to 4,000 or 5000 Would have spent their time with a group of young people in that kind of setting ...in that kind of conversation

    So I listen to Peter Paul and Mary as I walk today, and I hear and I remember those hopeful aspirations And calls for justice Of the early 60s

    And they are a reminder to me not to give up today ... to I hold those aspirations for today for tomorrow in-our country in the world...in my daily life at 74

     

     

  • Thank you Friar Mendel

    gabby.grandpa.jpg

    THANK YOU FRIAR MENDEL

    by jim richmond

    Age brings all kinds of small and large changes, I reminded myself this morning as I spent at least 4 minutes trying to find and figure out how to open this plastic bag. (Photo)bagopening.jpg

    At 74, peanut butter jar lids, door locks, steps, etc. all seem to have strangly developed unexplainable complications and difficulties in surmounting and solving. And short term memory of names and places are also too often perplexing.

    SO, I want to thank Friar Gregor Mendel for his originial research and revelations about genetics...and all that has followed about how generations can share and improve over time.

    As we grow older, if we're lucky, some of our daughters and sons, grandsons and grandaughters give hope, happiness and testimony that while we all "pass away" we can also "pass along" some of our talents, perhaps through our genes.

    Frankly, I don't know exactly where my Granddaugher Gabriella, 15, got her's. Must of been from her father, or on her mother's side.

    My son called me today and said Gabriella just found out she ranked in the top 1 percent of ALL American high school freshmen who took the PSAT (precollege exam) last year. She had perfect scores on two of the test sections.

    This for a young gal who plays four music instruments, takes classical and jazz dance lessons twice a week, goes to church, volunteers, and has a nice boyfriend.

    Few know that I -- yes, her grandfather James McNamara Richmond -- ALSO has musical talent.

    My Mom had my twin brother and I take piano lessons from Sister Antonita Maria in fifth grade about 1956.

    After the second lesson, the Dear Sister called my Mom, "Mrs. Richmond, I think Jimmy should find something other than music for his free time."

    Which I was happy to do.

    And I'm happy to pass along to Gabriella my music talent. And just maybe a few other genes that make her not just a remarkable young person, but an awfully modest and nice one.

  • MAISON MAGIC MAKES A DIFFERENCE

    maisons.jpg

    MAISON MAGIC AT LEILA ARBORETUM

    by jim richmond

    Oh, no one is "really" surprised when a gathering of the Maison family clan members starts off with a "work bee" at Leila Arboretum in Battle Creek, Michigan.

    Rick and Mary Maison (second from left, and  far right in photo) are Leila volunteer maintstays, Rick a former Board Member, donors, and members of the every Tuesday Group volunteers that make Leila -- and keep Leila -- so beautiful and varied year 'round.

    So, Rick's sister Kathleen (Maison) Cohen, on far left and in town all the way from San Mateo, CA, joined up with Rachel Maison (from Grand Rapids and next to mom Mary) for this family fun hug photo, and a bit of actual dirt digging and garden gleaning at Leila October 10th.

    Rumor is by the end of last week, the Maison Family Reunion had nearly tripled in size, and most involved at Leila -- where Rick and Mary have been making a difference, 'believing in Battle Creek', as volunteers for nearly 15 years.

    Who sez people don't care about family and community.

  • 'A LIFETIME OF LEADERS ... AND APPRECIATION

    A LIFETIME OF LEADERS … AND APPRECIATION

    By jim richmond

         Coffee’s brewing this chilly Saturday at 3:39 a.m.. Neil Young, Harvest Moon, on the Echo. Up most of night rereading The Caine Mutiny.

         Reflecting,  ‘Who you've most admired…?' he mockingly asked the cat, perched at his knee, staring up, not giving a damn, impatient, anxious to be fed and have the screened, back porch door opened to scout the night, hope for birds and squirrels.

         “Who’ve YOU’VE most admired,” he thought, those watched, learned from, who gave more than they received from others and the community around them …. Not just money, but time, solutions, listening, leadership, courage, risk-taking, caring, out-of-the-box thinking, roll up the sleeves work…..”

         He'd turned the page days ago on 74. A lifetime of his own memories, changes, high ups, that nervous drive in his '57 Chevy coupe through deep, blowing snow to a cabin with a beautiful college sweatheart ... 

         Since a 6th grade, award winning essay, a lifetime love of watching and writing about people.

         So, he took to this keyboard.

         Punched out in two hours, then waited a day or so for reflection and changes, this list of those he's most admired over these seven decades. 

         A joy, a sense of appreciation and good memories in this process for him….and for anyone,  remembering and appreciating others, as life starts its slide tAdmFerris.jpgmom.dad.jpgC..B.CHRIST.jpgJackMwithJim.Laura.jpgJMR.Millers.jpgRDS.jpgw_lamothe_bio.jpgo a close.

    1. Admiral James Ferris
    2. Russ Mawby
    3. Lowell Erickson
    4. Robert Sparks
    5. Robert Miller, Sr.
    6. Barb Comai
    7. Rick Maison
    8. Leslie Koltai
    9. Jack Mawdsley
    10. Laura Davis
    11. Mary Honora McNamara Richmond
    12. Lou Ann Mawby
    13. Charles Richmond
    14. Edward McNamara
    15. Vi Nichols
    16. W.E. Pisciotta
    17. Brother Kevin Glenn
    18. Ellie
    19. Father Maguire, SJ
    20. Bill LaMothe
    21. Dorothy “Dottie” Johnson
    22. Bob and Ellie DeVries
    23. David Heitkemper
    24. Kathy Mason
    25. Joan Williams

  • DA DOO RUN RUN

     

    C8KYY2.jpg

     

     

    DA DOO RUN RUN

    by j mcnamara richmond

    Disaffected Harley riders with The Donald this weekend.

    Driving up from South Bend on the back roads, I see hundreds of them.

    Stretched in a line two blocks long to prevent cars from passing.

    A black leathered, dirty red bandanna pied piper taking point, with rats behind him.

    Traffic backed up three miles.

    I think I'll get a Harley. (Oh, maybe just a 125cc Grom.)

    I got some "creds" to join these swell squids:

    Check:

    1) Beyond age 65 and a bit overweight

    2) eager to have a younger chick wrapping her arms around my leather jacket, smoking a dobbie

    3) losing hair on the head and putting a foo on the face (under advisement)

    4) stupido, my doo rag will protect me like a safety helmet

    5) willing to wake the neighborhood with my Harley "potato, potato, potato" anthem, celebrating the size and frequency of my sex life

    6) Convinced The Donald deserves a second term and a Nobel for his fight against Viet Cong exporters and traders in the People's Republic of China. (Under Review)

    Were the Viet Cong in China?

    I'd better tear off the "I ATE THE VIET CONG FOR LUNCH IN '68" sticker from my 2017 Ford Escape.

    Betta dump the 4 wheels for a sumpa sooper 2 wheeled da doo run run ride.

    What about u?

  • "All The Girls Remember You, Jack!"

    “All the girls remember you, Jack!”
                                                             (And so does Battle Creek)
     
    Photo and copy by jim richmond
     
             Breakfast this morning with long time friend, Dr. Jack Mawdsley, arguably one of the best Superintendents in the history of the Battle Creek Public Schools and retired Vice President for Educational Programming at the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.
     
          A spry 89, Jack is sharp as a razor, funny, self-depreciating, and – most of all – in a very long love affair. 
     
         With wife of 66 years, Norma.
     
         (But who wouldn’t be, who knows the lady?)
     
              Jack was home on week’s leave, serving as a pilot with the Air Force during the Korean Conflict.  “I was lucky,” he said.  “I flew all 50 of my missions over the skies of Mississippi, Alabama and Texas.  (Not Korea.)”
     
              “I asked a friend, ‘Any girls I could take to the show while I’m in town?’”  His friend mentioned Norma, who attended the same high school, but 4 years behind Jack.  “I don’t think she’s going with the same guy anymore.”
     
              Jack called her.  “You probably don’t remember me,” he said to Norma on the phone.
     
              “All the girls remember you, Jack,” she replied, agreeing to go to the movies that night. 
     
               Jack showed up at Norma’s only to find Norma’s sister and friend sitting on the living room sofa, waiting to check him out. 
     
              Norma and Jack walked out and got in the taxi to go the movie.  The taxicab engine blew up, billowing smoke and fire, he recalled.
     
              “We walked to the movies.  Afterwards, I walked Norma home.  And we held hands.  I knew right then,this is the woman I want to marry.”
     
              Yes, 66-plus years later. 
     
              And the Mawdsleys are a well know and for many, never to be forgotten, couple and civic leaders in Battle Creek, having also raised two, school-teacher daughters who live in Holland and Traverse City, Michigan.
    -----
     
    Photo Caption:  Dr. Jack Mawdsley (center) with friends and former Kellogg Foundation Colleagues, l to r, Jim Richmond and Laura Davis
     
    JackMwithJim.Laura.jpg
     
                                                            

  • A Bat for Bobbie

    A BAT FOR BOBBIE

     

    By James McNamara Richmond

    “How’s Bobbie?,” I replied to Eric Zillner when he asked to Friend me on Facebook the other day, surprised, thinking brother Bobbie was probably in prison or dead from a gang shooting.

    I started working after school at age 13, taking three buses from all-boys De La Salle Academy to the Kansas City bottoms, where I worked for a wholesale frozen food company, three hours an evening and all-day Saturday.

    Only about 5’1” and chubby, I was used to being mildly harassed and intimidated by other kids.

    But Bobbie Zillner was our neighborhood bully, a terminator.

    “Bobbie, he’s now farming a plot down by Cape Girardeau, “Eric said about his older brother.

    Pauli.Tony.Sopranoes.jpgBobbie, at 15 about 1957, drove around the neighborhood with abandon-in a beat-up black Model A Ford, dressed in loud suspenders, jeans, boots and smoking a cigar.

    Trolling slowly for younger kids he could rob of their lunch money or after school newspaper carrier pay.

    (Reader: see where this is going? 

    The last bus I took in the evening stopped in front of Bobbie’s house.

    I couldn’t force myself to get off at an earlier or later stop.

    Foolish pride before the fall.

    “Oh, he won’t be out there tonight,” I tried to convince myself, and most evenings he wasn’t.

    Bobbie seemed to have radar, and he often tracked me down walking home after serving morning Mass on Sunday.

    I never carried more than a buck or two on me, but that was big pocket money for a young kid in the 50s.

    After about six months of this harassment, I decided to confront Bobbie one night at the bus stop.

    He beat the hell out of me.

    Both of my eyes were almost swollen shut, and a big purple lump on the side of my face.

    “What happened to you?” my mom pleaded that evening.

    “Got in a fight at noon, on the playground,” l lied.

    Snitches get stitches, and I had to live in the neighborhood.

    “Hey Eric, can you give me Bobbie’s address on the farm?” I wrote back on Facebook. “I might swing south to visit him — one of these trips I drive from Michigan to Kansas City to visit relatives.

         Bobbie would be 75 to my 73.

    “Your brother and I have a lot to chat about,” I laughed ...
    Responding to Eric on Facebook, before deleting his Friend request.

    Do I have that old souvenir team baseball bat from grade school in the basement?bobbie.jpg

    I might stop and give Bobbie a present.

    For old times’ sake.

     

    (Voice to text, while walking at 6 am.)

  • The Fragrant Hill Pavilion: fun, beauty, and remembrance

    pavilion.closeup.5.24.18.jpg

     

    PICNIC/GRAD PARTY FOR YOUR FAMILY... SPECIAL FOR ALL WHO LOVE BATTLE CREEK.....AND REMEMBER FRANK ZANETTI

    photos and copy by jim richmond

         High on the overlook of Leila Arboretum, with its view of 3,000 trees, 6 gardens, walking trails, Fantasy Forest and much more,  is the relatively new Fragrant Hill Pavilion, conceived by and with a lead gift from Bob and Eleanor DeVries.

         Totally funded by some 90 private donations from civic leaders with names like DeVries, Mawby, Zanetti, Johnson, Doty, Mawby, Durham and others. 

    viewdownfrompavilion5.24.18.jpg
        The Pavilion has lights, parking and perhaps the most breathtaking view
    of nature in Greater Battle Creek! Just call the Arboretum at 269.969.0270 to reserve it for your family, company picnic or celebration

         (The Pavilion is named after a much larger and world famous Pavilion in Beijing, China, visited many times by the DeVries in their 13 trips to China, as well as by Leila staffer Jim Richmond during his three years living in China.

    pavilionmajordonorse.jpg

          Also parenthetically, the last $5,000 of the nearly $80,000 needed to complete the Pavilion was the hardest to raise by Leila staff and volunteers.            Last money needed always is! 

         Leila CEO Brett Myers and staffer Jim Richmond were invited into Frank Zanetti's office at Battle Creek Tile and Mosaic, and explained the final fundraising challenge.  As with SO many good things he helped make happen in Battle Creek, Frankie, without fanfare, reached in his desk drawer and wrote out the check to cover the last $5,000 needed.)

         The large stones shown in the photo collage below will be repositioned and dedicated with plaques in honor and appreciation to the EMTs, Police and Fire Department "first responders" at the time of Mr. Zanetti's tragic death boulders for memorial.jpglast year. 

  • A Love that lasted: Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman

    Paul-Newman-Joanne-Woodward-Picture.jpg

     

    A love that lasted: Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman

     

    "I KNEW THAT MOTORCYCLE SOUND!"

    by jim richmond

    My secretary in Greenville,SC in the mid '80s, grew up next to local, buddying actress Joanne Woodward, in the piedmont corner of the state not far from Ashville and the mountains.

    "Oh, I'd hear that motorcycle noise in the middle of the night. I knew her young gentleman Paul was arriving!," she loved to tell me (and others) with a laugh.

    Yes. THAT Joanne Woodward. Famous actress later, who would be married to actor Paul Newman for 50 years, til his death in 2008.

    People would ask Newman: "Must be tempting to work with all those beautiful young starlets!."

    He'd flash those crystal deep blue eyes and respond: "I have steak at home. Why would I want hamburger someplace else?"

    They frequently said they were made for each other.

    Now 88, suffering from Alzheimer's, she does not remember her husband.

    But their love and legacies live on in many ways.

    Newman and his daughter started their own food business, based on family recipes.

    I still buy Newman's Italian Dressing. A little pricey. But there is no better.

    And the Newman family have donated ALL profits from the business, some $700 million, to charity.

    Lots to like and admire about the Newman family.

     
     
  • The Name Change Thing ...

    the name change thing:

    military-war-country-name-name_change-changing_name-jco0443_low.jpg

    JAMES KING-ADAMSON-ZHANG RICHMOND

    My youngest son and his wife have gone to hyphenated, merged last names.

    And I've a few friends who started this way long ago, mostly frequently when the male, out of solidarity, equality, union and (I surmise) admiration, incorporated the female's name into his own last name, and the female keeping just her maiden or prior marriage name.

    I know prior marriages and the kids' last names get to play into all this, and to help sort out the realistic from the ideal.

    I'm for whatever any folks, of any sex, want to do, about names whether blessed by the Pope, the Church of What's Happening Now, or just a handshake.

    Me? Well it's a good thing I'd older than dirt, and with no urges, interests and prospects of formalized, religious or politically sounded union. (I figure a solid partnership is enough between two people.)

    If I was to join the club and go the hypinated route, my name would be:

    JAMES MADISON (McNamara) KING-ADAMSON-ZHANG-RICHMOND.

    I wouldn't be able to get a job or a girlfriend.

    About 15 years ago, my first wife approached and suggested we get remarried, after 40 years of seeing each other about once a year over coffee. (She is now deceased.) And the other two, would probably rather have Hulk Hogan or Xi Jinping's last name as part of their own than mine.

    I'm perfectly content with my last name as is ...it hides marital bliss, excesses and ignorance, plus Wars of the Roses.

    Where is Samuel Clemens, when we need him, anyway?

  • The Name Change Thing ...

    military-war-country-name-name_change-changing_name-jco0443_low (1).jpg

    the name change thing:

    JAMES KING-ADAMSON-ZHANG RICHMOND

    My youngest son and his wife have gone to hyphenated, merged last names.

    And I've a few friends who started this way long ago, mostly frequently when the male, out of solidarity, equality, union and (I surmise) admiration, incorporated the female's name into his own last name, and the female keeping just her maiden or prior marriage name.

    I know prior marriages and the kids' last names get to play into all this, and to help sort out the realistic from the ideal.

    I'm for whatever any folks, of any sex, want to do, about names whether blessed by the Pope, the Church of What's Happening Now, or just a handshake.

    Me? Well it's a good thing I'd older than dirt, and with no urges, interests and prospects of formalized, religious or politically sounded union. (I figure a solid partnership is enough between two people.)

    If I was to join the club and go the hyphenated route, my name would be:

    JAMES MADISON (McNamara) KING-ADAMSON-ZHANG-RICHMOND.

    I wouldn't be able to get a job or a girlfriend.

    About 15 years ago, my first wife approached and suggested we get remarried, after 40 years of seeing each other about once a year over coffee. (And after she changed sexual preferences year-one of our marriage. She is now deceased.) And the other two, would probably rather have Hulk Hogan or Xi Jinping's last name as part of their own than mine.

    I'm perfectly content with my last name as is ...it hides marital bliss,

     

    excesses and ignorance, plus Wars of the Roses.

    Where is Samuel Clemens, when we need him, anyway?

  • This 'Queen' Often Rules This B.C. 'King'dom

    CLINGENPEELS.jpg

     

    THIS 'QUEEN' OFTEN RULES THIS B.C. 'KING'DOM

    By Jim Richmond

    His name, Dr. Kingery Clingenpeel, sounds like a character out of a Victorian novel or from a ‘60s TV show, up there with Oliver Twist, Lord Lancaster Stiltstalking, Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder, Cosmo Kramer. Horatio Hornblower, and Groucho’s Otis B. Driftwood.

    But Dr. Kingery is the real deal in Battle Creek: with a real, academic doctorate, a long career in the pulpit and as pastor of area churches here in Battle Creek, a skilled amateur mountain climber, cancer survivor, man of wit, humor, intellect and compassion, civic leader and volunteer.

    And yes, strange or not, (more to be revealed shortly) Kingery has a real Queen, in his wife of some 43 years, Laura (Baker) Clingenpeel.

    A few friends who know the back-story call Laura “The Queen,” but Kingery is most fond and found using the moniker.

    The Clingenpeels are from farm families – Kingery, Indiana and Laura near the Mississippi River in Illinois, not too distant from Hannibal, farm country that was, at one time, at the center of pig farming in the United States, and back in those days, “that meant the center of pig farming in the world,” Laura said.

    A beauty as a young high schooler in rural, largely poverty-stricken Pittsfield, Illinois, Laura was crowned The Pork Queen of Pike County. (“It was a big deal. I got to travel.”)

    She has a faded newspaper clipping that shows her as The Queen, with ribbon, flowers next to famous Red Schoendienst, 10-time All Star baseball team pick, who played for many teams and for 19 years with the St. Louis Cardinals, including as coach and manager.

    Laura is still a beauty today in her ‘60s, five years younger than Kingery, and has taught music for 31 years in the Pennfield Public Schools. Her classes, kindergarten through 5th grades, are in two Pennfield buildings and reach 700 students a week.

    She is warm, welcoming, yet a bit reserved, a personality that plays well against and with husband Kingery’s near constant smile, good humor and, a long appreciation, near wonderment, of how he “caught” this remarkable woman and wife of his.

    How were they first attracted to each other, I asked?

    “Oh, it was his sense of humor,” Laura said, with a quick retort from Kingery: “Her legs. Beautiful legs,” he chuckled. “We both thought that!” Laura bantered back.

    They laughed, often, at each other recently, over a tray of cookies and coffee, and told me it was Laura who was best at the “catching” in their early relationship.

    From strong Christian, farm family backgrounds, Kingery and Laura were introduced by friends to each other while Laura was a sophomore in college and Kingery attending the seminary, the institutions in the same location.

    They dated for a while. They broke up, and Kingery moved to Oklahoma to complete his doctoral studies, and Laura was at her first teaching job in Chicago.

    She wrote to him. He responded. Then, one day, Kingery now recalls, his phone rang.

    “Do you know who this is?” a lovely voice inquired from the other end of the telephone line.

    A pause at Kingery’s end – “What a loaded question!” he was thinking, not sure.

    “Ok, I’ll give you a clue,” she replied. “Oink. Oink,” came the clue from the young women’s voice, over the telephone line.

    Kingery knew it must be Laura Baker.

    And as they say, the rest his history.

    Both have retained their farms and farm roots, traveling back frequently to hunt game, or to inspect, upkeep and plan farm operations. (“Nothing much changes,” Laura commented.)

    But much of their lives today center on Laura’s long hours of teaching, and independent musical tutoring, and Kingery’s now nearly part-time pastoring of the First Christian Church – Disciples of Christ, near Harper Creek High School, bordering B Drive.

    His pace has slowed a bit after more than 45 years as a preacher and pastor, primarily in three churches, a passion and vocation that began in high school, and continued through 4 years of college and 4 years of seminary.|

    “Kingery is a great preacher (as you know, Jim),” Laura observed.

    And her husband is that – combining and blending Biblical scripture and current events usually around four or five key, take-home gems relevant to everyday life.

    Like most things in their “family kingdom,” the Clingenpeels share Church duties. Laura is now serving as head of the Church Council and plays the piano for Sunday church services.

    “It’s a small congregation, and (the Church pastoring) doesn’t fill my days now,” Kingery said.

    He takes care of many home chores and most often cooks. A cancer survivor, he has been a volunteer driver for cancer patients, is in the development of major hiking trails in Michigan.

    Short, bald and buff, in excellent shape, Kingery also takes off on several major hiking or mountain climbing trips a year.

    “The Queen” sometimes joins him, but she said she also enjoys her separate, solitude sojourns to her family farm in Illinois, and not too infrequent visits to the historical, cultural and political heritage sites and activities of Washington, DC.

    They seem to be a couple of 42 years that live well together and are confident and have faith in each other’s own independent interests and occasional trips. They vacation separately and vacation together.

    “Happily married. I’m happy,” Laura said. “And I’m married,” Kingery laughed.

    “It’s been good. I’d do it over,” she added. One of the keys: “We joke a lot. I mean a lot!”

    Both very proud of their children: Rebecca, the oldest, is an autism and speech therapist working with young children and their families at the intermediate school district level.

    Caleb, the younger and son, recently complete his studies and is now a Physician’s Assistant with Henry Ford-Allegiance Health Care System in Jackson working in both surgical and urgent care. (Out of more than 1,000 applicants, he was one of only 40 selected for the Physician’s Assistant program at Western Michigan University, Kingery noted.)

    “They’re unusual, an unusual couple,” commented Claudia Crawford, who’s attended First Christian Church for more than 20 years.

    “Laura, almost like a Queen, is very level headed, keeps things moving. Kingery, a wonderful pastor, is a soft touch, who loves the Lord and loves people.”

    Together, they make a great Battle Creek couple.

    Long live The King!

    Long live The Queen!

  • Date With A (now dead) Prescription Drug Addict

     

     

    drug addiction.jpg

    DATE WITH A (Now Dead) PRESCRIPTION DRUG ADDICT

      

    by jim richmond

       

         About four years ago, I had one date with this attractive, retired school teacher, 31 or so years in local classrooms, she told me.

         Nice dinner, comfortable conversation.

         She texted and wanted to go out again; but failed for two weeks to respond to text messages.

         Then a year ago, my phone rings at 11:30 p.m. It's her. She's in an area hospital.

         They won't release her, she says, unless someone takes responsibility and picks her up. I said OK, wondering where her grown kids were to help Mom.

         In the hospital ER room, she has two cracked ribs from "bumping a tree" while "exercise and running." Hard to believe, but she rattles on in great detail.

        "If he's taking you home, you can put on your clothes and leave," the nurse says.

         Her cell phone rings. It's one of her college-age kids. They talk for a minute and she passes the phone: "Sharon wants you."

         So, her daughter tells me her 56-year old mom is in the hospital -- again -- picked up by the police, wandering down the middle of Columbia Avenue at 10 p.m, spaced out on prescription drugs.

         "Don't take her home. She needs rehab. But won't. She's lost her (car) license. Gets beat up on the streets buying drugs. She'll go home, overdose again. And we'll find her dead," Sharon pleads to me.

       I hang up, confused, angry, near guilt ridden but wanting rid of it all.

        "Jim, give me my fuc*in cell back!" she screams, pulling hospital gown tight around like a burial shroud.

         "No," I replied. "You'll call someone else to get out of here."

         Talking with the psychiatric nurse on duty, he agrees to admit her for the night and then transfer to a nearby 3-day hold facility.

         I keep her cell phone.

         Nine days pass.

         She nor anyone calls to get the phone back.

         Only Horizon ...to leave a canned message, block the phone and claim she owes more than $400 on her bill.

         I feel relieved, want no more of this hardly known,  troubled person's chaos.

         Several years pass.

         And I'm startled the other day,  flipping to the morning newspaper's page two, to see her once attractive face stare back at me, and to read her impressive teaching career.  

         In her obituary.

         Drugs are ruthless, greedy teachers.