One More Sam Post

Life has become unusual with our ever present companion, Covid-19. Because life has become disrupted, I note that I have come to focus inward instead of toward the outside world. This has lead, for better or worse, to fewer blogs from me. But I do not want for this blog to be about me but the world I encounter around me. This post is a second one about my friend, Sam. Sam recently passed. I have already posted about Sam’s passing but I have had some further thoughts. With these posts I am not attempting to create a word monument to Sam as, I am sure, he would look on that endeavor with overwhelming disdain.

Recently I was sent a copy of the notes used for Sam’s memorial service. Reading it, I became aware of a very interesting difference in perspective between the eulogists relationship with Sam and my relationship with Sam. I knew Sam as a young man ready to take on the world. The eulogist knew Sam at the end of his life, a man who had taken on the world. My recollection is through a fog of fifty five years. The eulogist’s is crystal clear in the moment. Sam had become quite an accomplished individual and one who was “humble” and very giving of himself, his knowledge and understanding of the way life is. The following are from the notes used for the eulogy starting with the biblical references used:

Acts 26: 24,25 (ASV)

1 Corinthians 3 :18 (I assume ASV)

2 Timothy 4:13 (NKJV)

Let it be known that I am no biblical scholar so anything that I might say or even hint at regarding theology should be taken with a truly large grain of salt. Drawing from these texts the eulogist made the following notes to describe the man Sam had become:

“How do we begin to describe Bro Sam? There are many adjectives which we could use to describe him, depending on the length of time one knew him. I would use adjectives such as quiet reserved, intent, always inquiring. As a college professor, study was continually necessary to adequately convey fact and appreciation to his students.

“Higher education is a two edged sword – either the person is benefitted personally to recognize and truly appreciate the cumulative knowledge of mankind, as well as the vastness of God and His creation, and to be able to pass that appreciation on to others, or it warps the personality and mental process to induce artificial arrogance, pride, and stupidity that we are witness to in this present time in our nation.

“It takes a truly humble person to realize he/she doesn’t know everything. As one progresses higher and higher in educational circles, there is a tendency to wrap oneself in the mantle of ‘whatever you want to know, just ask me!’ The resultant obnoxiousness destroys any credibility they might have had.

“It is to the glory of God and to Bro Sam’s credit that he rejected the dangerous side of higher education. He was in the less that two (2) percent of Americans who had an earned PhD, and yet he never brought it up.” It has been a privilege for me to have seen and remembered Sam at the beginning of his life’s journey and to see him toward the end of his journey. I remember Sam as smart, talented and energetic young fellow. He was full of life. He was ready and anxious to take on the world. Then life happened as it happens to all of us. I am sure Sam had challenges and disappointments. Likewise, I am sure that he had triumphs and joy. I have no idea if Sam amassed wealth, we never talked about money. I am sure that the eulogist painted an accurate word picture of the man that Sam had become. He seems to have turned out to be a pretty accomplished individual. It is also interesting for me to note that Sam had become to have serious religious convictions. It is also interesting to me that both he and I have embraced Christianity although by different paths. Sam has truly passed from the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant. If words are said over me at the end of my life, it would be great if they were to approach the delight of those that were said over Sam.

Thought it would be interesting to add photos of Sam:

The Sam I Knew
Sam the Man

By the way, want to see what I looked like when I knew Sam?

Monhegan Island

We made it to Monhegan Island. To get here one has to take a small passenger ferry. The scenery is gorgeous. The boat trip can be an adventure.

Monhegan Island is truly a special place. The vistas are spectacular; the village is like stepping back a hundred years in time. Few autos and no paved roads. I do, however get an impression that the locals would just as soon you send in your money and not show up on the island. Lots of artists here. When we arrived two art classes were in progress at the place we were staying. The landscape is reminesant of Ireland but, without the sheep droppings.

There is a small brewpub on the island, one of the few businesses. There is a lot of concern about a water shortage; which makes me curious as to why a brewery can operate.

One of the great things about doing this blog is that I can write about anything I choose. This morning I am thinking about Jonathan, Tina’s cousin’s son. Jonathan is going in for a scheduled operation today, he is getting a cochlear implant. The age we live in is truly amazing to me. That we have technology to do such wonderful things. Jonathan is one of the fellows that I correspond with regarding investments. He is in the finance business and is quite knowledgeable and insightful. I am confident that Jonathan will come though the procedure with no issues. He is young, healthy and has a fabulous family and extended family for support. He will certainly not lack for prayers. I am hoping for a quick recovery because I am thinking about changing my position in gold. (Tongue in cheek comment, I am not quite that intrusive, at least I hope I am not)

Higgins Beach and Camden

What a gem! We are staying at a small inn on Higgins Beach, Maine. The beach is relatively small compared to other beaches in the area but the cottages are very well kept, it is very family oriented (read family oriented to mean no rowdy parties few motor cycles and no low life bars) and the place is low key. The inn is recently remodeled but has kept an old place character.

Higgins Beach even has a shipwreck. The Howard Middletown, a three masted sloop, ran into a submerged obstruction in 1897. During a storm later it drifted to Higgins Beach where it remains. The ship was transporting coal from Philadelphia to Portland when it got into trouble during an intense fog. It is said that one can still find coal on the beach.

Made it to Camden, Maine. At a beautiful and what appears to be fun B+B for a couple days. Tina and I met a delightful couple from southern Connecticut and spent the evening in a truly civilized conversation with them. The couple, originally from Great Britain, were on their way to Mohegan Island. Sounds like a great trip.

We did some exploring around Camden. We drove to the top of Mt Barrie, a great view.

Then we did a hike up Beech Hill preserve. This is a large field of native blueberries. These blueberries are small and close to the ground. They must be a challenge to pick.

One more update in Camden. I do not usually plug particular places but the inn (B+B) we are at is exceptional, the Timbercliffe. The place is beautiful, authentic colonial. The owners great. Had a huge lobster dinner brought in last night. The owners set us up in the dining room, supplied all plates and utensils. They made sure there was a fire in the parlor fireplace for us in the evening. Had conversations with them into the night. Delightful place, delightful people delightful family.

Well, we will be going to Monhegan Island tomorrow. I first heard about Monhegan Island while on a business trip to Bangor. I was seated next to a professional mime on a commuter flight. He extolled the virtues of the place and I have been curious about it ever since. It is a remote artists destination with few amenities other than quiet.

Second Try At Maine

This is the second Maine posting. I discarded the first one, it was terrible.  For some reason I was not into it at all. I can come up with a bunch of reasons why: I am still bummed about Sam, It has been a long time since I last posted, it has been a long time since I last traveled, COVID-19. Whatever. Then I met “Wine Guy”, changed my outlook. More about him later.

The world is full of really interesting people. I have met and remet so many so far on this trip. I had, I believe, lost sight of this and taken them for granted. I didn’t take photos of these great people so some of the memory is lost.

Our first evening on the road we spent with Tina’s brother, wife and son. Also attending were his in-laws, in their 90’s. They are from the Pittsburgh area. We spent much of the evening recalling landmark eating places and food. The Original, a hot dog place where, if you order a large fries, it comes on a serving tray piled high (no longer in business). Vincent’s Pizza, nothing more needs to be said, those that have been there know. Prantl’s bakery in Squirrel Hill, great Jewish bakery. The Pleasure Bar in East Liberty, don’t let the name give you any evil ideas, it is a great Italian restaurant. That is where I had the best polenta and sausage I have ever had. The Tin Angel and La Mont (the best creme brulee in the world). We also reminisced about unique Pittsburgh dishes: fried jumbo (jumbo is bologna) and fish sandwiches that have so much fish that it looks like a piece of house siding in a bun.

Yesterday we made a pilgrimage to L L Bean in Freeport. Nothing exciting there but stopped in, what was supposed to be foody, Portland. Had an expensive but disappointing snack at an interesting place near the harbor. My inner “Rufus” came out. At places you need to leave a name for food delivery, I leave Rufus. Rufus gets better service than Bill and his order is never mixed up. This was the case here. Here you had to retrieve your drink order at one station and food at another when your name is called. Well, Rufus had his drinks delivered to the table, not like all the others at the place. There was almost a mixup on the food order, but quickly corrected for Rufus. I also make it a point to have a resolute dimeanor when responding, no one ever comments on the unique name.

“Wine Guy”. On the way back to the car we stopped at what appeared to be a high end wine store. Starting a conversation with the proprietor revealed that, due to COVID-19, he was able to get great deals on great wine and passed along the deals to his customers. He had quite a history of running convert operations Central America and had worked for Colin Powell. Also an Air Force vet, so we had a lot of stories to share. We bought a nice wine and some great snacks at the deli across the street. Back at the Inn we heald court on the veranda having a great light meal and wonderful pinot while talking with people entering the lobby. Had a great conversation with a couple that were Naturopaths from Montpelier, VT. Needless to say, we will be visiting “Wine Guy” to get a case on our way home.

Not one of us

Saying Goodbye to Sam

I have not been writing much lately. I can blame that on COVID inspired travel restrictions or COVID induced malaise. In any case COVID is going to get the blame. Lately I am reading more and pickling everything that I can think of (I have a cellar full of pickled cucumbers, beets, jalapeno peppers and watermelon rind). Usually I delight in putting my rambling thoughts out into the ether but this post is something different. And, this post is truly a struggle for me.

I posted a while ago that my friend Sam and I reconnected after about a fifty year hiatus. We were friends in High School but lost track of one another after graduation. We reconnected around the time of our class fifty year reunion. Sam and I went to the New Mexico Military Institute, NMMI, a military boarding school in Roswell, NM (Although famous for aliens, I did not encounter a single one). Last October Tina and I traveled to Texas where I reunited with Sam in person where we met his wife for the first time. We had a fun lunch with them near their home outside of Dallas. Reconnecting after such a long time was an interesting experience and delightful experience for me. Seeing Sam was a truly a joy, we picked up conversations from half a century ago without missing a beat, I cannot explain how that can happen after fifty years.

Sam and his wife are christian, as Tina and I are. And, with his scholarly background (Sam has a PhD in Literature and taught at University) Sam studies scripture in detail and teaches others what he comes to understand. After we reconnected Sam and I would communicate on a regular basis many time discussing our Christian beliefs. He challenges my beliefs in areas like predestination and free will. He led me to explore my thoughts more thoroughly and find deeper understanding.

A few days ago I got a call from Sam. He wanted to let me know that he had been released from hospital after a tough go and was entertaining hospice. (I do not know how to express that, does one enter hospice?) I was dumbfounded, literally. I didn’t know how to respond; I couldn’t properly respond, emotion got the better of me (not at all like me). I was not the person my friend needed at that point, he did not need my blubbering.

Sam had been told that he has a month. Fortunately Sam is married to an angel who is, with hospice, taking care of him. At the end of the first call Sam’s wife got on and asked if I would continue to call periodically. Without question I agreed, I just hope that I am gifted with the means to be a net plus in the process. I do not believe either of us want to wallow in sadness and sympathy. We just wanted to enjoy each other’s company while we could.

Before I made a second call to Sam I sent him a short letter. There is something about putting pen to paper that makes the communication more real, more earnest. I wanted to let Sam know that I truly value our friendship. And, that true friendship is a rare thing to be cherished.

I called Sam tonight. I don’t want to be a pest so I had let several days pass before I called. I wonder if my hesitancy is due to denial of the situation or that I don’t want to deal with the situation. Sometimes we have to do what we need to do. Being an adult in an adult situation is not fun, and sometimes it should not be fun. Sam and I had a good talk, we talked about our day and recalled some things from our days at NMMI (One memory that I had was that Sam would mimic Sam Jaffe, Dr Zorba, from the television show Ben Casey). I don’t believe Sam wanted to talk about his situation and, frankly, neither did I. But the conversation was not light and happy. Sam made me aware of the value of the value of long term friendships. We both regretted that there had been such a long time without contact. But, we considered ourselves fortunate that we both made the effort to rekindle the friendship. Sam was struggling to keep the conversation going, not struggling mentally but it was a physical effort.

Years ago I recall a similar position, I learned that a friend who liver near Chicago was dying of a brain cancer. I was living in Pittsburgh at the time. I did not want to call, just wanted to ignore the situation. I decided that was a pretty gutless response so I gave him a call. At the time he was meeting with company people regarding benefits that would go to his wife after his passing (we were both working at Westinghouse). I could have easily called back but he told the company guys to cool their heals, he wanted to talk to me. He was light and happy, he cheered me up. I thought that it should have been me cheering him up. I never forgot that profound and moving experience.

This morning I received a call from Sam’s wife, he passed a couple hours before. It is about two weeks from the call that informed me of his situation. I wanted so much to have another talk with Sam, but it was not to be.

As I write this I am profoundly sad but feel a degree of comfort, I can feel Sam’s presence. Its like he can see all my weaknesses and strengths, my life triumphs and failures. It’s all OK. I will see him again soon.

Grandpa # 3

Previously I wrote posts about my father’s stepfather and my mother’s father. To be complete I am writing this one about my father’s biological father, William Charles Krueger. Note: I have taken a bit of an hiatus in the completion of this post, I stopped to have hernia surgery. More than anyone needs or wants to know.

My grandparents were divorced when my father was a lad. I do not know when William and his wife, my grandmother, Gertrude, were married and I do not know the date of their divorce. Nor, do I know anything about the circumstance. The only reference I recall is my mother mentioning one time that Gertrude fell in love with Charlie while commuting to Seattle on a ferry. I never met William as he passed before I was born. William was born in New Ulm, Minnesota and “when reaching man’s estate ‘went west to grow up with the country'”. He wound up in Seattle, Washington, working for the trolley company.

Evidently, after his marriage failed William migrated back to Minnesota near his parents. William led, I believe, a relatively quiet life in Minnesota. He was a sales guy for a Cash Register company, then for other enterprises in the area. He lived in Comfrey, Minnesota not far from where he was born. There are fewer than 400 people in Comfrey. His obituary mentions that he was survived by his wife (No name mentioned, it must have been referring to Gertrude), his son, Walter (dad) and daughter (aunt Rheva). It is said that William liked to hunt and fish and is was of “a friendly and pleasing disposition”. He was also survived by his mother Mary Krueger. Mary died in 1953, short of her 100th birthday. Mary was one of the last survivors of the Sioux uprising of 1862 and is said to have related many stories of the event. Evidently her family was friendly with the Native Americans who warned the family of the impending troubles. Her family was then able to warn other settlers in the area.

Many years later I was on a job in Mason City, Iowa. I ran major maintenance operations at a power plant there for a number of years. One year we were doing an inspection in July. The client stopped work on the fourth of July that year so I had a free day. Having heard stories about relatives in Comfrey, MN, I decided to travel there for the day. Comfrey is 156 miles from Mason City. Entering Comfrey was like stepping into a Hallmark Movie set in 1950’s rural America. I arrived in time to see the Independence Day parade. It consisted of the town fire truck, the town police car, the high school marching band, the boy scouts and a few veterans. The main street was lined with people the full length of the parade route. I spoke with a number of people who turned out to be Kruegers. I could not determine any family connections. I did find that they pronounce our name differently; they pronounce it “Kreeeger” where I pronounce it “Kroooger”.

I have a sadness when I think of William? There must have been joy in William’s life; however, I cannot find it in the few things I have heard and read about him. After leaving Seattle I do not believe he ever saw his children again. I have no notes from my father about him nor do I recall any stories or recollections other than Dad’s mentioning that he worked for a Cash Register company. Dad once told the story that his family was from Dusseldorf, Germany but Dad was not one to let a fact get in the way of a good story. Mom and Dad did visit the area years after William’s death. I have some photos of Mom and Dad attending a party in Comfrey in 1973. William must not been of faint spirit; he heeded Horace Greeley’s advice to “Go West young man”. I hope that he found more joy in life than is reflected in the memories and “stuff” that remains of his life, a photograph, an obituary and a few distant memories.

William

Thomas Jefferson (Not That Thomas Jefferson)

In a blog that I follow there was recently a cartoon of a fish asking another fish “how’s the water”. The point was that a fish’s only perspective is water so how could it relate the experience? This brought to mind a quandary I had relative to my grandfathers. (In my previous post I wrote about my father’s step father, Charlie). The predicament I had was that other kids had a set of grandparents with whom they shared the same last name. That was strange to me. There was something going on that I did not understand, suspicious, strange, something just not right. Didn’t everyone have a Grandma Barr and a Grandma Galbreath. Because I remember being perplexed, it must have been something that I ruminated over at some length. This may have been compounded by the fact that I did not know my mother’s father, Thomas Jefferson Galbreath, who would not love to have that name? Thomas was killed in a train accident shortly after I was born.

In the previous post I wrote about a letter I found from Charlie. In the collection of memorabilia that contained the letter from Charlie, was a newspaper clipping showing the train collision that killed Thomas. The pickup truck in which Thomas was riding turned in front of a railroad locomotive on a rural road in Skagit County, Washington. Thomas was killed instantly.

I have a distant cousin, Lori, an historian who has assembled our family’s tree. Lori keeps all manor of information on Ancestry.com. I should upload the clipping, says I; not so fast bucko. I was hesitant to upload an image of the clipping as it is pretty gruesome. (There is a huge arrow pointing to Thomas pinned in the cab of the pickup). Lori thought that the clipping was “powerful”; I uploaded the picture. This exercise got me thinking about the differences in legacy between Thomas and Charlie.

Of course I have no memory of Thomas, I was not yet two when he was killed. However, there are some interesting stories that I have heard. When guests would leave, Thomas might say “come again when you can’t stay so damned long.” I can only dream of getting away with that. My favorite is his relationship with indoor plumbing. The original farm house that Thomas shared with my grandmother, Emma, and their seven kids burned to the ground. The replacement had indoor plumbing, a new high tech feature at that time, especially in rural Washington State. This new fangled convenience was likely installed at the behest of Emma. Emma was a school teacher: educated, forward thinking and tremendously strong willed. Thomas’s observation was that “it is a dirty bird that craps in it’s own nest.” Thomas’ life story is for others to tell. Teaser, he was kidnapped as a child from the family farm in Indiana in the late 1800’s, he was brought to Washington to work on a farm. I consider myself honored to share the memory of Thomas.

Other than the clipping, I do not have much else from Thomas: some 8mm film of infant Bill and beaming grandpa Thomas, some photos. And, his watch chain. Mom gave me the chain many years ago. No watch, just the chain. Originally it had, I understand, an Elk’s tooth attached. The Elk’s tooth was also missing. Years later my father gave me a pocket watch, I added the watch to the chain. That left the little bit of dangly chain where the Elk’s tooth had been. I added a gold nugget. In the 1980’s I attended a church in Pittsburgh, PA. I was an usher. The ushers at this church wore cutaway morning coats, stripped trousers and a black vests. I considered myself quite “dapper” in that outfit especially when I added the watch and chain. Although, I was completely outclassed by fellow usher, Rob. Rob could have been mistaken for “The Great Gatsby”.

Charlie

Like many others, I am filling my time at home during the CORONA 19 sequestering and doing projects around the house. One project is selling “stuff” on eBay. “Stuff” is a euphemism for unwanted or never used items that Tina and I want to be rid of. EBay is great; stuff gets to someone who wants it and, it is kept out of the landfill. Often “stuff” is shipped back to China where it originally came from. “Stuff” also includes items inherited from our parents. Although it seems we have lots of “stuff”, I take comfort in the fact that we actually have space for our cars in the garage. One of our goals is to not leave a burden of “stuff” for our children.

In my meandering in the attic in search of eBay inventory, I came across a bundle of miscellaneous documents. These had been the contents of “the brown box”. “The brown box” was where my parents stashed items that were “important”; things like diplomas, certificates, marriage and death announcements occupied the “brown box”. After my mother passed I became custodian of “the brown box”. I had completely forgotten about it until now. It was interesting to go through the stack. In the bundle of paraphernalia included WW2 ration stamp booklets and union dues receipts from 1942. Unfortunately nothing was worthy of being placed on eBay. But, I also found one letter. A letter from Charlie to my father.

Charlie was my father’s step father. On the rare occasions I mention him in conversation, I describe Charlie as being a hard individual. And, I understand that he was very hard on Dad in Dad’s childhood. Dad left home to live on his own at fourteen. A sawyer by trade, Charlie had been in the Klondike during the gold rush. In the Klondike, Charlie was a teamster, not a prospector so no lost goldmines. Perhaps looking at the back end of horses all day can put a dent in your personality. Charlie operated sawmills in Washington State when I knew him. These sawmills were small operations consisting of a couple guys operating a sawmill in the open air. The thing that impressed me at the time was that the giant saw blade was missing many of it’s teeth, I was in preschool then. Looking back, there were no safety precautions at all. Men working around a giant toothless spinning blade out in the rain. Dad was always good to Charlie. When my mother would express her bewilderment at Dad’s kindness to Charlie, Dad would say “well, he was always kind to Mom”. One of my recollections of Charlie was that he played checkers with me once. It was not a pleasant experience; I haven’t played checkers since.

Back to the letter. As I read the letter I realized that this, other than his tombstone, was likely the last remaining artifact from Charlie’s long life. As I recall Charlie passed in his late 80’s. Charlie had no children of his own. The letter is essentially a rant about the purchase of property that somehow went awry. Unkind things are written. Charlie writes that he believes Dad should send him money because Dad somehow was involved. My admonition and the point of this entire post is to be be circumspect about what you write. It may turn out to be your only legacy.

In closing I would like to say something further about Dad. I do not believe Charlie was close to properly characterizing Dad as an ingrate (not my word but the impression left in the letter). At the end of Charlie’s life Dad took Charlie in after Charlie was thrown out by Dad’s sister. (There is another story here for some other time). Charlie was living in a lean-to on ten acres that Dad owned in Whatcom County, Washington. Dad brought Charlie to our home in Seattle (I was at University at that time), had a small house built on the ten acres, and let Charlie live out his years there at no cost to Charlie. I do not think Dad was the ungrateful SOB Charlie described in the letter.

The Future Looks Bright

There appears to be a great deal of pessimism in the media. This view is reinforced by the peculiarities of the CORONA 19 epidemic. I do not want to minimize the current situation. People are ill, some are passing, in some places the healthcare industry is being challenged, the economy is sputtering. Everyone is acutely aware of all this. Literally, everyone on earth is aware of the epidemic. The media seems to paint a pretty dark picture of the situation and the prospects for the future. One reason I have been avoiding news broadcasts. Factoid – Bad News Sells. Wednesday, Tina and I participated in a weekly market review that our financial gut, Greg, has been putting on during the sequester. One statistic Greg presented is that neutral news has a neutral response from listeners, positive news a negative response and negative news a positive response. So, to sell ad time make it as negative as possible.

Last evening our son, Jim, had a gathering of his buddies from Suffield Academy. All had gone off to college and most were graduating. They came from all over; Bentley, Penn State, Hartford, Skidmore, and Puget Sound. They cooked and ate, had a bonfire and camped in tents. Yes, they did practice social distancing – well, for the most part. what a remarkable and capable group of men. Would I say that they have it all figured out, no. But these guys will definitely figure it out.

All Those That Serve

I was recently impressed by an article that suggested that individuals that work in grocery stores should be considered “First Responders”. I truly believe that these people who go to work every day stocking shelves, registering our purchases and doing the hundred other things associated with our food chain should be recognized. However, it should not stop there. The postman, the refuse collector, the pharmacist, the pizza maker and all the hundreds of others that are making our existence bearable in these peculiar times.

And, I am in favor of our government going beyond recognition and arranging for financial support of small business. However, I am totally disgusted by the news that large hedge funds are going after the money. Not by the small few individual hedge funds that eke out an existence but the big guys with lots of resources. I am also disheartened by those small “Mom and Pop” outfits that do not have the wherewithal to maneuver the quagmire of government minutia to get access the the resources available.

What called this to mind is a speech made by General George Patton during World War II. Not the sanitized version made by the actor George Scott at the beginning of the movie “Patton” but, the actual one. In it Patton made a point of recognizing the truck drivers who went well beyond the normal call of duty, the telegraph repairman making repairs under fire and others. Having recently read a transcript of the speech, I would not recommend it to those of a sensitive demeanor, Patton could be a bit crass. He once said that if you have something to say, say it loud and dirty, that way it will be remembered. (This manner should not be tried at home)

I should point out why I am drawn to Patton. The superintendent of my High School was General Hobart Gay. General Gay had been an aide to Patton during World War II and was in the staff car when Patton was killed. Gay always carried a riding crop that was given to him by Patton.

So, all of those that have a role to play should be recognized. And, all of us should do our parts.

Not many pictures to add. Just one of two desperados who look like they are on their way to hold up a convenience store.

Forget the cash, hand over the toilet paper!