Friday, November 29, 2013

Gone From My Sight

In memory of my mom Ruth Barnes
Gone From My Sight
by Henry Van Dyke
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, "There, she is gone"

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me -- not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, "There, she is gone,"
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"

And that is dying...

Saturday, November 2, 2013

An Old-fashioned Winter

Aaah. The winters of my childhood. It seemed that there was snow every day of the season. We lived in a tiny village called Bunker Hill, so named, because it had a long hill, that had two distinct slopes. We lived at the crest of the bottom slope. In those days, the road that travelled up Bunker Hill was only lightly travelled. This was a farm community, and most of those farmers had chores in the evening, followed by an early bedtime so that they could wake up early to do their morning chores. That meant that after 9 pm, the road was deserted.

My dad had been a farmer, but since he was, also, a teacher, school principal and basketball coach, he had given up farming, since there wasn't really enough time to do everything. Since we didn't have morning chores that required us to awaken at 4:00 am, we could stay up a lot later than everyone else. Many snowy evenings, my mom, dad and I would take sleds to the top of Bunker Hill, and slide down. The sled zipped along over the snowy, icy surface of the road and we could coast almost 100 yards beyond the bottom of the hill. The only part I didn't like was the long climb back to the top. I especially didn't like it when the rope for my sled would slip from my mittened hand, and I would see the sled racing backwards to the bottom of the hill.

The best part of the evening was after sledding. We would trudge home cold and stiff, clean the sled runners, and then go inside to get warm. Often my mom and I would make hot cocoa (not to be confused with hot chocolate) and popcorn, or for a very special treat, we would make taffy. I could barely wait for it to cool, so that we could butter our hands, and pull it until it was light, golden and shiny.  The amazing buttery-sweet taste of the taffy was the most delicious taste you can imagine.

Those snowy evenings were even more fun if the forecast was for a long period of snow, followed by blowing and drifting. That meant the wonderful possibility that we might not have school the next day. As the principal of the local elementary school, my dad was responsible for calling bus drivers, at 5:30 am on those snowy mornings, to find out if they thought they would be able to pick up most of the children. After he talked to the bus drivers, he would call the local superintendent, and they would decide whether school would be cancelled. My mother was a teacher, and although she loved to teach, she looked forward to our days at home as much as I did. If we had heard of homeschooling in those days, I think she would have jumped at the chance to try it. My mother and I would sit, with our fingers crossed, and listen to my dad's conversations with the bus drivers. If they said the roads were bad, we giggled. When my dad talked to the superintendent, and we heard him say, "OK, I'll call my teachers." We would scream silently and jump up and down. That meant, "NO SCHOOL!"

My mom and I would grab warm blankets and sit in the living room with the curtains opened. We had a large floodlight outside our house, and in those dark early morning hours, blowing snow flying through that pool of light was so beautiful. When it began to be daylight, we would get dressed and eat our breakfast. I knew that it wouldn't be long before children and teens would be arriving at our door.

About 50 yards behind our house, there was a pond that we shared with our next door neighbors. The father, Roy, was a teacher, too. When the days were cold, Roy would go out in the morning to check the thickness of the ice. If it was thick enough for skaters, he would build a big bonfire. People came from several miles away to skate on our pond. Some would always show up at our door, asking if we had any extra skates. Our family and Roy's family always kept a pretty good collection of skates, so there were usually some that would fit, or almost fit. We would just tell them to add or remove socks until the fit seemed right. We had to keep extra pairs of socks on hand, too.

By 10 am, there might be 3 or 4 skaters on the pond, and by evening, there could be as many as 15. You would think that I would love skating, but it's one of my least favorite things to do. I would skate a few circles around the pond, and then sit by the fire. That was the best part. The fire was huge and Roy had set up large logs all around the fire for skaters to sit on to put on their skates or to rest and get warm. There were always marshmallows to roast, although it's tricky to eat them when you're wearing mittens. A lot of skaters thought it was important to warm the blades of the skates. I have no idea why, but I did spend a lot of time warming the blades of mine. I think it was just exciting to put your feet so close to the fire.
I loved the sounds that I would hear on those dark, cold nights... the fire crackling, the skates skimming across the ice, the shouts and laughter of the skaters. The smokey smell of the bonfire, and the sparks shooting into the air are as clear in my memory as if I were there now.

My brother, Gary, the electronics expert of the neighborhood, decided we should have music while skating. He connected his radio to a P.A. system and ran 150 feet of electrical cord from our house to an area about 10 feet from the frozen pond. There he connected a giant speaker, and we listened to the top rock and roll hits of the day as we skated. If you stood next to the speaker, it was very loud, but most of the sound got lost in that wide open area, so it was hard to hear while skating. No one seemed to mind though. He, also, had big plans to light the ice, and used the same cord to power a floodlight, but as with the speaker, the light only illuminated about 15 feet. Gary was never discouraged. He would just think of another idea to try.

I have often thought of those winter days when I was young. These days it's easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of our schedule and moan about missing appointments and lessons, scraping ice and shoveling snow, high heating bills and chilly toes. We miss the magic of winter.

A snowy winter offers us a lot of opportunities to slow down, to notice sights and sounds and smells that we might otherwise miss.  A hard winter is supposed to be very good for the earth in many ways. It is a time of rest for nature.

We should take advantage of those wintry days. Take time to sit by the window and watch the snow. Walk outside and listen to the crunching sound of your footsteps. If you are outside early on a snowy morning, you can almost hear your heart beating in the complete silence of the white wonderland.

When there is a real, old-fashioned winter, enjoy some old-fashioned pleasures. A soft, warm, blanket, fresh-baked cookies, homemade taffy, hot popcorn, real cocoa. Simple days spent with your children are the days they will remember best. Time, laughter, being together. 

The gifts of winter. Savor them.

And if you happen to think that this is all very nice, but you would still like to skip winter, and go right to spring, take heart! Winter won’t be here forever, and before you know it, you’ll be hearing the birds singing spring songs! All the ice and snow and cold will soon give way to green leaves and warm breezes and sunny skies... maybe.

With warmest thoughts,
Ruth
- - -

"Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories." ~From the movie 'An Affair to Remember'

"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home." ~Edith Sitwell

Winter is the season in which people try to keep the house as warm as it was in the summer, when they complained about the heat.”  ~Author Unknown
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
AN OLD FASHIONED RECIPE

Brown Sugar Taffy

2¼ cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1½ cups light corn syrup
4 teaspoons cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup evaporated milk
Butter

Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, vinegar, and salt into a saucepan. Place over low heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add evaporated milk slowly, stirring constantly, so that boiling does not stop. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until syrup reaches 248° F. (firm ball stage).

Remove from heat and pour mixture into a buttered shallow pan or platter. When mixture is cool enough to handle, pick up a small amount of candy with buttered hands and pull until candy is ivory colored and no longer sticky.

If you have never pulled taffy, you should pull it out between your hands until it becomes a thin rope. Then fold the rope over and continue by pulling it again and again until the desired consistency is reached.

Once the candy is ivory colored and no longer sticky, twist the strip and place on a piece of waxed paper or a cutting board. Cut, with scissors or a sharp knife, into 1 inch pieces. Wrap in waxed paper and store in a covered container.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Everybody has a story

There are many things I love about working at Elements Gallery in Peninsula. One of my favorite things is meeting all the interesting people who visit there. From the artists who talk about their love of creating, and the challenges they face in that creation, to the varied and unique individuals who live in the town of Peninsula, to the visitors who come there from all over the world, I learn so much about so many things.

I have learned that it is often possible to spot a woodcarver or woodturner by their hands, which often bear the scars of the slip of a blade. I have, also, learned that many artists see the world differently, perhaps because they study it more thoughtfully, noticing infinite varieties of colors, shapes, shadows and light.

A young woman was in a few weeks ago, who was thrilled to find a leather bag that was simple, beautiful and constructed to last. She had such a huge smile as she told me how happy she was to find the perfect purse, because it would be the last purse she ever purchased. She appeared to be in early 20's, so I wondered why it would be the last one. She joyfully explained that she was leaving very soon to join a convent and she was only permitted to bring a few personal items, and one item that had been specifically mentioned was "a good purse that would last." Her excitement to begin this next phase of her life was obvious. Her sister and a good friend were with her as she shopped, and they seemed as happy as she was.

Children are always interesting visitors. Many parents are so fearful that their children will break something that they rush them through the gallery. In some cases, I think it's a wise decision, but most times, I see the sparkle in the child's eyes as they see so many beautiful things, and I wish their parents would be patient and let the child look around. Often I see a child stop and study an item so closely and carefully, as if trying to determine exactly how the artist created it, or noticing with a young artist's eyes, the hidden lights and shadows that others have missed.

A few weeks ago, more than 40 people came in to the gallery in one group. I thought they had probably just arrived on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad train. They quickly told me that they were all one family. Grandparents, parents, children, and grandchildren were all laughing and talking and enjoying their time together. They hadn't arrived by train, but rather they had spent the night at the Stanford Hostel just a few minutes from Peninsula. It's a large farmhouse with room for everyone. They had booked the entire place and had a family reunion. Now they were out to see the sights. They said they were having a wonderful time, but soon they would have to leave, some by car, some by plane, to travel to their respective homes. But they were hoping to repeat this experience next year.

We often hear a variety of foreign accents at the gallery. One week, I asked a man if he was German, and he quickly explained that he was from Holland. He was an engineer who was visiting the Cleveland area to assist with the installation of some type of equipment at one of the hospitals. I asked him if he was enjoying his stay, and he looked very serious as he said, "Some of it." When I asked him what he didn't like, he said that he did not like the noise in the city and the hurrying people. He said that people in Holland were not in such a rush. He also was surprised by how much money people spend in the United States for things like going out to lunch or Cavs' games or other entertainment. Peninsula appealed to him because of the slower pace of the village, and the opportunity to see trees and find some spots of quiet.

People are so interesting. I seldom watch television, but there have been programs that I have enjoyed. One of these programs, was "On the Road with Charles Kuralt."

Charles Kuralt was a newsman for CBS. Early in his career, he learned that he did not like the competitiveness of television news. He didn't want to spend his time racing around trying to be the first with a story. Like the man from Holland, he liked a slower pace. He did a few special interest pieces for CBS which focused on interesting people, who were doing unusual things. For the most part, they were everyday people that were seldom noticed by those rushing by, but in their quiet way, they were making a difference in the world. Charles Kuralt noticed. And he told their stories, in his trademark gravelly voice, and those stories touched people's hearts. Charles Kuralt made a career of telling the stories of real people, rather than celebrities and politicians.

When Mr. Kuralt retired, I was sad, because I loved his stories. Luckily, about that time, CBS found a reporter with a similar flair for finding interesting stories in off-the-beaten-path locations. His name was Steve Hartman. Mr. Hartman did something that really grabbed my attention. He created a series called, "Everybody Has a Story."

The idea for "Everybody Has a Story" came from a newspaper reporter named David Johnson. Johnson worked for the Lewiston, Idaho, Morning Tribune. For more than 2 decades he had been picking people out of his local phone book and putting their stories on the front page of the Morning Tribune. After interviewing David in 1994, Hartman tried the idea himself. "I was doing it more or less as a joke," Hartman said years later. "I never dreamed you could actually find good stories like that. Turns out I couldn't have been more wrong. Like David, I now believe the white pages are chock full of amazing, untold stories."

Steve Hartman proved the adage by tossing a dart at a map of America, and then randomly picking an interview subject from the local phone book of the area pinpointed by the dart.

Mr. Hartman said that sometimes he had to spend a long time talking to people before he found their story. There were days that he thought, "Uh oh! What if they don't have a story?" But that never happened. Eventually, as he spent time getting to know the people, they would say something that would make him say, "Wow!" and he would know he had found their story. I loved that program, because it confirmed my own belief.

Before my mother died, I spent time interviewing her. I missed the opportunity to interview my dad. He passed away suddenly in 1994. Luckily my mother knew a lot about my dad's childhood and teen years, and answered nearly every question I asked. My daughters were very young and I wanted them to know what their grandparents were like, not just their names and their genealogy, but what their lives had been like. What had they done for fun when they were children? What were their school days like? What were their parents like and their home life? What were the most difficult decisions they had made? What were their fondest memories?

I asked every question I could think of, and I spent time talking and listening to them trying to get every story that I could find. I wrote all of their memories down and created a book for my daughters and my brothers and sister and their families. We all learned so much that we hadn't known before.

What stories do you have to share with your children? What stories do your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles have? What about your neighbors?

I agree with Steve Hartman, everybody has a story. All we have to do is ask the right questions and listen. There is so much to learn from every person you meet. Someone has probably already experienced a problem you are facing now. They may have the solution ready to share with you. Another may have words of inspiration to guide you through your day, or words of hope to share when you are sad.  They may have a hidden skill that they are willing to teach. Take the time to listen.

There is a world of knowledge that is often untapped. Notice the people who pass through your life and take the time to hear their story. You will discover amazing people with wonderful stories.

Listening,

Ruth

- - -
"The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines."
- Charles Kuralt

"There are a lot of people who are doing wonderful things, quietly, with no motive of greed, or hostility toward other people, or delusions of superiority."
- Charles Kuralt

"Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything."
Charles Kuralt
- - -
Watch this video which shows Steve Hartman re-interviewing a man interviewed by Charles Kuralt 25 years earlier.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Food for Thought

Are you a foodie? Until recently, I didn't even know what that word meant. According to the dictionary, a foodie is "a person who takes pleasure in the preparation, presentation, and eating of food."

When I was growing up, food held a place of importance in our lives. Not just eating it, but growing, harvesting, preparing, serving and savoring it.

Planting a garden was a family project, and as we raked and pulled weeds, we talked about all the wonderful meals we were going to prepare with the fresh vegetables we were planting. Summer meals were my favorite because the table was filled with tomatoes, corn, peas, red beets, cucumbers, lettuce and onions fresh from our garden.

Family gatherings were always planned around meals. We had holiday meals, birthday dinners, family reunion feasts, "cousin luncheons," and Sunday night corn roasts.

When I was in second grade, my mother returned to teaching. She had been a teacher before she and my dad married in 1930, but at that time, women were required to resign their teaching positions when they got married, so that they would not be taking jobs away from married men who needed to support their families. My mom had loved teaching and, although it had been 29 years, she was excited to return to it. She soon discovered that as much as she enjoyed teaching, it was difficult to teach full time and care for a family. My dad decided that Wednesday night would be our night to go out to dinner, to give my mom a midweek break from meal preparation. My brother, Gary, my mom and dad and I looked forward to Wednesday night every week. Gary cares the least about food of anyone in our family, but if he was allowed to choose where we would go, he always picked Mid's Italan Restaurant in Navarre. Mid's made their own spaghetti sauce and their pasta was heavenly. Plus everyone got to wear giant paper bibs. (I was one of the few people who thought they were great.)

A year after we started the Wednesday night restaurant meals, Gary left for college, and after that, it was just my mom and dad and me. We had a lot of favorite places to go. The Green Leaf Restaurant in Wooster, which had a simple menu, with low prices, and good food, which may be why they are still in business today. Howard Johnson's in Wooster had a clam feast every Wednesday, that we thought was unbeatable. You would get a plate heaping with clams, french fries and the yummiest cole slaw anywhere.  Every few months, we would go someplace classy, like Leonard's in Dover or Alexander's in Wooster. Both places had a quiet atmosphere, white tablecloths, cloth napkins and stemmed goblets for water. What a treat!

I always thought it was strange that people would drive for hours to eat at the Amish restaurants in Holmes County. We very seldom ate at those restaurants, because the meals were exactly the same as what we had at home, so why go out? For our family, restaurants were a place to go to try something different.

When I was in my early 20s, I lived in Wooster. I always wished that I could see my sister and my mom more often. At that time, my sister and I both worked for banks. One nice thing about working at a bank was that they closed for Columbus Day and Veterans Day. Of course, stores were always open on those holidays, and generally had huge sales. We decided that those two holidays would be set aside each year for "Mom and Daughters Day Out."

My mother and my sister would arrive at my house early in the morning. Soon after we hugged "hello" one of us would ask, "where are we going for breakfast?" Often, we had breakfast at the Green Leaf.  After breakfast, it was time to head for the mall to see what great bargains we could find, but before we left the restaurant, we were already planning where we would go for lunch. And at lunch, we discussed where the best place would be to stop for a light supper after the afternoon's shopping. Those days are some of my favorite memories, because we had great conversation, lots of laughter and wonderful food. I don't remember much about the bargains we found at the mall...

My mom and dad spent a lot of time traveling after they retired. My mother's postcards from their trips, always had a few lines about things they had seen and many lines detailing what they had eaten, and how it had tasted. She could fit more on a postcard than I can write on an 8 ½" by 11" piece of paper.

Mom, also, kept a daily journal in a stenographer's pad. Her journals were filled with details about the people they met, the places they went and pages and pages about the foods she had prepared or eaten.

I inherited her favorite cookbooks. They are all well-worn, covered with spatters from whatever she was cooking or baking, and filled with notes about every subject under the sun. Every recipe she tried has a notation of when she made it, who ate it and how it tasted. At her funeral, 4 of my nephews reminisced about the cookies that Grandma always brought them when they lived far away. I told them I knew just which cookies they were, because Grandma had written in the cookbook, "made these for Gene's boys, took them to Niles, the boys said "YUM!”, they traveled well." If those cookies had not "traveled well" they would never have been baked again. She would have been upset to find crumbled cookies in her Tupperware container, and she would certainly have noted that in her cookbook for future reference.

I have passed the appreciation of good food on to my daughters. Both of them enjoy cooking and baking, and an evening out at a favorite restaurant is always fun. Kari, my youngest, tends to stick to foods that she knows. Kylia, the older one, likes to try new things and experiments a bit more.

Many of our learning experiences as we homeschooled involved food. And, in my opinion, food made those experiences more memorable.

As we studied world geography, we sampled foods from many countries. Some foods we made ourselves, and some we tried in restaurants. We once did a unit study on Australia, and I ordered some Australian foods from an online company, *Everything Australian. Our favorite was Tim-Tams, an Australian cookie. They're a rectangular chocolate-covered, wafer cookie (Aussies call them biscuits) with cream in the center. Aussies like to do something called the Tim Tam Slam, which means they take a small bite off both ends of the cookie, then place one end in a cup of hot chocolate or coffee and sip the drink through the cookie. The inside softens first and just before the cookie collapses, you stuff the rest of the cookie in your mouth. I think those cookies have something to do with the reason Kylia is busy saving her money for a trip to Australia. I'm sure that eating Tim Tams is on her list of things to do.

When we studied the Civil War, we made hard tack, which both girls thought was terrific. They even made enough to take to my family's Thanksgiving dinner. The hard, dry crackers were met with less than enthusiastic response, but my family was interested in hearing the girls excited explanations about the important role those teeth-breaking crackers played in U. S. history. It's amazing that we were invited to return the following year.

I spent many, many hours reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s "Little House" books aloud to the girls. The most challenging book for us was "Farmer Boy," the story of Laura’s husband, Almanzo Wilder's childhood. The book was challenging because there were so many tantalizing descriptions of Almanzo's favorite pioneer meals that we were soon overcome with hunger pangs. We had to stop repeatedly for snacks! I was thrilled when I found the Little House Cookbook and we tried many of Almanzo's favorites.  The most delicious was fried apples’n’onions!  That was Almanzo’s favorite and it was ours, too!  Yum!

Many of our science experiments involved food. Numerous scientific principles were learned by making our own butter, ice cream, bread and cheese.

Food was an oft used medium for our art lessons. At Christmas, we designed unique gingerbread houses, and artistically decorated cookies. Easter eggs brought us a wealth of opportunities for artistic expression, from painting to using dyes made from natural materials.

When Kylia received a digital camera, she discovered that one of her favorite things to photograph was food. She said the best thing about photographing food is that it doesn't move. Waitresses began to greet us with the line, "Oh, you're the people who take pictures of your meals."

Food is a great tool for learning math. Hershey bars are terrific for illustrating the concept of fractions. Cooking and baking involves endless math possibilities. Planning meals and parties involves budgeting, skillful shopping, weighing, measuring, planning quantities, determining portion sizes and estimation.

Whether my girls were studying Spanish, German or Sign Language, names of foods were their favorite things to practice.

Even when the budget is tight, we try to find time to eat an occasional meal in a restaurant. Often we choose an ethnic restaurant because we love the unique flavors and textures that are often found there.

Another reason we love an evening out now and then, is that, for us, a meal in a restaurant is a time to relax and chat without worrying about oven temperatures or dishes to be washed. It is a time without phone calls or noisy neighbors. It's a special time for us, to talk about things of great importance, as well as those of marvelous silliness. It is a time to remember other meals enjoyed with family and friends. Those memories sometimes make us laugh and sometimes bring tears, but they always enrich our lives.

Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that the reason food is something I enjoy so much is because my mother always cooked with great love and care. I think that's why I always thought her cooking was better than any I tasted elsewhere. She sang as she cooked, and she smiled when she served the food. She savored each bite and she was grateful for the opportunity to provide a good meal for her family. When my dad treated her to an evening out, she thought of his love and kindness as she enjoyed her meal.

I try to remember those things when I am cooking or when I am enjoying an evening out with my daughters. It's the love and caring that makes the food taste so good!

Wherever you sit down with your family to share a meal, take the time to think of those who prepared the meal, and to thank them for what they made. If you are doing the cooking, think of the people for whom you are cooking and put a little extra love in the recipe.

Thank you for seasoning my life with your caring and your kindness! Friendship is a treat worth savoring!

Bon App├ętit!

Ruth

***Note
Everything Australian no longer carries Tim Tams, however they can be purchased from Australian Products Co.

Want to see someone do the “Tim Tam Slam”?   Watch here.

---------

"Worries go down better with soup." ~Jewish Proverb

"It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato." ~Lewis Grizzard

"As the days grow short, some faces grow long. But not mine. Every autumn, when the wind turns cold and darkness comes early, I am suddenly happy. It's time to start making soup again." ~Leslie Newman

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Kind and Generous Man

This essay was written in May, 2007
In past issues, I have occasionally listed events for a fairly new museum in Newark, Ohio. The museum is called, The Works. The Works consists of 3 sections: Art Works Gallery, Glass Works and Museum Works. The Art Works Gallery shows and sells the art of locally and nationally known artists. They, also, offer classes, workshops and events designed to inspire the artistic creativity of students, young and old. The Glass Works focuses on glass blowing, exhibiting beautiful pieces of blown glass, and offering classes on glass blowing for all ages. You can see the process from beginning to end and learn about the the furnace, the “glory hole,” blowpipes, jacks, annealers and more, in addition to hands-on opportunities. The Museum Works features a renovated interurban car, an operating factory, historical landmarks of Licking County and Ohio, hands-on science labs and many other exhibits.

The Works offers special programs and classes for homeschoolers every Friday, as well as activities and events for the entire family. It is a very nice and growing museum. The Works is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution.

Now, I want to tell you a special story about the man who almost single-handedly brought this museum into existence.

My brother, Gene, happens to live in Newark. For most of his life, he has worked in the trucking industry, first as a driver, then a terminal manager, a safety supervisor, and finally as an owner of his own trucking company. One person has been especially instrumental in Gene's life as a mentor and friend. That man is Howard LeFevre, who, also, happens to be the man who had the idea to start this great museum. Mr. LeFevre has spent much of his life helping his friends, and contributing to the community in which he lives. He is the person primarily responsible for the opening of a branch of Ohio State University in Newark, and also, the Central Ohio Technical College.

A few years ago, when my brother's wife, Sue, became ill with cancer, he decided to sell his trucking company.  Sue, had been his business partner and it would be too difficult to continue the business without her help. Sue died soon after the business was sold, and good friend, Howard LeFevre asked Gene to come to work for him at his trucking company. He told Gene he could work as much or as little as he liked. In the next few years, Gene developed cancer, and had to have surgery and months of treatments. Howard kept Gene's job open, and told him to do whatever he felt up to doing. When Gene recovered, his daughter-in-law, Donna, developed cancer, and Gene spent a lot of time traveling between Newark and Florida, to visit Donna and his son, Kevin. Howard said, “Don't worry. Work when you can.”

Last fall, Donna passed away, and Gene again made numerous trips to Florida to help his son, Kevin, deal with the loss of his wife. Howard said, “Take as much time as you need.” About a month ago, Gene learned that his cancer had returned, and the doctor's prognosis was not good. One of the first people Gene went to see was Howard. With tears in his eyes, Mr. LeFevre asked only what he could do to help.

Now here's something about Howard LeFevre that you may be surprised to learn. He's 99 years old! He still goes to work at his trucking company every day. He drives his own car there. He visits the museum, goes to meetings at the many companies with which he is involved, and he is still looking for ways to make Newark a great place for families and learning. He will celebrate his 100th birthday on May 31. Gene is hoping to be there to celebrate with him, because Howard is one of the best friends anyone could ever have.

If you ever visit Newark, Ohio, stop by Howard LeFevre's museum, The Works. You'll be glad you did, and so will Howard. He built it for families that care about learning.

The Works, 55 South First St., Newark. Phone: 740.349.9277
Museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday 10 am - 6 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.

***Note:   
My brother, Gene, died June 3, 2007.  Gene was not able to attend Howard’s 100th birthday party, but Gene’s two oldest sons, Michael and Kevin went to represent him.  

Howard LeFevre died on Monday, June 30, 2008.  You can see Howard’s picture here.  Read about Howard’s life and philanthropy here.