OUR PASSING HEROES – Rich Paschall

Deaths Of Our Sports Icons, 2019, by Rich Paschall

For many of us, we grow up idolizing our sports heroes. It is an important part of our youth. These people are more significant to us than the movie or television heroes because they are real icons. They are athletes we can watch on television, or, if we are lucky, go to see in person. They mean a lot to us in our youth and when they pass away, it is a reminder of the passage of time. We mourn for them and for ourselves, because we have lost a part of our youth. They have passed into our aging  memories.

For this “In Memoriam” I will mention ten that hold substantial memories to me for the sports I watched and listened to when I was young. They passed away in 2019. This is not a ranking and the order is totally random. There is no way I could place a number on the life of these accomplished figures.

First, there are a few that deserve to be mentioned for their notable lives. You may not know the name Pete Frates, 34. The Boston College baseball star never made it to “the bigs.” He was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehring’s’s Disease) in 2012. Frates along with his friend Pat Quinn are credited with creating the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It raised apprpoximately 200 million dollars for ALS research. In 2015 the Boston Red Sox gave Frates a lifetime contract.

Jack Whitaker, 95, was a longtime sports broadcaster. The Emmy award winner called the first Super Bowl in 1966. He was at countless sporting events for many decades for CBS, then ABC.

You may never have heard of Julia Ruth Stevens, 102. I had not heard of her either until now. She was the last living daughter of baseball great, Babe Ruth. Later in life, she was a Boston Red Sox fan.

Cliff Branch, 71. The wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders (1972-1986) won three Super Bowls.

Jim Bouton, 80. The longtime major league baseball pitcher spent the first seven years in the “Bigs” with the New York Yankees. He became well know after baseball as a broadcaster, and for writing the babseball book, ‘Ball Four.”

Bill Buckner, 69. One of the greatest hitters in Major League Baseball history became best known for just one error with the Bost Red Sox. He played 22 years in “the show,” including 8 with our Chicago Cubs.

Wrigley Field

Center Field scoreboard from Sheffield Avenue

Bart Starr, 85. Even though he played for the rival Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears fans could still appreciate the accomplishments of this HOF quarterback. He won the first two Super Bowls.

John “Hondo” Havlicek, 79. The basketball Hall of Famer played 16 seasons for the Boston Celtics. For some reason we hated to see the ball in his hands. He was an outstanding ball handler.

Forrest Gregg, 85. The NFL Hall of Fame lineman played with Bart Starr on the Green Bay packers. Like Starr, he later went on to coach the Packers.

Scott Sanderson, 62. The long time MLB pitcher played on both the Chicago Cubs (1984-89) and Chicago White Sox (1994). His career spanned 18 seasons.

Frank Robinson, 83.  The longtime baseball player, then manager is in the MLB Hall of Fame.

Mel Stottlemyre, 77. He pitched 11 seasons for the NY Yankees, winning 5 World Series. He later went into coaching including 10 more years with the Yankees.

Zeke Bratkowski, 88. He played for the Chicago Bears and LA rams before becoming the “Super-sub” and backup to HOF QB Bart Starr. Legendary Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi picked up Bratkowski off waivers at the beginning of the Green Bay dynasty.

These athletes may not be known by some, and may be forgotten by others, but they remain there through the foggy mist of my memories. They cling to those precious spots of youth from which we are reluctant to let go. “Requiescat in pace.”

Sources include: “Pete Frates,” Alchetron.com
Too much loss: A look back at the notable sports deaths in 2019,”  The Detroit News, detroitnews.com  December 31, 2019.
Julia Ruth Stevens, Babe Ruth’s Daughter, Dies at 102,” The New York Times, nytimes.com March 9, ,2019.

HAPPY 187TH BIRTHDAY LOUISA MAY ALCOTT – Marilyn Armstrong

women's suffrage-2In an alternate universe, Louisa May Alcott would be 187 today. In my alternate universe, we all live — as a matter of course — to at least 200. And because of our extended life span, we are better custodians of our earth recognizing that we will have to live in the mess we make of tomorrow when we despoil our world today.

Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888) was an American novelist and poet, best known as the author of the novel Little Women (1868) and its sequels Little Men (1871) and Jo’s Boys (1886).

Raised by her transcendentalist parents, Abigail May and Amos Bronson Alcott in New England, she also grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of the day such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau.

Bronson Alcott was a dreamer, not an earner. The result was that her family went through extended periods of dire poverty and Louisa was required to work to help support the family from very early on.

louisa_may_alcott_5c_1940_stampPublished in 1868, Little Women is set in the Alcott family home, Orchard House, later renamed Hillside, then the Wayside, in Concord, Massachusetts and is loosely based on an idealized portrait of Alcott’s childhood experiences growing up with her three sisters. Real life was much harder than the life she lived in “Little Women.”

“Little Women” was high successful almost immediately.

As Joan Goodwin explains, “from this point on Louisa May Alcott was a victim of her own success. Though she yearned to do more serious fiction, children’s books flowed from her pen for the rest of her life because their sales supported her family. Louisa herself wrote, “Twenty years ago, I resolved to make the family independent if I could. At forty that is done. Debts all paid, even the outlawed ones, and we have enough to be comfortable. It has cost me my health, perhaps; but as I still live, there is more for me to do, I suppose.”

Following in her mother’s path, Alcott pursued women’s rights with fervor, enlisting the aid of famous colleagues such as Thoreau and Hawthorne to her cause.

Goodwin goes on to write that now “Alcott gave her energy to practical reforms, women’s rights, and temperance. She attended the Women’s Congress of 1875 in Syracuse, New York, where she was introduced by Mary Livermore. She contributed to Lucy Stone’s Woman’s Journal while organizing Concord women to vote in the school election. ‘

“I was the first woman to register my name as a voter,’ she wrote. “Drove about and drummed up women to my suffrage meeting. So hard to move people out of the old ruts.” And again, “Helped start a temperance society much-needed in Concord]. I was the secretary, and wrote records, letters, and sent pledges, etc.”

orchard-house-contemporary

Orchard House, Concord, Massachusetts

Louisa continued to publish children’s books, and in 1880, after her sister, May, died after childbirth, she adopted May’s baby who was named for Louisa, but called “Lulu.” In 1882, after her father suffered a stroke, Louisa settled the remaining members of her family at 10 Louisburg Square. Her own health was failing. It is generally believed from her pictures and other descriptions that she suffered from Lupus. There was little knowledge of Lupus at that time. No cure or medicine to lessen its impact. Louisa moved “from place to place in search of health and peace to write, settling at last in a Roxbury nursing home,” according to Joan Goodwin.

Jo March - By Madame Alexander

Jo March – By Madame Alexander

Her father, Bronson Alcott, who she faithfully tended even as her own health declined, died on March 4, 1888. Louisa outlived him by only two days. She passed away at age fifty-six.

She had known her death was near, despite her relative youth. She had adopted her widowed sister Anna’s son John Pratt to whom she willed her copyrights. Through him, all income from her books would be shared amongst her nieces and nephews — Anna, Lulu, John, and Anna’s other son Fred.

Louisa May Alcott never married, in part because the right person eluded her — but ultimately because she was unwilling to give up her freedom and personal power to a husband.

Louisa May Alcott was buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord on “Author’s Ridge” near Thoreau and Emerson. A Civil War veteran’s marker graces her gravestone. During her lifetime, she produced nearly three hundred books, but the one almost everyone remembers is “Little Women.”

TOM ELLIS: A TRIBUTE by George K. Regan, Jr.

Tom Ellis was a pillar in the media community. It’s hard to believe he’s gone. In celebration of his life, we are hosting “Tom Ellis, A Tribute,” tomorrow at The Seaport Hotel, Plaza Ballroom from 2-4 pm. I hope you can join us in memorializing the man, the legend, and our dear friend, Tom Ellis.

Tom Ellis, A Tribute

Tom Ellis, a member of the Massachusetts Broadcasting Hall of Fame, lived the great American life – from working as a young roughneck in the Texas oil fields in the early 1950’s to recording one of President John F. Kennedy’s final television interviews, to the decades spent as a leading television news anchor in both Boston and New York City. Thomas Caswell Ellis died on April 29, 2019, at his home in East Sandwich, Massachusetts. He was 86 years old.

Ellis was born on September 22, 1932, in the Big Thicket area of East Texas, where hard work was valued and money was hard to come by. Ellis was put to work at the age of 13 in the construction trades in Carthage, Texas. While he enjoyed physical labor, Ellis loved the spotlight of theater and entertainment and found side jobs as a professional actor and a carnival barker in his teens.

During the Korean War, Ellis served as a cryptographer in the U.S Navy’s Security Service in Washington, DC. He graduated with honors from Arlington State College in 1955 and from the University of Texas in 1958.

His handsome appearance and commanding voice soon caught the attention of a small radio station in Fort Worth, Texas, where he was hired as a staff announcer for 50 cents per hour. Ellis then moved to San Antonio, where he broke into television news in as an anchor-reporter where he earned several awards for his reporting from the Associated Press and UPI.

He was among the local Texas reporters dispatched to Dallas, where he landed a brief interview with President John F. Kennedy on the day before he was assassinated. In 1968, Ellis moved to Boston after he was hired as a lead anchor for WBZ-TV where he covered major stories, including student protests against the war in Vietnam and the Chappaquiddick tragedy involving Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne.

Ellis was lured away from Boston to New York City in 1975 to anchor the prime time news on WABC-TV where he earned New York Newscaster of the Year honors as well as the top ratings in the market. Also during this time, Ellis made a return to acting and landed a role in the big screen thriller Marathon Man with Dustin Hoffman and Sir Lawrence Olivier. He played, of all things, an anchorman. Other movie roles would follow.

Ellis returned to Boston three years later to join the anchor team at Channel 5 that included Chet Curtis and Natalie Jacobson. During his tenure there, Ellis hosted a Peabody Award-winning documentary called Fed up. He then moved to WNEV-TV (now WHDH) where he co-anchored newscasts from 1982 to 1987.

Ellis’ career is distinguished also by the fact that he is the only journalist to have anchored top-rated newscasts at each of Boston’s network affiliates in the 1960s, 1970’s and 1980s. In the early 1990s, Tom Ellis became one of the first television anchors for NECN (New England Cable News) where he continued to cover major world events close to home, such as 9/11 and the plane crash that took the lives of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife, and sister-in-law. Tom Ellis anchored his last newscast in 2008.

Longtime friend George K. Regan, Jr remembered Ellis this way: “Tom Ellis was not just a great journalist, he was a great human being. I got to know Tom while working as the press secretary for Mayor Kevin White. My respect for him as a newsman grew from day one and we later became the closest of friends. Tom Ellis was family to me. There wasn’t a holiday or special event we didn’t spend time together or simply reach out to talk. My thoughts are with Tom’s lovely wife Arlene. I will miss my dear friend, ” Regan said.

He loved living on Cape Cod, surrounded by nature and also giving back to his community. He was also deeply involved with various charities, including the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the Boy Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters. He had also served as Chairman of the United Way of Cape Cod. He predeceased by his mother, Mary Eunice Ellis, father Herbert Caswell Ellis, and sister Mary Grimes Ellis.

Tom Ellis is survived by his wife Arlene (Rubin) Ellis of East Sandwich, Massachusetts, Arlene’s sister Debbie Berger and her husband Michael of Newton, Ma., daughter Terri Susan Ellis of Freedom, CA., daughter Kathy Denise Cornett and husband Randy Cornett of Hamilton, OH, and son Thomas Christopher Ellis and wife Beverly Ellis of Cincinnati, Ohio. Ellis also leaves behind five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

All the best,
George

George K. Regan Jr., Chairman
Regan Communications Group

REMEMBERING MY MENTOR – JEFF KRAUS – Garry Armstrong

If fate had been kinder, Jeff Kraus would be celebrating his 80th birthday with us. Many people who’ve achieved success in broadcast journalism would be partying.

Some of the names are familiar even if they’re not around to remember the man who opened career doors for them. Alan Colmes of the Hannity-Colmes tandem on Fox News, “Big Dan” Ingram – a hall of fame deejay during the heyday of classic rock and, still with us, Charlie Kaye – the successful CBS News executive who just recently retired.

We all cut our newbie teeth in radio at WVHC-FM, the original radio voice of Hofstra College/University – celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. In its infancy, Hofstra Radio was guided by Jeffrey Kraus. His spirit is still there in the studio walls of the latest class of college radio students.

WVHC Probably 1961 or maybe 1962

I met Jeff Kraus in late 1960. I was beginning evening college classes at Hofstra and peaked my nose inside the tiny radio operation. I was full of hope and dreams at age 18. Just out of a shortened stint in the Marine Corps, I wanted to be “somebody” but not sure who, what or where.

The tall, thin gent – in a blue suit that would become legend. Wearing cowboy boots and puffing a pipe. He looked like a young Leslie Howard or Ronald Coleman. He sounded a bit like Coleman as he addressed me in a voice like the Lord of the Manor.

Jeff Kraus WVHC 1966 or maybe 1967

I was immediately impressed. I sounded and looked maybe 5 or ten years younger than Jeff Kraus but he was just 21 for all his cosmopolitan manner. I don’t know how it happened but – in the blur of seconds – we formed an unlikely bond. Mentor and student, two non-similar guys who would become best friends.

I was a bit hesitant. I was one of a handful of minority students at Hofstra as the new decade began with JFK promising bold ventures for millions of young Americans.

I was intent on becoming an actor or an author. Maybe both. During the day, I sold children’s shoes at a big Department Store. The job paid for my college fees. Tuition back then was something like 16 or 17 dollars per credit. Hofstra was a relatively young commuting college without dorms. All that would change in decades to come.

WVHC 1963 or maybe 1964

The constant was Radio Hofstra. We had an odd collection of people on the WVHC-FM staff which had just grown from carrier current to 10 mighty watts at 88.7 on the FM dial.

I think we were perceived as weirdos by others on campus. We weren’t jocks, frat members or lab rats. Jeff Kraus steered the ship of wannabees with a calming influence. I wanted to be “on the air”, spinning records. However, my hearing impairment left me with flawed diction, not good enough even for a beginner. Jeff worked patiently with me, pointing out my diction problems and helping me find a “radio voice”. He encouraged me to write and gave me great latitude in producing music shows and writing radio drama.

Little Theater – WVHC

This was the door opening for me. I was rapidly promoted from record librarian to program director to, wonder of wonders, station manager as Jeff moved into an executive capacity. These were heady times for me as I found confidence and maybe a little swagger in my work. Jeff would always “school me” if I overstepped boundaries with the new confidence.

My favorite time was – after we signed off the station at midnight and headed over to our favorite bar. This was my introduction to Imbibing 101. I can still smell the pipe smoke (I shamelessly copied Jeff’s debonair style, adopting pipe smoking) and the sips of scotch, brandy, and vodka as my liquor taste quickly expanded. My shyness faded and, for the first time in my life, felt like I was one of the gang. Jeff led his wannabees in chat about post-college life. We were too good for conventional broadcast media. We dreamed about going to work for the BBC or CBC. We’d do “exceptional stuff” for an audience surely just waiting for us.

Studio B – WVHC

This was also a very special period for aspiring college radio folks who had easy access to the nation’s number ONE media market in New York City. I’ve told the story a zillion times about calling DIRECTLY through to CBS, ABC, NBC, and other media giants. The iconic (yes,  overused) figures like Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Arthur Godfrey, Howard Cosell and news legends who’d worked with Ed Murrow – made themselves accessible to us. They gave interviews, did promotional “ID’s” and generally encouraged our little group to pursue our dreams in the big leagues. Jeff Kraus was generally recognized and respected by the big time media moguls. Jeff was seen as the man who sent well-trained prospects out to mesh with established news people.

1965 in the WVHC office

The success I encountered in later years on radio and television is directly linked to those early years at Hofstra and the tutelage of Jeff Kraus. Despite repeated “Thank you’s”, I’m not sure Jeff appreciated how he molded the professional lives of so many people.

Jeff Kraus left us — too young at age 53 in ailing health. Rest assured he’s not forgotten. They’ll be many stories about JCK as he is still affectionately remembered when many of his radio kids gather later this month to celebrate Radio Hofstra’s 60th anniversary.

One final round.

Here’s looking at you, Jeff.

LIBERATION: A MUSICAL THAT ALMOST WAS – RICH PASCHALL

“Just imagine how awful we’d feel,” I told Betty one day, “if we got to the end of our lives and never produced our play. Especially if we really could have.  We’d always regret it.”

That’s how I pushed Betty to produce Liberation.  I knew she wasn’t entirely convinced, but that was her way.  She was critical, skeptical of everything. It was her strength.

Twenty years earlier we had done summer theater together.  After rehearsals, we’d adjourn to Betty’s apartment to tell jokes, sing songs and laugh our way to midnight. Those times would become our “good old days.”

We worked on a variety of projects over a few summers, and developed a talented circle of friends.  Betty was 2 years my senior, always the stage manager and sergeant-at-arms.  She kept us in line during our silliest youthful moments.

Rich and Betty at Pajama Game rehearsal

Rich and Betty at Pajama Game rehearsal

With youthful exuberance we decided it would be a great idea to write our own musical, a big production like those we had been part of in the past.  Betty and I would write the book.  Michael, who had overwhelmed us with a beautiful original song about our group called “Friends,” would compose the music.  I had already worked on a Christmas song with Michael and thought I could write the lyrics.

Maybe in a year or two, we thought, it could become our very own summer theater production.  What a terrific idea it seemed.  It didn’t take long to come up with what we thought was a the right story.

It was the middle of the Women’s Liberation era and we decided to use the movement as the setting.  We did not envision a drama but rather a lighter treatment, the story of a strong woman being kept from advancement because she was a woman. In our minds “Jackie” was like Mary from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Not quite as outspoken as the leaders of the women’s movement, but determined to succeed.

Betty and I went to work on our outline.  We needed the “who, what, where, when, how.”  “Why” was easy. We wanted to do it and didn’t need a better reason. You can guess who crafted the strong-willed women in the story.  Of course we used people we knew as models for some characters, but I can never reveal that information unless we win a Tony. Then we can do whatever we want.

As we wrote the story, I handed off lyrics to Michael for various songs we wanted.  We weren’t quite sure how all the songs would fit, but we knew what we wanted to say.  After seven months of working on the story, with more than half a dozen songs in hand, Betty and I dumped everything and started over. It had become a complete muddle.

The failed attempt taught us what we needed to know . We defined each character and his or her role in the story.  We had the setting, the conflict, the resolution.  No phony Hollywood love-story ending with characters living happily ever after, but nonetheless a happy ending — differently happy.

Soon we were writing scenes in order.  The title tune became a collaborative effort as Betty and I tossed ideas back and forth, then threw them at Michael while he pounded out chords on Betty’s piano.  A second act song was written first.  A comedy song was a labor of joy. The song we envisioned for the main character, “I Believe,” was Betty’s favorite.   The show took over a year to write but when it was finished, we were proud of the book and its songs.  It was what we wanted.

Sadly, when it came to marketing, we fizzled. We showed the book to a few people we thought might help us, but nothing came of it.

Our labor of love was for Betty real labor.  She did a LOT of typing.  This was before personal computers, so she typed and retyped copies using carbon paper (look it up!).  I have no idea how many times she retyped scenes to incorporate changes.  I have not spent as much time typing here as Betty did on Liberation.

Twenty years later, I told Betty the play would not be dated if we told it as a flashback. The main character would have again hit the glass ceiling and would be inspired to move forward by remembering what had happened twenty years before.  We needed a new opening, ending and one more song.

She agreed to give it a go.  So, Betty and I toured theaters, met with theater companies, brainstormed strategies to raise money.  We wrote new material, polished old material.

Michael, however, had moved on and was reluctant to revisit the show, but we needed him.  We not only wanted him to write a new song, but to score the entire show. That meant arrangements, scene change music, an overture.  We worked hard on convincing him. He eventually gave in to our constant nagging reminders about “the good old days.”

20 years later

L to R: Betty, Rich, Michael, the Liberation writing team

Betty, as always, was fueled by cigarettes and TAB cola.  Again she typed all the drafts and burned up hours on the phone with me discussing the new material.  When I finished crafting an original speech for the main character, in true Betty fashion, she said, “Richard, that’s a great speech.  No women would ever say that, but it’s a great speech.”

“OK”, I replied, a little deflated, “What would she say?”  Betty gave voice to the main character and hero of our story. In the end we were more than pleased.

The story of the Liberation’s production by a local theater company on a large stage with an orchestra is a sad story you’ve heard before. We had no control of the final show. The company mounted a political drama with music. It wasn’t the musical comedy we’d written.  On my own, I agreed with the theater company to scale back the musicians for the third weekend and cancel the fourth and final weekend.  I didn’t consult my colleagues; we were losing money we didn’t have.

It had taken a couple of years from reviving the idea to getting it produced. The work we did the second time around was just plain work.

Betty and I drifted apart after the show closed. She was terribly disappointed that my salesmanship did not put her dream on stage. She had dedicated a big part of her life to a youthful wish, and it had come to nothing.

A few years ago I learned Betty had emphysema.  No surprise really. She had been a long time chain smoker.  Then one day I got an email from Michael. He told me Betty passed away.  He had read the news in an alumni newsletter and was crushed no one had informed us.

I was stunned.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I always believed I’d give Betty her show, the one we originally envisioned.  I imagined I’d drag her away from her typewriter and give her the spotlight she’d never shared when we performed.

Maybe now she’s been liberated from her suffering, but it is not the Liberation she deserved.

Find the lyric to the song on Sunday Night Blog here.

THE PASSING OF ANNE GOLON – AUTHOR – ANGELIQUE (MARQUISE DES ANGES)

I just read that Anne Golon passed away on Friday at the age of 95. She was writing until the end. She inspired me as a girl and instilled the belief I could do anything a man could do. She was a wind behind my back for a lifetime.

If you read French, there is an article in Figaro located here.

“Nounou,” inquired Angelique, “Why did Giles de Retz kill so many children?”

With these words, one of the world’s greatest series of historical fiction begins. It is a translation from the French. I have been told by many people who’ve read the series in French, that much was lost in a not-very-good translation.

angelique book cover

Nothing will change the way I feel about these books. Most were written long years ago. I read the first of them when I was 13. I still have the book, though the binding is broken and the pages are beginning to turn to dust. I have since bought a newer version and I have most of the follow ups in paperback.

The first book was published in 1957 and I read it in 1960. In those days, I lived in books. I didn’t have friends. I was too different. I’ve always been out of step. Sometimes, a lot, occasionally almost catching up with my peers. But back then … I was downright weird.

Then I met Angelique.

Fifth child of an impoverished country nobleman, Angélique de Sancé grows up in the Poitou marshlands, a region known as the “Green Venice”, halfway between the ocean and the forests. She is a free child, as one with the forest and the marshes, discovering nature’s healing secrets with the help of the witch Mélusine. Her logical destiny would be to marry a poor country nobleman, have children and spend her life fighting for a meager subsistence.

Destiny has other plans in store for her. At 17, when she returns from the convent where she has been getting an education, she finds herself betrothed to the wealthy count of Toulouse, Joffrey de Peyrac. He is 12 years her senior, lame, scarred and rumored to be a wizard.

from the review by Harvey Adkins

Angélique’s life and adventures inspired me and gave me courage.

angelique pages book

Thus the story begins. In subsequent volumes, they will take you through most of the world of Louis XIV. Joffrey becomes the love of Angélique’s life. After he is burned at the stake for heresy and for being too powerful for the comfort of his enemies, Angélique finds herself in the underworld of Paris — homeless, penniless, with babies to protect. Yet she rises up from the gutters back to the glittering court of Louis XIV. Confronts him on the murder of her husband, rebels against him, leads a group of Huguenots to the New World. Builds a colony, fights emissaries of the church and King to retain her freedom. Along the way, she has children — from a variety of fathers, including one resulting from rape — and one of which is murdered.

With all the power of Crown and Church arrayed against her, Angélique finds a way through and emerges victorious. Bowed, but never beaten, her defeats are setbacks. Her triumphs change the world.

She is deathlessly beautiful. If you are a women taking on the world, it’s never bad to have golden hair and hypnotic green eyes. But Angélique doesn’t win the day using sex. When she leads, she carries a gun and a sword. She will kill in defense of her own — and she does. She will fight for her family, her home, her beliefs.

She became much more than a fictional character to me. At a time when female role models were few and far between, Angélique was a super hero from the past. Unstoppable. Tough. Smart. She suffered the worst that life could dish out. She faced down unspeakable horrors and impossible challenges. Along the way, there were more than a few casualties.

Back in the real world, author Anne Golan was fighting her publisher for the rights to her books.

Anne Golon was born 17 December 1921 as Simone Changeux in Toulon, France. She published her first novel at 18 as Joëlle Danterne. During World War II, she traveled by bicycle through France and Spain writing under various pen-names. She helped create France Magazine. Was sent to Africa as a journalist, where she met Vsevolod Sergeïvich Goloubinoff, her husband, Serge Golon.


She passed away Friday, July 14, 2017 in Versailles, Paris, France.

angelique french edition


They collaborated on Angélique. Anne wrote. Serge did the considerable research required by these surprisingly accurate books. The first book in the series was an astounding success. The books were credited to Serge and Anne Golon, (Sergeanne Golon), the names having been merged by publishers who were reluctant to print books written by women.

In 1972, Anne and Serge Golon went to Canada to continue research. Anne wrote Angélique and the Ghosts. Serge died.

Anne continued writing and raising her 4 children. Between 1972 and 1985, she wrote four more books. While battling Hachette for unpaid royalties and rights, Anne Golon lived in extreme poverty. She finally won, leaving her sole owner of the works.

These are the books which were translated into English:

Angélique, The Marquise of the Angels
Angélique: The Road to Versailles (US and the UK with the 1st volume, Angélique)
Angélique and the King
Angélique and the Sultan (aka, Angélique in Barbary)
Angélique in Revolt
Angélique in Love
The Countess Angélique
The Temptation of Angélique (In Canada as: The Temptation of Angélique 1: The Jesuit Trap, The Temptation of Angélique 2: The Downfall of Goldbeard)
Angélique and the Demon
Angélique and the Ghosts.

The English translation of this series stopped abruptly with Angélique and the Ghosts. Anne Golon’s fans — like their fictional heroine — wanted to know what had happened to the author. She was located in Paris, alive, well, and still writing.

As of August, 2009 — there were three yet-to-be-translated books already in the series:

Angélique à Quebec
Angélique: Route de L’Espoir
Victoire d’Angélique

To date, they remain untranslated, but I live in hope that they may be. Soon, I hope. I’m not getting any younger. English-language readers — like me — have waited more than 40 years. An entire lifetime during which I have gone from adolescent to a senior citizen.

Anne-Golon

I’ve read thousands of books during these long years, but never lost hope for translations of the newer Angélique books.

You can still find information at Angélique Books. It’s not easy to find intact copies of the books, but if you are interested, don’t give up. Amazon has some, off and on. ABE Books sometimes has copies. And of course, there’s eBay. Marquise Des Anges (the original name of the book in France) was made into a movie in 2013, but it has never been released to the American market and I have never been able to find a copy of the movie that will play on my DVD player. I can hope this will happen someday.

Maybe there will be new English-language copies eventually. I hope to see them republished. Soon would be good. They are available in German and of course, in French.

Fare thee well, Anne Golon. You changed my world.

A FACE-TIME FUNERAL – BY ELLIN CURLEY

On February 2, 2017, I wrote a blog about my husband, Tom’s, Aunt Helen. We went out to Rochester, Minnesota to celebrate her 100th birthday with her incredible and devoted extended family. Aunt Helen luxuriated in three generations of love and support from her two daughters and son-in-law, her four grandchildren and in-laws and her seven great-grandchildren.

Everyone loved Aunt Helen. Feisty and full of life at every age. A Red Hat party girl to the end. But after the big 100th Birthday Bash, she seemed to lose steam. One of her grandchildren many years ago told her that she had to live to 100. She made that her goal in life and achieved it. But having achieved that landmark goal, she stopped eating, lost contact and started to deteriorate. On April 12, she died.

Our Favorite Aunt

Of course Tom and I planned to go to the funeral. We knew in January that the next time we saw the Minnesota gang would be on this sad occasion. We bought airline tickets that got us in the night before the Saturday 11 AM funeral service.

Thursday night I woke up with a sore throat. By Friday, the day we were scheduled to leave, I was coughing non-stop, despite generous doses of cough medicines. I knew I couldn’t make the trip. So I drove Tom to the nearest airport and went home and got into bed.

A short time later, the phone rang. It was Tom. They were on the plane but there had been a delay. Some baggage apparently dented the outside of the plane and they had to wait for approval to take off. He was worried that the delay would cause him to miss his connecting flight in Chicago.

A half hour later the phone rang again. The flight had been canceled! Tom was now on a long line of irate passengers, all waiting to be rebooked on another flight to their destinations. Okay. Bad situation but probably not fatal.

The next phone call, at around 6:00 PM, had the really bad news. There was no other flight, direct or connecting, that could get tom to the funeral in time for the service the next morning at 11 AM. Not on any airline, from any airport in the tri-state area. Now neither of us was going to be with the family to officially say good-bye to Aunt Helen! Tom was dejected.

I picked him up at the airport and we drove home. A few hours later, the phone rang. It was one of Aunt Helen’s daughters, Tom’s cousin Barb. She had a brilliant idea. Barb’s daughter, Lisa, a pastor, had recently been able to watch her son’s basketball game in Minnesota, while she was on a mission in Africa, by using Face-time! We could watch the funeral by Face-time! The glories of modern technology! What a great idea!

So Tom in Connecticut and the pastor in Rochester coördinated their computers. Tom hooked his iPad up to the television in the bedroom so I could watch from my sick-bed. It was awesome! We saw the family and heard the beautiful eulogy that two of the granddaughters, Lisa and her sister Jennifer, presented together.

To top it off, they quoted my February blog about Aunt Helen in the eulogy! I was so touched! I had referred to the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. After watching Aunt Helen’s family in action, I had realized that it also took a village to get someone to the age of 100. They agreed.

Another grandchild sang a hymn in the magnificent voice we had heard about but never heard. It was wonderful to be able to be part of the service, long distance. Later in the day, Lisa texted photos of the family out celebrating Helen with a beer. Her favorite drink.

I’m not very tech savvy. But I’m in awe of what can be done today to connect people through their personal devices. Maybe it’s the strength of this particular family that makes connecting so much easier. It is fantastic to be a part of this warm, welcoming and wonderful family, through sickness and in health, in person and by Face-Time.

CHICKERY CHICK CHA LA CHA LA

Mom1973-3Today would have been my mother’s 106th birthday, making it the 33rd anniversary of her passing.

This is one of the silly songs she sang. I can’t hear it ever without thinking of her, singing as she worked or painted or sewed. With a dish towel slung over her shoulder and her eyeglasses pushed to the top of her head. Mom, I still miss you.


On the television, they were forming a magic circle and chanting in strange tongues. “Chickery chick, cha la, cha …” I answered. It made as much sense as whatever those actors were saying.

And Garry said “What?”

I responded with “In a bananika bollika, wollika.”

He still looked blank. I couldn’t believe he didn’t recognize this musical gem, so brilliant that although I cannot remember where I left my coffee, I can still remember all the meaningless syllables that almost resemble words to this catchy little ditty.

For all you nonsense-deprived people for whom the world is too serious a place, let me offer you this mildly amusing World War II era classic. My mother sang this as she (reluctantly) did (as little as she could get away with) housework.

She could never properly remember the words to any song … but she remembered the words to this one. Maybe because they aren’t real words?

This is obviously the recording of a scratchy, old 78 RPM record. Many people recorded this song, but I could not find any versions of it with better audio. Maybe you’ll have more luck than me.


CHICKERY CHICK


(Written by: Sidney Lippman / Sylvia Dee)

Recorded by: 
Sammy Kaye & His Orch.(vocals: Nancy Norman & Billy Williams) – 1945
Gene Krupa & His Orch. (vocal: Buddy Stewart) – 1945
George Olsen & His Orch. (vocals: Judith Blair & Ray Adams) – 1945
Evelyn Knight & The Three Jesters – 1945
Frank Sinatra (Radio Transcription) – 1946

Once there lived a chicken who would say
“Chick-chick, chick-chick” all day
Soon that chick got sick and tired of just “chick-chick”
So one morning he started to say

Chickery chick, cha-la, cha-la
Check-a-la romey, in a bananika
Bollika, wollika, can’t you see?
Chickery chick is me.

Every time you’re sick and tired of just the same old thing
Sayin’ just the same old words all day
Be just like the chicken who found something new to sing
Open up your mouth and start to say

Oh! Chickery chick, cha-la, cha-la
Check-a-la romey, in a bananika
Bollika, wollika, can’t you see?
Chickery chick is me.

HAPPY 184TH BIRTHDAY LOUISA MAY ALCOTT – AND ALL THOSE LITTLE WOMEN

women's suffrage-2In an alternate universe, Louisa May Alcott would be 184 today. In my alternate universe, we all live — as a matter of course — to at least 200. And because of our extended life span, we are better custodians of our earth recognizing that we will have to live in the mess we make of tomorrow when we despoil our world today.

Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888) was an American novelist and poet, best known as the author of the novel Little Women (1868) and its sequels Little Men (1871) and Jo’s Boys (1886).

Raised by her transcendentalist parents, Abigail May and Amos Bronson Alcott in New England, she also grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of the day such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau.

Bronson Alcott was a dreamer, not an earner. The result was that her family went through extended periods of dire poverty and Louisa was required to work to help support the family from very early on.

louisa_may_alcott_5c_1940_stampPublished in 1868, Little Women is set in the Alcott family home, Orchard House, later renamed Hillside, then the Wayside, in Concord, Massachusetts and is loosely based on an idealized portrait of Alcott’s childhood experiences growing up with her three sisters. Real life was much harder than the life she lived in “Little Women.”

“Little Women” was high successful almost immediately.

As Joan Goodwin explains, “from this point on Louisa May Alcott was a victim of her own success. Though she yearned to do more serious fiction, children’s books flowed from her pen for the rest of her life because their sales supported her family. Louisa herself wrote, “Twenty years ago, I resolved to make the family independent if I could. At forty that is done. Debts all paid, even the outlawed ones, and we have enough to be comfortable. It has cost me my health, perhaps; but as I still live, there is more for me to do, I suppose.”

Following in her mother’s path, Alcott pursued women’s rights with fervor, enlisting the aid of famous colleagues such as Thoreau and Hawthorne to her cause.

Goodwin goes on to write that now “Alcott gave her energy to practical reforms, women’s rights and temperance. She attended the Women’s Congress of 1875 in Syracuse, New York, where she was introduced by Mary Livermore. She contributed to Lucy Stone’s Woman’s Journal while organizing Concord women to vote in the school election. ‘

“I was the first woman to register my name as a voter,’ she wrote. “Drove about and drummed up women to my suffrage meeting. So hard to move people out of the old ruts.” And again, “Helped start a temperance society much-needed in Concord]. I was secretary, and wrote records, letters, and sent pledges, etc.”

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Orchard House, Concord, Massachusetts

Louisa continued to publish children’s books, and in 1880, after her sister, May, died after childbirth, she adopted May’s baby who was named for Louisa, but called “Lulu.” In 1882, after her father suffered a stroke, Louisa settled the remaining members of her family at 10 Louisburg Square. Her own health was failing. It is generally believed from her pictures and other descriptions that she suffered from Lupus. There was little knowledge of Lupus at that time. No cure or medicine to lessen its impact. Louisa moved “from place to place in search of health and peace to write, settling at last in a Roxbury nursing home,” according to Joan Goodwin.

Jo March - By Madame Alexander

Jo March – By Madame Alexander

Her father, Bronson Alcott, who she faithfully tended even as her own health declined, died on March 4, 1888. Louisa outlived him by only two days. She passed away at age fifty-six.

She had known her death was near, despite her relative youth. She had adopted her widowed sister Anna’s son John Pratt to whom she willed her copyrights. Through him, all income from her books would be shared amongst her nieces and nephews — Anna, Lulu, John, and Anna’s other son Fred.

Louisa May Alcott never married, in part because the right person eluded her — but ultimately because she was unwilling to give up her freedom and personal power to a husband.

Louisa May Alcott was buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord on “Author’s Ridge” near Thoreau and Emerson. A Civil War veteran’s marker graces her gravestone. During her lifetime, she produced almost three hundred books, but the one that most every knows remains “Little Women.”

TO LUCKY by ELLIN CURLEY

On Monday, October 24, we had to put down our 16-year-old dog, Lucky. We knew he was old and wouldn’t last forever, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

We discovered that he had cancer on Friday. By Sunday he had deteriorated so much that he couldn’t stand or walk. We had to carry him back to the emergency vet. We got test results back on Monday that gave us the worst news. His cancer was aggressive, advanced stage and spread through his abdomen and pancreas. We decided to let him go without further suffering.

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It all happened so quickly at the end that we are in shell shock as well as extreme grief. The trauma of his death is still raw but I can now start missing the dog I loved. I can begin to remember what a unique and wonderful dog he was and how much he added to our family.

Lucky was a regal looking Chow/Shiba Inu mix. He had a thick double coat of off-white fluffy fur that came out in clumps several times a year when he ‘moulted’. He would look like a sheep who was only partly shorn and in an odd pattern. He also had the Chow purple tongue.

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He was an incredibly independent dog. He did his own thing and if you didn’t like it, it was your problem! He had no interest in pleasing humans and did not see humans (even professional dog trainers) as authority figures. We have been told by several of those trainers that he was one of the few untrainable dogs they had ever met. But he never did anything we really objected to, except steal food off the counters when we left it too close to the edge. So we didn’t mind his independent streak.

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On the other hand, his charm and personality were off the charts. He was a happy dog with what really looked like a smile. When he bounded up to you or nuzzled you to get affection, everyone just melted. And absolutely everyone loved Lucky. People who met him were always taken with him. He was genuinely winsome and appealing. He was also dignified and not at all needy, so you sort of felt flattered when he paid attention to you and wanted affection back in return.

Lucky had another unique character trait. He had more fixed habits and routines than any other dog either Tom or I have had (and that’s a lot of dogs). He had a strong sense of territory and made his rounds through the house and yard. He would go in and out of the doggie door at least 50 times a day!

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He particularly loved to sit on the back stoop in an iconic pose – his butt on the top step and his front paws on the lower step. From there he surveyed his domain for hours, rain or shine. On rainy days we lived with constant wet dog smell. As soon as he’d start to dry off, he’d be out again till he was thoroughly re-soaked. If he didn’t feel like going outside, he would just stick his head out the doggie door and look around for a while.

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Almost two years ago Lucky had several strokes and blew out both hips, one after the other. We thought we were going to lose him then. For weeks, Tom and I took turns sleeping on an air mattress in the family room to help him get around and get out to pee at night. He was finally diagnosed with Cushing’s disease and put on medication.

Although he had some minor residual damage from the strokes, he went back to an almost normal (though somewhat limited) routine. We all had a healthy, peaceful and happy year and a half plus for which we are now so grateful.

Lucky had a wonderful life as a well-loved member of a human/canine family that truly appreciated him. He was a unique, quirky and loving presence and his absence will be deeply felt forever.

REMEMBERING TINKER BELLE

Can you set a price on love? Can you set a number to it? Can you calculate it by the cost of health care, toys, dog food? Grooming?

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Tinker Belle was a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, also called PBGVs or Petites. They are a medium-sized, shaggy rabbit hound from the Vendée region of France, but have become over the past 20 years, quite popular as pets, though they are definitely not a dog for just anyone. They are smart, funny (they will do almost anything to make you laugh), noisy, and into everything.

Tinker Belle was special. From the day I brought her home from the airport (she had just flown up from her breeder’s home in North Carolina), she wasn’t like any other puppy I’d ever met. She was incredibly smart. As a rule, hounds are intelligent, but she was something else. Housebreaking? We showed her the doggy door. She was henceforth housebroken. She could open any door, any gate and close them behind her. She would open jars of peanut butter without leaving a fang mark to note her passing. All you’d find was a perfectly clean empty jar that had previously been an unopened, brand new jar.

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She was deeply sensitive. Probably born to be a therapy dog, she knew who was in pain, she knew who was sick. She knew where you hurt. She was the only dog who would never step on a healing incision, but would cuddle close to you, look at you with her dark, soft eyes and tell you everything would be fine. She never hurt a living thing, not human or anything else … except for small varmints she hunted in the yard. She was, after all, a hound and a hunter at that, born to track, point and if necessary, kill prey.

Tinker at 9 months

Tinker at 9 months

She was the smartest of our five dogs, the smartest dog of my life. Not just a little bit smarter than normal. A huge amount smarter. When you looked into Tinker’s eyes, it wasn’t like looking into the eyes of a dog. She was a human in a dog suit. She knew. We called her Tinker the Thinker because she planned, she remembered. She held grudges. More on that. For all that, she was Omega (the bottom) in the pack, we thought it was mostly her own choice. She had no interest in leadership. Too much responsibility maybe? But the other dogs knew her value. When they needed her, other dogs would tap into her expertise in gate opening, package disassembly, cabinet burglary, trash can raiding and other criminal activities. Throughout her life, she housebroke each new puppy. A couple of hours with Tinker, and the job was done. It was remarkable. Almost spooky. She then mothered them until they betrayed her by growing up and playing with other dogs.

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When Griffin, our big male Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen came to live with us a few months after Tinker, they became The Couple. inseparable, deeply in love. They ate together, played together, slept together, sang together. When about a year later, we briefly had a little Norwich Terrier pup and Griffin (what a dog!) abandoned Tinker to go slobbering after Sally … well … Tinker’s heart was broken.

She became depressed, would not play anymore with humans or other dogs. For the next 10 years, Tinker refused to so much as look at Griffin. Worse, she apparently blamed us, her humans for having brought another girl into the house. In retribution for our crimes, Tinker began her Reign of Terror.

Tinker took to destroying everything she could get her fangs on when she was three years old. She’d done a modest amount of puppy chewing, but nothing extraordinary. She was more thief than a chewer. She would steal your stuff and hide it. Shoes, toys (Kaity was very young), towels, stuffed animals. After Griffin betrayed her with that stupid little bitch — Sally was indeed the polar opposite of Tinker being the dumbest dog I’ve ever known and ill-tempered to boot — Tinker was no longer a playful thief. She was out to get us.

Nothing was safe. She had a particular passion for destroying expensive electronic devices. Cell phones, remote controls, portable DVD players, computers. If she could get a fang to them, she killed them. She would do more damage in under a minute than I thought possible. For Garry and I, it meant we couldn’t leave the room together unless we put everything away where Tink couldn’t get it. Tinker would strike quickly and she was lethal.

great griffin

Griffin the great

If we were going to bed for the night, every single movable item that was less than 6 feet off the ground had to be put away. If she couldn’t get to any small expensive electronic items, she ate the sofa, the rocking chair, the coffee table, a lot of books, many DVDs …. and for dessert, shoes were always yummy. For many years, I didn’t own any shoes without tooth marks.

We called such items “Tinkerized” and we had a grading system ranging from 10 – Utterly destroyed, to 1 – Only shows if you look closely. Most of my shoes fell into the 2 to 3 range and since she tended to start at the heel, I figured most folks wouldn’t notice.

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During one memorable intermission, Garry and I went to the kitchen to grab something to drink and she dismembered our remote controls. We were gone, by the clock, about a minute. The kitchen is adjacent to the sofa were we watch TV, so she managed to do this with us not 10 feet away. It cost me a couple of hundred dollars to replace them. She pulled off the backs, tore out the batteries (but never ate them), then ripped out the wiring and boards. She didn’t waste any time, either. If she had the leisure, she’d also tear out the keys and generally mangle the cases, but if time was limited, she went straight to the guts of the thing. She was good.

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For 10 years, we lived under siege. If you didn’t want it Tinkerized, you couldn’t leave it exposed, not for a minute.

Yet we loved Tinker and for the last year of her life, after we brought Bonnie home, Tinker became a real dog again. With Bonnie, Tinker came back to herself and played again. She ran around the yard, played tag, joined the chorus when the other dogs pointed their muzzles at the sky and sang. Hounds have such beautiful voices and Tinker’s was the most beautiful of all. When she sang, nature sang with her. I suppose this is a matter of taste, but for those of us who love hounds, you know what I mean.

Singing is a social function for canines. When a pack sings, it isn’t an alert. It’s a chorus. They are really truly singing together. Each dog has a part, joining in, then pausing and rejoining at the right moment. Tinker was a baritone, the deepest and loudest of the canine voices and Bonnie is a coloratura soprano, very musical, but light.

Almost exactly three years ago, Tinker died of cancer. She had shown no symptoms except a slight slowing down and a slightly lessened appetite. One day, she collapsed. She was riddled with cancer. How in the world she had so effectively hidden her illness is mind-boggling. A couple of weeks later, Griffin had a massive stroke and died. They were the same age and I don’t believe for a minute the timing of their passing was coincidence. Despite Griffin’s infidelity, the two PBGVs were a couple and would not live without each other.

The house was so quiet with the two hounds gone. We didn’t have to hide everything anymore, though it took us months to realize it was safe, that I could leave my laptop out at night and no dog would bother it. After the two hounds passed, the pack did not sing for half a year. One day, mourning ended and they started to sing again. Now, they sing twice a day, early in the morning (get up Mom) and in the evening (pause that show, time for the chorus).

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What was Tinker’s true cost? We paid $700 for her as a puppy. Who knows how much her medical care cost over? Who remembers? It’s part of the contract between dogs and us. They love us, we care for them.

Other damages? Thousands of dollars in electronic gear, furniture, shoes, books, DVDs, videotapes, dolls — who knows what else.

But she paid us back, you see. Because when I was terribly ill, Tinker never left my side. When I was back from surgery, missing another piece of me and in pain, Tinker was there, never placing a paw where it would hurt me. How does it add up? How much was the love worth? What is the cost of a lifetime laughter and love?

WHO HAS A LEGACY?

LEGACY?

I’m pretty sure that 10 years after I’m gone, no one will remember I was ever here in the first place … other than my son. Most of my friends and same-age family will have also gone and the world will have moved on.

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That’s not self-pity. It’s a fact. We are all in the same boat. Unless your are particularly important to history and the world, when you’re gone, you’re gone.

Things that might get you remembered include:

  • Written books people will read down through the generations
  • Founded a corporation
  • Invented important new technology
  • Wrote and recorded music
  • Starred on stage and screen
  • Won a Nobel prize
  • Became queen or president
  • Led an army.

If none of these apply, you’ll be forgotten soon enough. We aren’t going down in history. There is no legacy.

My lot is the same as the multi-millions of “regular” folks who have trod the earth before me. To live. To do the best I can with whatever life hands me … then move on so the younger generations can move up. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

I have no illusions people will be reading my book or my blog in the future. It wouldn’t matter to me if they did because (tada) … I won’t be here.

AND THEN THERE WERE TWO – THE SHRINKING PACK

Over the past few years, our dogs have been passing on. We have had as many as five. Then, four.

NAN Norwich Terrier dog biscuit

After Nan passed, we became three. Today, we are two.

They don’t live long enough and so we have to live with the sad knowledge that in the future — near or far — we will be saying goodbye.

When they were puppies ...

When they were puppies …

Amber has had cancer for a while. We knew about it. It was past fixing. For the better part of a year, she seemed okay. As long as she had a decent quality of life, we were okay too.

During the past few weeks, she had been going downhill. Sleeping most of the time, not interested in much of anything, though she was still willing to get up for a biscuit. Most of the time. Sometimes, she would wait on the sofa and hope we’d bring it to her. We did.

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Garry believed she was in pain. And she had that terrible death smell that people and animals get when something awful is going on internally. It was time to bring it to an end and we did.

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The other dogs are very quiet today. They know. They always know. Bishop is not in great shape either. I worry about him. It’s difficult to absorb so many losses in such a short span.

There will be other dogs, I know. When there is room at the inn, somewhere is a dog who needs a home. Meanwhile, I do not think our dogs will sing again until at least one more voice can join the chorus.

I cried this morning. A yankee great, Yogi Berra Dead at 90. NEW YORK YANKEES FOREVER

Garry Armstrong on September 23, 2015 at 4:34 pm said:
A sad, sad day. Lawrence Peter Berra was a baseball legend and an icon. Although he was a stalwart of the Yankees, dreaded enemy of my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Red Sox, he was a kind and gentle man. I spent a few, memorable hours with Yogi during his tenure with the old, bumbling New York Mets. He was very kind and generous with me, then a young reporter.

Yogi is again batting cleanup behind Mickey Mantle on that field of dreams.

I Know I Made You Smile

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REMEMBERING DAD ON HIS 100th BIRTHDAY

I planned to write an epic piece about my Dad who would have been 100 years old today. But my body has staged a mutiny, so I’ll be brief.

Dad must be smiling.

William Benfield Armstrong was the real life Quiet Man. I’m the oldest of three sons who realized that Dad meant what he said — just by the look on his face.

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My Dad was a handsome guy. Tall, lean and with a smile that dazzled women and men. I always thought he could’ve been a movie star, rivaling Clark Gable and Gary Cooper.

Dad rarely showed emotions. He kept it all inside. The day I left for basic training in the Marines, I saw something rare. Dad was crying as he put me on the train.

My Father didn’t talk about his experiences as an Army Staff Sgt. in World War Two. We knew he saw action in Germany but he never offered any details, always giving us an annoyed look if we persisted with questions. I finally got some answers a short time before Dad passed away in 2002. He told me about seeing his best friend killed in a jeep explosion, just a few yards in front of him.

He said it was an image he carried for the rest of his life. Dad talked and I listened. It was the longest conversation we ever had. When he finished, he just looked at me with a sad smile and patted my shoulders.

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After my Father died, my two brothers and I were going through his possessions. We found, buried under clothing, several medals he had been awarded in that war so many years ago. My Dad was a hero! We always knew that but never understood or appreciated him in that larger context.

So here’s to you, Dad. At 100, you’re still a ramrod, tall and proud.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!

Dear Mom,

It’s Flag Day for most people of a certain age. Mom, “people of a certain age” is a not so subtle reference to anyone over 60 these days. But for anyone in your immediate and extended family, today is a celebration of your birthday!

It’s a celebration of your life and the nurturing given to countless people. Many still refer to you as “Auntie Esther.” It’s hard to separate fact from fiction when listening to stories people tell about you. I say print the legend!

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It’s been a busy year, Mom. Your great-granddaughter Kaity is a high school graduate — with honors. Headed to college in the fall, with nursing as her major. You could probably tell her stories about your days as a nurse. Kaity has a lot of your grit and determination. You would be proud of her. She calls Marilyn and me the “old people.” You were right when you said “what goes around, comes around.”

You were right about a lot of things, Mom. I remember the look you gave me when I spouted all that college stuff about world-changing events and how “old people” should keep up.

You and Daddy are probably grinning at the accomplishments of your “old age” son, Anton.

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“Tony”, as Daddy called him, is celebrating his 25th anniversary as conductor of the St. Olaf Choir. Anton is mentoring a new generation of chorale musicians. He has brought diversity and creativity to the St. Olaf Music Department. Your “baby” is now an acclaimed international figure in his profession.

Anton and Garry

Honestly, I love teasing Anton. I remind him — publicly, when I can — of when I used to change his diapers. I’m sure you remember  that I wasn’t happy with my “big brother” duties. All my friends were outside playing baseball and I wanted to be there, too.

Mom, will you not interrupt me when I’m talking? Please?

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Where was I? Oh, right. Billy. He’s doing okay, enjoying his first full year of retirement. I’m not sure he would use the word “enjoy” but he’s maintaining the family home. Speaking of home, our house is turning 60 next year. I remember when it was brand, spanking new. We had just moved in. It had that great “new house” smell.

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Hold on, Mom. I’m not finished yet. No, I’m not interrupting. Yes, I know who brought me into this world. No, I’m not giving you a “look.” Just one more thing …

Marilyn and I will be celebrating our silver wedding anniversary in September. Yep!! 25 years — up and down — the best years of our lives. Yes, Mom, Marilyn is the girl — forever.

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We’ll be in Cooperstown, New York, for our anniversary. I’m still a passionate baseball fan and it seems just right to celebrate at the Hall of Fame. Marilyn made it her business to learn baseball after we got married because she knew how much I love the game. Now she is a very savvy fan.

That’s it, Mom. We’ll toast your birthday with PowerAde and PowerZero. Betcha that’s a surprise, Mom.

Please tell Daddy we miss him, too.

Happy Birthday, Mom!!

Love,

Garry