A Brooks, Halloween Tale:
It was a typical Halloween evening in the 1960’s. The air had the crispness of autumn and a light rain, almost a mist, was gently falling.
By the end of October, Chicago had jacket weather…and more often than not, a coat was in order.
Bradley was wearing his, Rod Serling costume, and, more than a little excited, regarding all of the candy that would be procured that evening.
Bradley was a Twilight Zone fan and the Rod Serling costume was easy, in that it consisted of a sport coat and tie and a, Fedora, for his head gear…completed by a, candy, cigarette.
Danny was going to dress up as Daniel Boone and Pauly, his brother, was going to portray, Marshall Dillon, from the popular television series, Gunsmoke.
Steve had agreed to put on a marionette show, with his Punch and Judy marionettes…and it was not only lifelike…but creepy.
This was before the days of, unbalanced people, placing razors in apples or poison in candy bars.
It was the day of popcorn balls and baked goods, such as cookies with pumpkins on them or skeletons or ghosts.
On Halloween night…you were on your own…in 1962.
Last Halloween, 1961, Bradley Jay had dressed up as JFK and Susie had accompanied him as Jackie Kennedy. Susie was older than BJ…and he liked it that way.
The Cuban Missile Crisis…had just ended on October 28th…and all of the parents were relieved. BJ’s mom had cried when she told him that they did not have a bomb shelter and that she, simply, did not know where we would hide…if the bombs started falling.
Pauly, who was usually laughing, cried when Steve had the puppet show. Punch, looked a bit like a demonic clown…and he kept hitting everyone with his stick…especially Judy.
They all carried little, hollowed out pumpkins, as a repository for the candy…and sometimes money.
Last Halloween, Neva, BJ’s mom, had became convinced that she would not receive any trick or treaters…if she did not put her porch light on. So, she did not purchase any candy for the big event.
About half way through the evening…a knock sounded at her door. When she went to answer, she found a little fellow, about BJ’s age, dressed up as King Midas. The little king was really, BJ’s friend, Jackie Brooks…with a fake beard…as he was only five years old.
Neva began to, frantically search for something for the king. She found several canned goods consisting of; peaches and apricots and pumpkin pie filling and navy beans, and she joyfully gave the groceries to the, perplexed, king.
There was a strangeness to the night…that exuded from the, just passed fear, that we all were going to be annihilated by nuclear war and the misty fog…and Punch and Judy.
Life was full of; Chubby Checker and the Twist and President Kennedy and the New Frontier and the threat of the bomb…and Leave it to Beaver on our black and white televisions.
We all knew that there was something that was behind the curtain, much like the Wizard of Oz, but we relied on Rod Serling to show us what that something was.
We knew that life was fun and fragile and terrific and tenuous.
Danny said, ‘would you look at this…they gave me 3 full size Snicker Bars!’
BJ intoned, ‘the last house that I visited gave me a dollar…a paper dollar.’
Pauly said, quietly, ‘I got a popcorn ball.’
‘Let’s go to the big blue house on the corner,’ said BJ.
Now, no one ever went to the blue house on the corner. It was an odd shade of blue…BJ’s mom had said that it was Wedgwood blue…and there was not another house that color in the neighborhood.
It was said that an old man and woman lived in the big, wedgwood, blue house…with their son…and that they seemed friendly…but were, rarely, seen by the other neighbors.
As the, little troop, marched toward the big blue house on the corner…they encountered a foggy mist that, for a time, they could not see each other…or, seemingly, hear, each other, and then they were in front of the large, forboding, home…and the porch light…was on.
BJ, followed by Pauly and Danny, proceed to the front door.
The house just looked different than any other on the block. It, appeared to have a balcony or some type of room in the top of the A frame that was located in the middle of the home…as well as a basement. No homes in the area…had either.
There was a, heavy stone, in the front yard that said 108, on it. Also, there was jazz music that emanated from the dwelling.
BJ, tentatively, knocked on the front door, and an large man, well over six feet answered and with a big grin on his face said…I have been waiting on you.
‘Mineo’s Pizza House in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, makes the best pepperoni and sausage pizza in the world.’
‘ Those were words to live by as a child growing up in the early 1980’s in the black neighborhood of Wilkinsburg, in Pittsburgh’s East End. The deliciousness of Mineo’s pizza made the five miles my brothers and I biked through the predominately Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill well worth it. But the sweet cheeses and fresh meats weren’t the only things that brought us back. We didn’t dare enter certain neighborhoods for fear of scrapping with white boys or not being served. Squirrel Hill was one of the few nonblack neighborhoods that would welcome a group of black boys.’ Why Squirrel Hill Is a Target for White Supremacists, by Andre Perry, New York Times
‘The 11 worshippers were shot and killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in what is thought to be the worst anti-semitic attack in US history.’ CNN
‘ Joyce Fienberg, 75, of Oakland neighborhood, Pittsburg;
Richard Gottfried, 65, of Ross township, Pennsylvania;
Rose Malinger, 97, of Squirrel Hill neighborhood, Pittsburgh;
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood Borough, Pennsylvania;
Brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal, 59 and 54, of Squirrel Hill;
Bernice and Sylvan Simon, 84 and 86, a married couple from Wikinsburg, PA;
Daniel Stein, 71, of Squirrel Hill;
Melvin Wax, 88, of Squirrel Hill; and
Irving Younger, 69, of Pittsburgh’s Mount Washington neighborhood.’ St. Louis Post Dispatch
When I was a teenager I attended a, small non-denominational, church, in Elkville, Illinois. During the, early, 1970’s a cavalcade of Jewish hippies began attending our church. They were from Chicago and had moved to Elkville and lived in an old farm house off the Royalton Blacktop road.
I made friends with; Michael Black and Michael Topple and Jeff Lestz.
I was still in high school, in Eldorado, Illinois and traveled to Elkville, a 50 mile journey, on the weekends to attend church service.
Often Michael Black would drive to Eldorado…to retrieve me and I would stay with him and his wife, Pam, on Saturday nights. Michael was so kind to me and considerate; Pam made me feel so welcome…that I felt like a member of the family.
I stayed at the commune, on several occasions, and was mesmerized by the inclusivity and love and oneness…that I felt in the group. I ate Gefilte fish and Matzos and felt…very Jewish.
Michael Topple is one of the kindest people that it has been my privilege to meet. He is one of those individuals that seems to be always upbeat and happy and caring for anyone that is in distress.
Jeff Lestz and I became friends over 45 years ago. He and Margo live in London, England, and it has been great fun to visit them on numerous occasions over the past few years.
I had the pleasure and honor of attending a seminar, that Jeff was conducting, near, York, England.
Jeff owns his own business and there were 75 – 100 people in attendance at the conference. I marveled and was struck with the, individual, care and time that Jeff spent with each attendee. These were people that were hungry for opportunity and in searching for a mentor! Jeff, joyfully, mentored these folks…much as he has done for thousands of people over the last 40 + years!
I was the chair of the Civil Service Council for 5 years at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. During that time it was my custom to have a guest, from university administration, for our monthly meeting. Although I attempted to have a member of the Board of Trustees as a guest…they seemed, to always be to busy. However, when Dr. Samuel Goldman came aboard as a Trustee…he accepted my invitation…immediately.
Sam was consistently engaged with the cares and challenges of the civil service community on our campus. He was the most accessible Trustee…that I have ever met.
Once Sam began coming to our meetings I invited him at least twice annually…or more…and he always…not only accepted…but left us encouraged and renewed!
Sam has functioned as the Rabbi for Congregation Beth Jacob for many years.
After his time as a member of the Board of Trustees, Sam became the chancellor of SIUC…and there has never been a better one!
Consistent with his openness and inclusivity…Chancellor Goldman spoke to me on a regular basis concerning the needs of the civil service community…and, even, took my advice, on occasion.
If I was told, today, that I had Jewish heritage…I would be ecstatic!
The only thing stronger than hate speech and acts of evil and oppression and genocide…is love!
This morning we were privileged to hear a sermon delivered by, Father Joseph Brown.
Father Brown, spoke to us from the book of Mark 10:46-52. ‘They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Father Brown asked, who are we in the story of Blind Bartimaeus? Are we the religious people of the day that are, warmly ensconced behind the walls of Jericho? The Jews were captives of Pharaoh for 400 years and then spent another 40 years wandering in the wilderness…but by the time of the story in the book of Mark…they had made it…to the promised land.
We christians have been immigrants and hungry and fleeing persecution in the countries that we came from…but now we are comfortable in the rich embrace of capitalism…and know not…the stranger that knocks at our door…believing that we are the welcoming country that we say that we are.
When we see blind Bartimaeus…we wonder why he is in the condition that he is in…certainly he must not have studied or worked hard enough or been dedicated to the scriptures…as we are…and thus his well deserved plight.
‘You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:19 NRV
‘The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’ Leviticus 19:34 NRV
‘Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the friends, even though they are strangers to you; they have testified to your love before the church. You do well to send them on in a manner worthy of God; for they began their journey for the sake of Christ, accepting no support from non-believers. Therefore we ought to support such people, so that they may become co-workers with the truth.’ 3 John 1:5 NRV
‘In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all in all.’ Colossians 3:11 NRV
And, so, we find ourselves at a crossroads. Are we the people that are behind the walls of Jericho…or are we blind Bartimaeus? Do we identify with the elite and the financially secure and the, false, comfort, of our gated communities…or do we identify with our history of suffering and want and deprivation and sorrow and fear and our search for a land of peace and opportunity?
‘ In reply Jesus said; ‘ A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity of him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘ Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ Luke 10: 30-35 NIV
When I listen to Democrats and Republicans, talk over each other and scream at each other…I wonder…for what purpose?
When everyone is talking at once…who is listening?
To, demonize, another human being and to objectify them, is all to common in our current political discourse.
Politics, should not be a team sport.
Winning, at any cost, does not make you, necessarily right, and loosing, does not make you, necessarily, wrong.
Many, egregious, changes to our understanding of right and wrong are occurring on a, seemingly, daily basis.
I, as most Americans, respected; Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley and Chet Huntley and John Chancellor and journalist, in general.
I saw Dan Rather report from Vietnam, when I was a child, and live fire was occurring next to him.
I watched Walter Cronkite weep, when he reported that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.
I remember when the southern states of our country were, almost, exclusively Democrats.
I remember, President Ronald Reagan…staring down the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics…and they blinked!
I remember the Berlin Wall being torn down, during the presidency of George H.W. Bush.
Empathy is a vital emotion to posses…if you want to understand, someones point of view, that you disagree with. To be able to put yourself in their shoes…and see out of their eyes…and feel, in part, their pain…is is more valuable than gold.
I have listened to colleagues and friends, that I disagreed with on an issue, and before the conversation was completed…I found elements of their thoughts, that I agreed with.
An imperative to being able to discuss politics…is to, first, be well read on the subject…which each of us as citizens of our great nation, should be. To take the word of anyone…as truth….without, first investigating the veracity of their argument…is a fool’s errand.
If you watch television news, and a politician or leader is speaking, either live or on tape, you are fully qualified to judge, whether, they indeed said what you heard them say or did what you watched them do…or if it is fake news?
‘ Our political opponents are not our enemies.’ former vice president, Joe Biden
Politics, has always had a bit of theatre in it, as does church…but it is not theatre when people are hurt or terrified or mocked and belittled.
The violence that has gripped out nation is a fulfillment of scripture, ‘For they have sown the wind, and they, shall reap the whirlwind: it has no stalk; the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.’ Hosea 8:7 KJV
There was a movie, in the made in 1975 called ‘The Wicker Man.’ The film focused on an island in Scotland that had a missing child and the subsequent visit of a police officer, from the mainland, in order to investigate.
As the movie progressed we learn that the inhabitants of the isle are of the Pagan faith and that they sacrifice, usually, a child, each year to ensure that their crops and fruit grow. It turn out that…this plan has failed to work and so they have gone to, Plan B, and have their hearts set on sacrificing the policeman from the mainland.
When it finally dawns on the officer that he is the guest of honor and is…thus placed in a large, Wicker Man, and then set on fire…we witness the, chilling, objectification and demonization of an innocent person…in order to mollify and hide the sins of many.
When we make each other…a Wicker Man…we have witnessed our own downfall.
Note: The Wicker Man Photos are courtesy of Google Search.
When I was in my 20’s, at times, I felt like I was 61….and now that I am in my 60’s…I, at times feel like that I have returned to my 20’s.
Age, as it relates to a zest for life, appears to be a moving target!
I was raised in a conservative environment and have, since my adulthood, become increasingly liberal in my social outlook.
The move people that I encounter…the more that I realize that we are all members of the same, diverse, human family.
When my first, foreman, at SIUC’s Building Services, was Jim Walls, an African American and my mentor…I saw that he was my friend.
Jim smoked the most, aromatic, cigars…and I believe that this is where I first saw the beauty and the mystery in an occasional stogie.
Jim told a supervisor, of mine who was mistreating me, that, ‘I was his son…but that I just would not call him daddy.’ The, disagreeable boss, sweetened up, and acknowledged to Jim that he knew that we were close.
My life-long friend, Jeff, is Jewish. Ever since I have known Jeff…I have wanted to be Jewish! And, I really think that I am!
Jeff, sent me birthday wishes, yesterday from Paris. He and Margo and Mary Jane, Jonathon, and I took the, Chunnel, to Paris in 2012, and had three, glorious days.
Jeff says that we must do it again…and I, heartily, agree!
I saw one of the finest chancellors that SIUC has ever had, Sam Goldman, at Schnucks today. He did not see me. I reflected on what an honor it was to sit and talk with him and partake of his wisdom and understanding of humanity. Sam functioned as the Rabbi in Carbondale for many years…and may still do so.
My friend, Alfie, is Muslim. Alfie worked with me at Building Services and he is a fellow member of our human family…that has an extraordinary spirit. Alfie draws people to him with his magnetic personality.
Simply being around, Alfie, was an encouragement to me. He prays to his Creator, according to the manner of his faith, and I pray to my Creator, according to the manner that I have been taught…and it is the same…Creator.
My Hindu friend, who was the Dean of Engineering and Technology, is a kind gentleman. As we drove, for over two hours, looking for a restaurant that he could get something to eat that did not contain meat…I admired his dedication to his faith.
When I, returned him, to his home, in Carbondale, at the conclusion of our journey, he would not enter his house until he waved goodbye to me, from his yard.
In Tunis, Tunisia…our tour guide wept when he spoke of he United States kindness to his country. We stopped at the World War II United States Cemetery…where the graves were kept immaculate and it was, indeed, the most beautiful cemetery that I have ever seen.
On our first night in Edinburgh, Scotland a gentleman, who was in a wheelchair, asked me to assist him to his feet to facilitate his ordering at the counter of the restaurant that we were at. This man spoke to me, so kindly, regarding the highlights of Edinburgh…that…now I love Edinburgh!
At 61 years old…I have learned that if I had another 61 years…I would only have begun…to plumb the knowledge of God’s multicolored bouquet of the human family.
Last year, at this time, I was very proud of having attained the, respectable, age of 60. I thought about what it meant to be entering the door of another decade…and recalled, how old, my family and friends, who were 60, seemed to me…when I was much younger?
My father-in-law was close to my age, now, when Mary Jane and I were married in 1978. My mother-in-law…was younger than I am now.
I attended the movie theatre, the other day, and the young woman, who sold me my ticket, asked me if I was certain that I was old enough to see an R rated movie? I replied…just barely.
We Baby Boomers…are not babies any longer.
My friends and former colleagues, of many years, Ryan and Elizabeth, bought Jonathon and I lunch this afternoon and it made my day!
The Cheeks are wonderful people and their tireless work for the betterment of SIU…is exemplary.
We travel through this life, so rapidly, that often we do not see the forest for the trees.
I have heard it said that everyday is a gift…and it is true. Everyday that we can make someones burden…a little lighter, is a day that is well spent.
There is a myth that older people and retired people are looking for a front porch and a rocking chair…to wile away the hours, daydreaming and snoozing. Nothing could be further from the truth. We, older and retired folks, are seeking challenges and new mountains to climb.
The secret of life, is not only enjoying the passage of time, but also finding a niche…everyday…whereupon you can fit into, and make a difference.
As I sat with my friends, at lunch today, I could visualize Mary Jane and I…just a few short years ago. The challenges of raising our boys and succeeding financially…while, at the same time, giving them a rich and diverse life that was full of events and sports and travel,…and never enough money to accomplish it all.
Those years…are exciting and exhilarating…and you never have enough sleep…or enough leisure time…and then they are over…and new challenges await.
When I was young, people, historically, guessed me older. I was told that I had an old soul in a young body.
A valuable lesson that I have learned…do not seek the praise of the mighty and the powerful…but the praise of your family and your friends and your loved ones…and those who have no voice.
I think that my body has caught up with my soul.
The Sun dappled, nuanced and intricate beauty, of a Fall day… is something to behold.
The peace of nature has a calming influence, on me. Often, if I am worried or distressed about something…a walk in the woods or on campus brings ‘serenity now.’
Jonathon and I saw our friend, Chris, and it was a delight to speak with him. Chris is both a friend and a former colleague. He is super intelligent…with a dry and profound sense of humor I marveled that he had developed a, little grey, at the temples…as I knew him when he was, much younger.
I reflected on our fallen, SIUC leader, Chancellor Carlo Montemagno. There is no telling what he could have accomplished for our university…if he had, just, had the time.
I am one of those people that most things have come, somewhat, difficult to me.
However, when I was working at Southern…success…was my friend!
I have, consistently, found that the more that I, pour, myself into others…the happier that I am.
When someone told me that I had helped them…or I had made their life a, little easier, or that I had demonstrated to them that I cared about them…it was better than money in the bank…and I remember each comment up to and including….today.
I sought to be friends of chancellors…so I could talk about…janitors!
I wanted to have a relationship with the president of the university…so that I could have, an open door, to discuss the sufferings of the civil service community.
I loved chancellor Argersinger and President Poshard…because they had demonstrated their concern for the civil service staff.
I come from a, poor background…where there was not money for me to have a car in high school and a banana split at the Dairy Queen.
When I was able to hire a deaf employee…I identified with them.
When I was able to hire a disabled employee in Building Services…I identified with them.
When a chancellor or a university president…love the custodial staff or the grounds employees…I felt that love!
What, many, of our politicians do not realize is that we mid-westerners…were raised….poor.
I lived on West street in Eldorado, Illinois…and the kids on Womack street, which was one street over from West street…did not have shoes.
After my mom and dad, divorced, I saved my pennies…until I could have a dime….and then…went to the local restaurant…and purchased a glass of whole milk.
Meat, was an occasional occurrence in our home…and when I spent an extended stay with my aunt and uncle…my aunt, extolled me, to not take more than one piece of meat…as they did not have the money that we had.
My uncle, Bill, who was an extremely quite man, spoke up, loudly, and proclaimed that, ‘you let that boy eat all of to the meat the he wants,’ aunt Wands said, ‘I guess, go ahead…since Bill said that it was alright.’
As the, great jazz singer Billie Holiday said in one of her famous renditions, ‘you can help yourself…but don’t take to much.’
And, so, politicians…really do not understand mid-westerners. We are not about, hate speech and racism, or cruelty and misogyny, or even xenophobia or ‘fake news.’
We are about the profund need of an understanding of our challenges and our economy…and not in a gratouitous sense. We do not all live on the east coast or the west coast…and we love our neighbor and we love and welcome the stranger among us…and we want to be include in the discussion and to be a part of the solution.
The last few days, in Southern Illinois, have been Autumnal Splendor.
Our temperatures have, cooled off, and have become seasonal. Each Fall I return to the thoughts of my youth and the challenges and happiness of those years.
I often reflected, when I was a child, how the beginning of school was so hot…but the temperature became cool and chilly…soon after out academic year start.
I think, of an obscure memory, of a girl in my class named, Robin, and her desire for us to hide in a grove of trees and proceed to know each other…better?
We were in second grade…and I did not accept her offer…but I, then understood, that there was a difference between boys and girls…that would govern much of my life.
I thought that my first grade teacher, Mrs. Kittinger…was beautiful. She was so nice to me and had such a sweet attitude toward her students…that I have remembered her for, well over, fifty years.
Mrs. Molinarolo had lived in Japan. She had learned how to speak Japanese and how to count in the language. She was a tall woman and a considerate person and I liked her very much.
I still remember some of the Japanese, that Mrs. Molinarolo taught me, and how to count in the, lovely, language.
There was a Molinarolo Liquor Store in the little village of Muddy, that sits, evenly, between Eldorado and Harrisburg, Illinois.
Bernie Watson was my English teacher. When I first met, Mr. Watson, in a different teaching scenario, he was very strict, and seemed to misunderstand me. However, when he became my English teacher…her was a wonderful influence.
Mr. Watson’s, father, was the school custodian at Hillcrest School. He was a dignified gentleman and all of the students respected him.
My school bus driver was, Doc. Irvin, and he was a colorful and friendly person.
Current, Illinois Republican Senator, Dale Fowler, and I rode Doc’s School Bus.
I first rode Doc’s Bus when I was in first grade and I carried a, metal lunch pail, that had the, popular television show, Gunsmoke, embossed, on both sides of it.
Doc, immediately, gave me the moniker of…Gunsmoke…and I carried that title throughout my educational experience at Eldorado Grade Schools and High School.
Mrs. Bramlet, is one of my two favorite teacher or professors of my life. She taught me Speech as a freshman. No instructor, in High School, was more encouraging of me and endeavored more to cause me to excel in a discipline that I had a talent in.
Mrs. Bramlet, was a Gem…from the State of Tennessee, and she had a, commanding presence in the classroom. She was over six feet tall. She often spoke of her first days at university were someone told her that they were surprised to see that she was wearing shoes…since she was from Tennessee. She responded that…she was wearing her first pair!
Mrs, Betty Bramlet…wanted me to audition for school plays and to join the Thespian Club and…even asked me to be the announcer at the Homecoming Game…and I accepted the assignment…but did not have to do it due to the regular announcer…returning.
I, knew, instinctively, that I was important to Mrs. Bramlet…and I never forgot her.
Mrs. Bramlet contracted an illness that first put her in a wheelchair…that she taught from…and then took her life….in a most untimely fashion.
My favorite Professor, at university, was Dr. Carol Burns. I had a Composition 101 class with Carol and she inspired me to seek, additional university course work, and to become a better writer.
At the time that I was taking Carol’s class, 1984, we studied the book, 1984, and we wrote an essay…weekly.
After an essay that I wrote, Carol asked me to speak to her after class, whereupon she told me that I should aim higher than an associate degree…and that I had the academic ability to accomplish any academic pursuit that I chose…including law.
Carol’s constructive criticisms were a, both a burr in my saddle, and a ‘kick in my pants’ to inculcate her advice…and become a better writer.
I absorbed all of Carol’s advice…and became a better writer….and I received an A in the course.
Jo Ann Argersinger taught a Cold War class…while she was chancellor of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. She was, not only an outstanding professor…but she was, also, my friend and I was a member of the search committee that brought her to the university as chancellor.
I wondered, at the time, 1998, as to her ability to teach the cold war class and accomplish all of the duties of the chancellor of SIUC?
I knew that Jo Ann was having problems with the president of the SIU System, Ted Sanders, and I worried, a lot, about her continued viability as chancellor.
That being said, she taught a academically challenging course…and I had to study, hard, to succeed.
Mary Jane and I were the Argeringer’s guests at The Bistro, in Carbondale…before a women’s basketball game that as near Thanksgiving. Jo Ann, was so excited to have visited with several, university donors, that day, and to be associated with SIUC.
We attended the women’s basketball game with Peter and Jo Ann…and she was so involved with all facets of the experience…including the uniforms…and she was terminated…a few…short…months later.
The other evening I received a telephone call from my, life-long friend, Steve. No matter how long it has been since we last spoke…it is as if we had visited with each other…yesterday. I have, consistently, been amazed at how much Steve and I think alike, on so many issues.
Steve and I grew up in a little non-denominational church in Elkville, Illinois. As the old saying goes…’neither of us had a pot to piss in…or a window to throw it out!’
Steve and I shared a house, in the poor section of Elkville…with, at different times, David B. and Doug D. and Jimmy D. and Ronnie B….and there may have been others…
It was a bit like boot camp…hard and harder…with little sleep and little to eat.
I was, commiserating with Steve on the Thanksgiving that we received a, especially large snow on…and he and I were, feverishly, shoveling snow to facilitate a church service that evening.
I recall, like it was yesterday, Steve and I driving to a, cleaning, client’s offices in Johnston City, Illinois in a blizzard. As I drove…I beseeched Steve to open his car window and see if her could determine where the road was!
About that time…we landed in a six foot snow bank.
Steve pushed us out while I steered the car, a 1963 Ford Fairlane, and we turned around and headed for home.
I began working for SIUC in 1978 and, nine months later in 1979, Steve began.
It was the best jobs that either of us had had in our lives.
I wanted to be a minister. I, actually, assisted or preached over twenty funerals.
Now, Steve will be turning 66, on October 24th…and I will be 61. The years fly by like a weaver’s shuttle.
My brother, Brock, and my sister in law, Marcy, are coming to visit us tomorrow. We are all excited to see them!
When I look at Brock…I see our Dad. Marcy is like a sister to me.
I have never been with them that I did not come away, enriched and renewed for another, helping, of what life has to offer.
My Mom and our Dad…divorced when I was 6 years old. I missed him…terribly…and wondered what happened?
Brock and Marcy and their wonderful children, Jaime and Jeb…have been an extra special blessing to me and my family…and a sign that there is a God that is watching our lives.
Life has brought me reversals…as it does for all of us. I have been mystified why good friends and family have, chosen, to walk away from me?
But, there are constants that encourage me…and Steve and Brock are two of those, fundamental, constants!
So, we will enjoy Marcy and Brock this weekend and we will laugh and talk about future plans, perhaps Gatlinburg, and, marvel, that although we have not know each other for most of our lives…we are very much alike…
And, so, a salute to Steve, who has always been like my brother…and my brother, Brock, who cares enough about us to come and see us and bless us with his and Marcy’s good humor and love!
As I walked the beautiful campus of SIU, today, I was sad when I looked at Anthony Hall, where is housed the office of the chancellor.
I walk campus, daily, and for many years I have strolled by Anthony Hall and wondered what the, current chancellor at the time, was doing?
Having worked, closely, with some of the past chancellors…I have had an affinity, for many years, for them and their struggle to return SIU to its former glory.
To work with chancellors is to know them, in part, and their humanity and vision for the campus.
I was impressed, both, with chancellor Montemagno’s roadmap for the university and his courage in the face of adversity.
Indeed, we require a leader with a vision for our future and a ‘calling’ to serve others. Being the leader of SIUC is so much more than a good paying administrative position.
The university is located in what was, at one time, coal mining and farm land. I was watching a old horror movie, the other night, about the Mummy. It was a comedy, and one of the characters announced that he was from Cairo….Cairo, Egypt asked another….whereupon he announced that he was from…Cairo, Illinois.
And, so, we are Little Egypt, and Carlo wanted us to be the, Maroon jewel, in the Academic Crown of Illinois.
The miracle of SIU is an extraordinary story!
In many ways our university can be likened to the Egyptian desert, in that it is an oasis in the midst of a land of hard working people who would have little opportunity, without it.
The burden on a chancellor is multi-faceted. Not only is the success of our students and the academic community of paramount importance…but there is the entire Southern Illinois community that relies on SIUC for both employment and as an engine to the regions economy.
For 40 years…SIUC has been a primary passion of mine. I was speaking with someone, the other day, who said that when they retired they certainly would not be returning to the job site that they had spent so many hard years at. I, on the contrary, spent over 32 years in a delightful and rewarding career and benefitted, in every way, from my association with Southern.
I think that it is healthy to discover something that you love and to consequently immerse yourself in it.
SIU would be one of those areas, for me. Both the university and my church are areas that I want, desperately, to succeed, and although I grow weary at times…I can never give up on these two, almost, life long pursuits.
Many, dedicated, staff and faculty and administrators and managers and supervisors…are working tirelessly and, often, without compensation to ensure that our great school holds its banners high…and that it is poised for a return to its former greatness!
There are civil service staff that, literally, are dedicated to SIUC…24/7.
I have known, and do know, many staff who work, on a regular basis, when they are…quite ill.
I am aquatinted with staff and administrators that, regularly lose vacation time and who do not utilize their sick time…in order to guarantee that SIUC is functioning…at its full potential.
I know, civil service staff, that regularly accomplish all of their job duties, as outlined in their classification…and seek and accomplish many, additional duties, because they love Southern Illinois University.
There is such, profound dedication, to SIUC…that I do not believe that it can possibly fail!
Chancellor Carlo Montemagno was proud of his staff…..