Cretin High School

As almost everyone can probably relate, high school had a profound affect on me. In so many ways, my experiences there changed my life. Some in not so good ways; in other ways, it made me the man I am today. Most importantly, Cretin High School started me on the path that led to a mostly successful life. I think that is the ultimate testament to a high school experience.

My 40th high school reunion is later this Summer. That landmark is merely happenstance, not the reason I am writing this now. Rather, as a regular reader knows, this blog is basically a chronological catalog of influences in my life. Though I wasn’t particularly a fan of Cretin High School at the time, it provided me with fond memories, great friendships, and of course, profound life lessons. The very best thing about Cretin, for me, was stability. Up to that point, I had attended four different grade schools, none for more than three years. Finally, at Cretin, I was a member of the same class from grades 9-12.

My start at Cretin was hardly the greatest way to impress my new classmates. Though I’d never played organized football, my dad convinced me to try out for the team. I was rather small for my age (and young for a Freshman), but I could kick. I signed up and showed up – albeit late – for the first fall practice. I remember being all alone in the locker room trying to figure out how to put the uniform together. There seemed to be too many pads and I had no clue how they went into the pants. Same with the shoulder pads. The biggest problem was when I finally got all the pad and pants on. I didn’t know I was supposed to buy a practice jersey to wear over the pads, so I ended up stretching and pulling my t-shirt over the pads.

I suspect I was quite the spectacle as I staggered out to the field. I was met by a coach who stifled a chuckle and asked me what position I played. When I said, “kicker,” he lost it. He chewed me out and told me to head over with the defense. It was brutal. I was picked on by both the other players and the coaches. I think that was the first and only time ever I showed up for football!

Classes were okay. I was actually pretty good at most of the subjects that first year, except for military. For some reason, I never took to subjects of rifle marksmanship, first aid, and the other basic military topics. Our teacher, 1SG Stephens knew my sister Pam because he also worked with the band. He liked her, so I think he gave me every break he could. Ultimately, I got a “D” that first semester in military. In just about everything else I got “A’s” and “B’s,” so I figured that this military stuff was just not for me!

Based partially on general geekiness, as well as the football fiasco and the non-military bearing, I did not fit in too well at school. I was glad I had my two friends from St. Luke’s, Pat and Jim. We remained fast friends throughout high school , and even college, until we all ended up leaving town to make our starts in life outside of Minnesota. Up until then, we did almost everything together. For the most part, we were good kids, but I can tell you that we got into things that kids nowadays just don’t do. They were mostly juvenile types of things, such as bumper skiing, hitchhiking, drinking beer, and smoking cheap cigars. Oh yes, and checking out girls. Girls we had absolutely no chance at dating!

There were a number of others who came in an out of our circle during our high school years, including Dave, Dan, Larry, Tom, Mike, Bic, the Weiss brothers, . . . but most often it was just me, Jim, and Pat.

Cretin High School was a MUCH different school than the Cretin-Derham Hall (CDH) we know of today. Back then it was all boys. Girls were across an expansive field to the West. They could join the Cretin band and one or two joint classes, but that was rather rare. We just didn’t see girls around campus. We wore modified Army uniforms EVERY DAY! They consisted of tan shirts, black tie, Army green pants, black socks (except for Pat’s occasional white socks), and shined black Oxford shoes. We wore these to and from school, and even played intramural sports, without changing out of the uniforms. As a result, everyone in town knew what school we were from. There was no getting into trouble either before or after school without someone making a report to the school.

The other thing different from today’s CDH was the composition of the students. There was no fighting to get into the school. Everyone I knew from just about any Catholic grade school in the city got in; many others from public schools as well. The guys in our class included sons of bakers, mechanics, secretaries, car dealers, engineers, lawyers, and just about every blue and white collar occupation you could think of. We were a true melting pot of society, except for racial diversity. We had Hispanics and Lebanese, but very few African American or Asian classmates. I think Cretin in those days pretty much matched the demographics of St. Paul. We did have great intellectual diversity. We had highly intelligent classmates, those of average intelligence, and even some guys who really would have been better off at a different school where they had special programs. Still, we were all Cretin Raiders!

Freshman year went well overall. Except for 1SG Stephens’ Military class, I did quite well. Algebra, with the infamous Harvey Buron started quite well, but once he became a cheerleader for the S.P.A.F.F tickets, I lost interest. My grades suffered as a result. Besides, the second half of algebra was just pretty darn hard! Despite my experience with football, I did try baseball in the Spring. Unfortunately, work got in the way. My new boss, Don Ryan, at The Lexington didn’t care about my practice schedule, so I eventually quit the team. The Lex became my second (or third) home throughout my high school years. It, too, provided me many life lessons. More about that in a future blog post.

The worst part of Freshman year for me was Spanish class. For some reason, that class was extremely difficult for me. The teacher, Brother James Saiz, was okay, but he spent most of the second half of the year relying on audiotapes to teach the class. The entire class was hooked to headphones, complete with microphones. Kids would regularly “comment” on things even if it wasn’t their turn. Brother James rarely knew where the comments were coming from. Admittedly, some came from me, but by no means was I the most disruptive. For some reason, though, Brother James always seemed to think it was me. As a result of this – and my poor comprehension – I got my first “F.” Yup, I failed Freshman Spanish, My penance was to make it up in Summer School.

I took Spanish that Summer at Highland High School. The teacher was a cute young lady, who clearly piqued my interest. Even though school in the Summer was a real bummer, I did well enough to score an A! Take that, Brother James.

If Freshman year ended poorly, Sophomore year started dreadfully. The primary event that is still in my mind was the continual practicing for the annual Federal inspection. That is when someone from the “real” Army comes to the high school JROTC programs to inspect the program. This was a BIG deal for Cretin in those days – we need to keep the yellow star that signified “honor unit with distinction.” I hated the Federal inspection. Not only did we need to dress up in the full uniform, complete with the Army suit coat (we called it our “blouse”), spit shined shoes, and highly polished brass accoutrements, but we had to stand for what seemed like hours at attention as the Army Brass inspected the “troops.”

During one particular afternoon “practice,” someone made a snide comment in the ranks. It was something rather innocent like, “I hope I don’t pass out during the formation like a St. Thomas weenie.” I laughed. Oops! 1SG Stephens thought I was the one who cracked the comment. Even worse, he thought I made a racial comment about him (he was black). Though that was a different time in our society, to this day I swear that I never said (or heard) a racial epithet that day. 1SG Stephens was not convinced. He told me to meet him after school that day. When I did, he directed me to show up early in the morning with all my Army uniforms to turn them in to him. Yes, he was telling me that, in essence, I was being expelled from school. I was aghast. I didn’t know what to do. Some buddies encouraged me to call his bluff. I did show up early the next day, but without the uniforms. I again told 1SG Stephens that I never said, nor heard any racial comment. Reluctantly, he “allowed” me to stay. He said it was due to his fond feelings for my sister.

I suspect 1SG Stephens didn’t have the authority to expel me, but that did not change how much I worried for an entire night! Truth be told, I greatly respected 1SG Stephens. Though I didn’t do well in his class, he definitely instilled in me the need to treat all people with dignity. At that time in my life, except for first aid, I just wasn’t very interested in the military subjects he taught.

Sophomore year was an influential year for me in another, more positive way. I don’t remember the teacher’s name, but he was a Christian Brother who was at the school for only a couple of years. One of the classes we took with him was a speech class. As one would expect, almost all of us teenage boys were mortally afraid to get up in front of the class to speak. We’d talk okay, but get us alone in front of the class and it became a different story. My first speech, like that of most of my classmates, was a bomb. The second was a bit more interesting. The assignment was a persuasive speech.

Jim had to give his speech before mine. It was awesome! His attempt to persuade the class that he could light a fire with random items found in nature was both interesting and entertaining. His argument that he could (or at least someone could) start a fire with an ice cube was hilarious. I think we all loosened up a bit after that. Pat always gave funny speeches, but I don’t remember any of the topics! My speech of persuasion, though was more difficult than either Pat’s or Jim’s. I chose to suggest to the class that the Minnesota Twins would win the pennant that year. The best part about that choice of topic was that I knew it through and through. My classmates seemed to be entertained and engaged, asking lots of questions, which I easily answered. Unfortunately, I don’t think I convinced too many of my premise! I did, though, gain a lot of confidence in public speaking that day and throughout the remainder of that class. That has served me well throughout my adult life. Oh, and by the way, the Twins did NOT win the pennant that year, though they did finish seven games over .500.

Sometime early in high school Pat, Jim, and I started hitchhiking home from school every day. We would walk down Randolph Avenue after school and hitchhike from the corner of Randolph and Lexington. Most days we got a ride down Lexington to Grand or Summit Avenue. Pat and Jim both lived within a half block of Lexington, so we typically stopped at one of their houses for a quick snack or to pick up some baseball or football gear, depending upon the season. Then we’d play catch and just hang out like normal teenagers would do. Before long, though, we all had shifts in the dishwasher dungeon at The Lex, so our lazy after-school time was interrupted. It wasn’t until Jim got a car that we stopped hitchhiking daily.

Everything from Junior and Senior years at Cretin pretty much blend together for me. Between school and working at The Lex, we didn’t have a whole lot of time for anything else. We worked almost every weekend evening. The biggest difference between the two years was that my sister Pam was away my entire Senior year. She was a Rotary Youth Exchange student to South Africa. Most kids went abroad either their Junior or Senior year, but Pam waited until she graduated from Derham Hall. Jon and Jen were still in grade school, so I was the only teenager in the house. That meant that during my Senior year, I didn’t have to share access to Mom’s car with my sister.

In my group of friends, no one had a steady girlfriend. Probably because we were just a bunch of geeks. We didn’t party at the Mississippi River or “the valley” like many of our classmates. Instead, we mostly kept to ourselves and drank crappy beer in beer cellar caves beneath the former Schmidt’s brewery in St. Paul. Truly, the worst thing that we did from a criminality sense was to surreptitiously move a case of Heineken beer from The Lex’s storage room into the alleyway dumpster late one night. Another of us retrieved said case from the trash and transferred it to an ice chest for the evening’s after work festivities. My recollection is that many years later, Pat felt guilty and replaced the case in a similar way. Of course by that time, he could legally buy the stuff! I can attest that neither Pat nor Jim had anything to do with the stolen car(s) escapades. That was all me. Perhaps I can write about that another time. And the Great Golf Cart Caper actually occurred, I believe, after graduation, so that, too, is another story.

Though we were not in the class of jocks, we did play football, baseball, basketball, and softball. We played hard! We always played intramural sports at school and were often as good as – if not better – than the class jocks. We actually played all year. In the Summer months, we scrapped together neighborhood teams to play baseball and football (depending upon the season) at the local Summit School. Since school was out, we had little competition for the field, but we did have some harrowing moments when someone blasted a baseball into the nearby tennis courts. For some of us, that was more often than was comfortable. I can only imagine playing a round of tennis, just to be interrupted buy a hard baseball jettisoning into the court. Sometimes we tried to talk our way out of it. Other times, we ran!

Football during those Summers was brutal. We played with at least ten to twelve players and almost always played tackle. No pads or helmets, just us, a ball, and the hard autumn ground. We were actually quite good. Pat was the best quarterback; Jim could have been nicknamed “sticky fingers” as our best receiver; and I was the guy who would run the ball up the gut. My stocky frame and low center of gravity made it very difficult for would-be tacklers. There is no doubt in my mind that we left many concussions on that field every Summer. Even so, we were almost always back the next day or the next week for another battle. Nope, we weren’t jocks, but we were certainly tough!

Senior year was a bit of a surprise. We all progressed steadily and were making decent grades! Pat was the freest thinker of the group, so he appeared less concerned with grades than Jim and I, but he also did pretty well in class. Jim was clearly the student. I think he may have tried to play dumb, but he was far from it. Jim was almost always the one who got his homework done. Pat occasionally did his. I did my homework rarely, instead relying on my innate abilities that consistently let me down. As a result, when homework was due, Pat and I begged Jim to share his homework on the morning it was due. Jim almost always relented. I still laugh today when I recall how one of our teachers routinely annotated all of our last names at the top of our homework and test pages. He was obviously on to the gig, but didn’t know who was doing the work and who the cheaters were.

All of our grades improved by Senior year, whether from study, shared homework, or simply by figuring out the system. As they do as you near the end of school, things started getting a bit more serious. College was near. No more of the BS we did in high school. It was time to put up. We all did. Interestingly, by the end of my Junior year, I was taken under the wing of a military instructor, Master Sergeant (MSG) Stock. MSG Stock apparently saw something in me that one might call potential, since it was highly unlikely that he saw many examples of achievement from me. Anyway, MSG Stock encouraged me like no one else at the school had done. For some reason, his encouragement stuck and he became somewhat of a mentor for me.

JROTC student officers were generally appointed at the end of Junior year. We had a number of great officers, including our friend, Larry, who became the “Cadet Colonel,” the highest student rank at the school. Jim and I made it to the sergeant ranks, yet for some reason Pat remained a private (probably due to his habit of wearing white socks). I was rather proud, but still a bit jealous of those appointed as officers. That, plus the specter of college, caused me put my nose to the grindstone some more. As a result, I had an excellent first semester of my Senior year. Just before Christmas break I was promoted, along with a small cadre of other Seniors, including Jim, to the officer rank. MSG Stock’s faith in me seemed to be taking fruit.

As an officer, we had to set the example. Now I had to do well. With the increased attention, I guess I must have rose to the challenge. I was finishing high school on a high note (our graduation hijinks notwithstanding). The best thing about being an officer, though, was being able to attend the highly anticipated formal Officer’s Ball. Unfortunately, I had no date. Gone were the days when my sister would arrange a date with one of her friends. Now I had to find my own date and it wasn’t easy!

I catalogued all the girls that I knew and got recommendations from my friends. Since they were basically in the same boat I was, we simply didn’t have much of a pool of dates. I was somewhat friendly with a salad girl at work – she made the salads and sandwiches at The Lex. She was nice, pretty, petite, but a little shy (as, of course, was I). I really didn’t know much about her, but knew that I liked her. I asked about her of my friends at The Lex. Most said she was the nicest girls around – probably too nice for me! One guy recommended that I stay away because he had dated her for months and couldn’t even get to first base.

After deliberation and summoning all the courage I could, I stopped her just as she was leaving one night. I stammered while asking if she’d like to go to the Officer’s Ball. I was thrown for a loop with her reply. “With who?,” she asked. Flummoxed, I finally spit out, “Well, with me!” She quickly answered, “Sure” then turned and flitted away down the stairs. I called through the darkness, “okay, I’ll give you details later.” No reply as she was gone into the women’s locker room.

We had a marvelous time at the Officer’s Ball. To me, this young lady was truly the Belle of the Ball. I haven’t looked back. Second base (or more) was not an issue for me. Forty years later (35 of them married to her), that was the single best decision I’ve ever made in my life. In a roundabout way, Cretin High School gave that to me. As I’ll write about later, Cretin also set me on a path – the United States Army – that would be a central part of who I am today. Things don’t always happen the way you plan them, but my experience with Cretin High School tells me that God’s plan is a whole lot better than any plan I could have made. Thank you, Cretin! Go Raiders!

By the way, if you like stories about Cretin High School, keep a lookout for my friend Jim’s upcoming book, “Cretin Boy.” Check out his (much superior) writing at: http://jimlandwehr.com

965 Summit Avenue

As hinted to in previous posts, I was fortunate to live in what some friends called a mansion! There is no doubt that our home on Summit Avenue in St. Paul was huge. Most of the time, though, we had three separate families living there. My parents rented out the entire third floor and the separate carriage house above the garage. Still, we had an exceptionally large house for a family of six.

Our home was situated on a expansive lot that had more driveway and parking space than some nearby parking lots on nearby Grand Avenue. I know that well because it was my job to clear the snow with our trusty old snow blower. For the smaller snows, that meant easily over 90 minutes of work! The same was true for mowing the lawn. It was an exceptional task with our little Lawn Boy mower. So, yes, this large home taught me the value of hard work.

I had no idea that we were moving from our idyllic home in Desnoyer Park. Nor did our mother! Dad took us kids for a ride one day when Mom was out of town. We drove to the middle of St. Paul and stopped in front of this large brick house. Local realtor, Ray Jambor met us and we walked up to the front door. He rang the bell. There was a small speaker next to the door and a voice came across, saying, “Who’s at the door?” Ray responded, “Ray Jambor” to complete the rhyme. The next thing I knew, we were touring this great house.

For a kid about ten, this was quite an eye-opening experience. A maid answered the door and led us in. The first this I saw was the long, wide hallway. Halfway down was a huge, ornate wooden stairway leading to the next level. The things I remember most from that first exploration of the house were the fun features that I’d never seen before. In addition to the intercom at the front door was a large electric sign on the third level that directed which of the seven doorbells was rung. Only five of the six exterior doors had doorbells, but there were bell buttons in the dining room and master bedroom.

There were also multiple clothes chutes, all that led to the basement laundry room, various hidden compartments throughout the house, a built-in basketball hoop in the driveway, a small bricked paddock adjacent to the garage, commercial toilets, and a non-working turntable in the garage that had been used to turn around a small car or carriage. Perhaps most impressive to us, though, was a commercial milk dispenser like you’d see in the kitchen of a large restaurant. We learned that it contained large 3-gallon containers of milk. I think Jon or Jenifer coined it the “milk machine.” Overall, this house was was incredible!

Even more incredible was my dad said we were buying the house! Our mother was still away. I still don’t have any idea how my dad broke the news to her, but I can visualize her reaction. I’m sure if she had any real say in the decision, she would have put her foot down. I remember the sales price in about 1972 was $76,000. The Zillow estimate for 965 Summit Avenue today is $1.6 million! My parents sold the house many years ago for less than one-quarter of that price. The main reason for selling was that the heat bill over the winter was well over $1,000 per month and the house was just too difficult – and expensive – to maintain, even with the renters. I know my mother was relieved when they sold the home since she was the one who had to keep the darn place clean! Even so, that house was filled with so many interesting memories.

The reason I describe the house is not to brag about living in such a place. To the contrary, throughout the time I lived there, I was embarrassed to be living in such a large home. We were certainly better off than most, but I am fairly certain that my dad lived beyond his means. Yes, he worked hard as a lawyer, but in many ways he was just very lucky (or perhaps quite wise) when it came to real estate. Maybe we appeared to live like it, but I certainly never felt like we were what I’d call rich. We had average clothes, never got the newest fads, never got much of an allowance, and lived rather simply. I remember many times when my mom was afraid to buy groceries because her checks had bounced. Dad always told her not to worry, but it was an indication that we were not as well-off that we appeared to be. For me, the house meant that I had to constantly deny being “rich.”

Dad always said that in order to be a successful lawyer, he needed to look the part. For him, I think a lot also had to do with his lifetime competition with his older brother, E.C. Grayson, who made his mark in San Francisco and Washington DC. Dad was also influenced greatly by his high school chums. Dad attended the prestigious Saint Paul Academy, where the majority of his classmates were clearly upper crust of Saint Paul society. While we no doubt shared in more than average, I never really liked anything to do with this appearance of being wealthy. The problem was that most of our friends were either lower or middle class and the obvious disparity almost always made me embarrassed.

One great thing about living where we did on Summit Avenue was its central location. A main city bus route ran along Grand Avenue, which was only a block away. I know that Pam and I explored the city on that bus. Those were the days when a kid could hop on the bus and go downtown – or anywhere else – unaccompanied. We took great advantage of that. I even remember taking the bus to Minnesota Twins baseball games by myself – at night! In addition to the bus, we could walk to church at St. Luke’s Catholic Church every Sunday, walk to St. Luke’s school, and get just about anywhere pretty easily. There were some shops on Grand Avenue, but the popular, upscale Grand Avenue of today was nonexistent. Instead, there was a 7-11, a dry cleaner, a couple of gas stations, several liquor stores, Knowlans grocery store, Bober Drug Store, a bank, KFC, Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips, a couple of car dealers, The Lexington Restaurant, a bakery, some apartment buildings, and various other commercial establishments, none too interesting for kids.

Even Summit Avenue was a bit more run down at the time. In fact, in retrospect, the whole neighborhood was a little rough. One block to the North was Portland Avenue. That was home of a lot of firmly middle class Irish families, such as the McKasys, the Molitors, the McMonigals, and many others. Successive blocks North quickly brought lower middle class and true poverty. Even though we traveled freely throughout the neighborhood, it was rarely much North of our block.

Like The Timbers, 965 Summit Avenue was a house for parties. I don’t mean juvenile parties like my brother Jon would throw. There were numerous formal parties at our home. We held a several large open houses for the church and other organizations, regular gatherings for the Kappa Delta (“bridge club”) gang, formal dinners, some of which me and my siblings served as servers, and many dinners prior to high school dances. In addition, this was definitely what you would call a “drop-in” house. All kinds of friends, clients, relatives, and others would drop in, often unannounced, and would stay for hours (or in some instances for days!). This cast of characters included our German plumber, Karl Schneider, who in his youth was a member of the Hitler Youth Corps, Dick Sadler, former manager of Heavyweight Champion George Foreman, various catholic priests, former St. Paul mayor, George Latimer, numerous St. Paul and Ramsey County Judges, and many, many others. It was a fun space and my parents were apparently wonderful hosts.

Even though I always denied my Summit Avenue “richness,” I came to appreciate everything about that home and the neighborhood. I still have very fond memories of Summit Avenue.. Strangely enough, I think I have a rather unique perspective. I not only lived and played on Summit Avenue, but I went to Church there (St, Luke’s), went to grade school there (also St. Luke’s), attended college there (one year at St. Thomas College), attended law school there (William Mitchell College of Law), worked there (the AAUW College Club and the University Club), and was married there (our wedding reception was at the University Club). Later, I completed my first marathon by completing the final four miles or so along this great boulevard. All this on stately Summit Avenue!

I learned so much from this home and neighborhood. As indicated above, I learned the value of hard work. I learned from Karl Schneider and others about maintaining a home and its systems. I learned from my mother how to plant a garden and from my father how to repair windows! I learned great humility out of fear of being identified as wealthy. I learned from my many friends, some living at close to poverty level, that people are all the same no matter how much they earn, what they wear, or where they live. I learned to enjoy having people around and I learned to appreciate the value of privacy. As we lived there during an influential part of my life, I learned a LOT of life lessons.

The Timbers

Our family shared The Timbers with two other families. For me and my siblings, it was OUR lake place. While we loved Grandma Grewe’s Grand Lake, we felt like The Timbers was ours. Our family bought into The Timbers when I was about ten, so this was in the early 1970s. Every winter our parents met with the other owners to divvy up the dates for the year. The place was not heated, so for Minnesota, that meant mainly June, July, and August. They also put dibs on weekends in May, September, and October.

Due to the scheduling, we were there most often a week at a time, but sometimes it was two. During the time we went there, we stayed at least one week per month there ever Summer, and often more. My parents and the other families kept the place until I was in college, so we were had this awesome “cabin” up North for over ten years. Some of my greatest childhood memories are from The Timbers. We all invited many, many friends to The Timbers over the years. I really learned to fish there; got elementary understanding of motors; learned to water ski, sail and canoe; engaged in roof repair; gathered kindling and chopped wood; learned to motorbike; played cards and did puzzles with family; read voraciously; and learned to HATE mosquitoes! More than anything, at The Timbers I learned the values of hard work and peaceful relaxation.

The Timbers could hardly be called a mere cabin. A Lodge would be a much better description. It was located South of Brainard, Minnesota, on Crooked Lake. Crooked lake was a long, narrow lake that resembled a river. The Timbers consisted of seven main buildings on a 12 acre tract of deep woods, consisting mostly of tall pine timber. The main lodge sat atop a steep hill overlooking the lake. The closest neighboring cabins were about a half mile away. The outbuildings included a garage (complete with expansive upstairs bedrooms), a caretaker’s cabin, a boathouse with four bunks a screened porch and an open porch extending over the water, an ice house, a fully screened sandbox, and multiple outhouses, complete with electric lights.

Jon, Jenifer (and Bos’n) on the path to the lake.

The buildings were constructed with gigantic natural logs. In the main lodge, the logs were at least two feet in diameter and were left uncovered on both the exterior and the interior. The main living room in the lodge was gigantic, nearly thirty feet by thirty feet, with a cathedral ceiling over twenty feet to the roof. It included a forty-foot front porch, with an accompanying outdoor deck that spanned across the entire front of the cabin. There was a master bedroom, a guest bedroom, kitchen and pantry, and a bathroom. We ate most meals at the long hardwood picnic-type table on the front porch.

The entire property was built by the Piper family, known for their early airplane business. They had plenty of money, so no expense was spared. In addition to the logs imported from Oregon, the fixtures – door handles, hinges, locks, and other hardware – was made from pounded wrought iron into various scenes and shapes. The door handles were fish; a round lock hole was covered with a wrought iron turtle; the door knocker was a bird; and there were other miscellaneous designs throughout the lodge and out buildings.

The view from the front of the main lodge was incredible. The steep embankment to the lake was wooded, but not so much to obscure the view of the lake. Across the lake was more woods. It was my understanding that the other side of the lake was owned by the State . There were no homes there and never any activity at all. In essence, this entire area of the lake was our own private paradise.

We walked from building to building, mostly down to the lake, on well manicured trails. That meant that we spend many hours keeping those trails in good repair, but since it was all natural, many large tree roots crossed the trail. That led to many a stubbed toe, sprained ankle, and face plants. This was especially true at night. It was PITCH dark outside. No one went anywhere without a large flashlight. Even then, for a kid that was quite the scary adventure! The biggest problem was that the boathouse, where us kids preferred to sleep, had no bathroom, only a nearby outhouse. As a result, we made many trips up and down that hill to the main lodge. It was a a trek equal to about a city block. Not fun in the dark.

On thing that fascinated me was what we called “the lagoon.” This consisted of a very large man-made pond down an embankment. There were stone steps leading down into a dry gully where the pond was created. On the far side of the pond was an elongated waterfall. There were remnants of a stone walkway around the pond and several small stone benches. One of the main things I remember about the area was that it was overgrown with large ferns. The sad thing is that we almost never went down there. Everything was almost completely overgrown. While the waterfall never worked, rainwater collected in the pond, so it became a massive mosquito breeding ground. Even getting close to the lagoon meant you would end up with hundreds of mosquito bites within a matter of moments. It was truly a potential beautiful spot, but without regular upkeep had become quite treacherous.

There was no television at The Timbers. That was one of the rules of the house. We think that this was violated by one of the other families as we once found a small television stashed in one of the closets. There was a single desk phone, but it was long distance to call anywhere, so it was rarely used. We always jumped any time the phone would ring. Dad got a few business calls every so often.

Going to The Timbers definitely taught us how to plan. This was primarily Mom’s responsibility, but we need to help her along the way. We needed to pack a week’s worth of food for the trip and needed to ensure we brought all the necessaries – sheets, towels, blankets, sleeping bags, and most importantly, toilet paper! Though we probably could have stored some stuff there, it seemed that every time we did, it was used – or used up – by one of the other families during the off weeks. Besides, there was no washing machine to wash the linens, so we just brought stuff home every time.

The Timbers was about a two and one-half hour drive from home. It was truly in the middle of nowhere. The closest town, Deerwood, was about a 25-minute drive away. From the “main” road, we were about a mile in, all along a winding dirt road. Even the main road was several miles from the nearest true rural highway. During our week at The Timbers, we were very much on our own.

Living conditions, while nice, were quite sparse. The only real luxuries were electric lights, indoor plumbing, the gas stove in the kitchen, and the refrigerator. We learned to appreciate the Franklin pot belly stove in the kitchen. That, and the massive fireplace in the main room of the lodge, were the only sources of heat. And that only worked if you had a good stash of kindling and chopped firewood!

The lake was not really much of a swimming lake, but we did a LOT of swimming there. Our property was over 1000 feet of shoreline, but there was nothing even close to resembling a beach. We simply jumped off the end of our short dock into water that was well over our heads. About thirty feet from the end of the dock was a large wooden “raft,” supported by a number of empty 55 gallon drums. Once a kid proved he or she could swim, we got the green light to swim to, from, and around the raft. If a kid couldn’t swim, the rule was either NO water or they had to wear a life vest.

Besides swimming, fishing, exploring, and boating, there was very little to keep kids entertained for a week at a time. I can tell you, though, that we rarely felt bored. If we weren’t playing outside somewhere, we were working: chopping wood, finding good kindling, general maintenance of the grounds and buildings, and for me, sweeping pine needles off the wood shingled roof! I don’t know if kids of today would appreciate The Timbers since there were not the type of activities that they seem to like. For us, though, it was perfect!

Evenings were family time. We really didn’t have much of that when we were home. Like many fathers of that time, my dad work very long hours. Though my mother dearly wanted a “dinner hour” all her life, it was only occasionally that had one with the whole family around the table. Not so at The Timbers! Dinners were a family affair. After dinner it was card games, long chats, or puzzles, sometimes all. On cold nights Dad read books aloud in front of a roaring fire. Those were the best times!

It was mostly Mom (or grandma) who cooked, but we all had jobs around the family dinner. We couldn’t get to the fun stuff until everything else was done. We took turns chopping vegetables and running into the pantry for this or that. After dinner, it was clearing the table, doing dishes and cleaning the kitchen, stocking the wood bin for the night, and anything else that needed to be done that night. One somewhat fun job was getting water from the pump. None of the running water in the lodge was potable. We had a pumphouse for “fresh” water and needed to pump fresh water into various urns daily. It was hard work for a kid to get water from the huge pump. It was definitely a workout! The only problem with the fresh drinking water was that it came out orange! That was from the large content of iron in the water that is typical in Northern Minnesota. It looked at tasted a little odd, but we got used to it.

The pumphouse

Visitors and parties were a regular events for us at The Timbers. One of us kids almost always had a friend or two come along. Many of our relatives and our parent’s friends either stopped for the day – or for an extended visit. Most of the latter visits almost always included long nights of card playing, stories, and alcohol. That kept the adults occupied while the kids ran wild. I remember several incidents of taking Jon and Jenifer on nighttime walks through the woods. The whole time I would tell them to look out for wolves, bats, and other nocturnal creatures. Once we got far enough away – but not too far – I would switch off my flashlight and run away. Poor kids are probably still afraid of being outside alone at night! Yes, admittedly, I terrorized my younger siblings.

I have so many great memories of The Timbers. I was so happy that Amy was able to visit once or twice before it was sold, but our kids never got there. Besides the great family memories there, the rustic way of life was a glimpse into the past. I learned so much about living in, and loving, nature. The lessons I learned there served me well as a homeowner dealing with maintenance, planting a garden, and being able to use tools necessary in life. And I still HATE mosquitoes!

Little Brother

Oh my! So much to say . . . yet so much I can’t say! Jon and I are just over five years apart. I read somewhere that five years is a big dividing line between kids. You sort of end up with two separate families. I have to say that is somewhat true. I had already started Montessori school and Pam was in the First Grade when Jon appeared. Pam and I had well established sibling boundaries set up when Jon showed up and busted our routine.

Jon looking lovingly (?) at his big brother!

I remember it being exciting to have a little brother. I think Pam enjoyed it more than me, but I definitely thought it was cool. We were too old to be jealous, but that certainly popped up later from time to time. I find it interesting that although we hung out a lot together as a family, that five years was just enough to ensure that Jon and I never got too close. Unfortunately, due to a combination of factors, we never did. The good thing is that we still have time to change that!

Jon loved cars. From a very early age, though, they seemed to get him into trouble. That did not change until well into his adult years. Because Jon was so into cars, he got cars for Christmas, birthdays, etc. He had Hot Wheels play sets and a little red car with pedals. The latter got him in trouble many times as he’d end up lost several blocks away from our house. Fortunately, he was smart enough to avoid the steep, half-mile hill in front of our house that would have deposited him, and his little car, into the Mississippi River.

Our dad had a 1965 baby blue Mustang convertible. Jon would watch Dad drive away in that car every morning and would go for rides with Dad any time he could, even if it was a quick trip to the gas station. One day Jon decided that HE would do Dad a favor and fill up the tank. So, he grabbed the hose in the driveway, turned on the water, and inserted it into the tank. No one had a clue until Dad got about a mile away on his way to work one morning! Jon got a good yelling at.

Jon’s next auto adventure was in our family station wagon. It was parked in the driveway on our Beverly Road home. Back in those days, there was no such thing as an ignition lock. Both the steering wheel and gear shift lever were operational without a key. As Jon pretended to drive the car one afternoon, he pulled the shift lever and it stopped in neutral. It wasn’t long before Jon was on the road – in reverse down the driveway hill. He must have been steering since he continued backing down the street and then around the corner. Fate was watching Jon that day since the car’s wheels got jammed along the curb several yards down the dangerous Beverly Road hill.

In addition to Jon’s fascination with cars, Jon went through various phases in his early life. I guess we all go through phases, but Jon’s were interesting! First, he became a mini-me of Fonzie from the Happy Day’s television show. There were times when I think Jon thought he WAS the Fonz. He slicked back his hair, wore sunglasses like Fonzie, and wore white t-shirts with a cigarette pack rolled up in the sleeve. He had Fonzie posters in his room and read anything he could get his hands on about he Fonz.

Following the Fonzie craze was the exact opposite. Jon had a complete make-over thanks to Papa Grayson. When Papa and Grandma came to visit for six weeks over the Summer, Papa took over Jon’s room. Jon became his protégé. Gone were the Happy Days paraphernalia and welcome to the fastidious, Felix Unger-like Jon! Papa must have put Jon into some kind of boot camp. After Papa left, Jon’s bedroom could have passed any inspection. Everything was in its proper place. His underwear, socks, and other clothes were impeccably sorted in his dresser and closet. From what I recall, this version of Jon lasted quite some time.

Because Jon and I were five years apart, I think I lost track of him by the time I was about 15 or so. For the next five years I was into girls and other high school hi-jinx, and except for the realization that there was another human in the house, I have no clue what Jon was up to. I suspect, though, that he endured a whole lot of teasing from me during this time! It wasn’t until Jon got into high school that I began to slowly take notice of my younger brother.

Jon followed me to Cretin High School in St. Paul. From what I could tell, he was very well liked and far surpassed my academic achievement at school. Much to my father’s delight, Jon played football. He made the varsity as a senior and was an undersized defensive end. Jon used his height disadvantage to get low on his opposing player and more often than expected, ended up disrupting the offensive plays. In my dad’s eyes, Jon had come close to, if not surpassing, elder sister Pam’s elite status.

Once incident that sticks out to me even now during Jon’s high school years was when he, as a junior, decided to throw a party at our house. My parents were away, but Grandma Grewe was staying at our house on Summit Avenue since Pam and I were way to busy in college to deal with younger siblings Jon and Jenifer.

We got suspicious when Jon started rolling up the carpeting in the family living room. He and his friends then hauled in an old claw-footed bathtub that my mother had used in her garden. I quickly and correctly surmised that the tub would be used for multiple beer kegs. Always the entrepreneur, Jon had advertised the party at several local schools with a modest entry fee.

Grandma was happily tucked away in the back bedroom – far from the main level of the enormous house – and Jenifer was sent to a friend’s house to spend the night. Pam and I were curious, so we stuck around to see what might happen. Well, before long our house was overflowing with well over a hundred high school kids. It was quickly growing out of control. There was at least once incident where Jon had tried to turn some kids away, but they wouldn’t leave. He found me to get them out of the house.

Pam and I were in the back yard shooting baskets. All of a sudden we heard police sirens. We spied police walking into the house to break up the party. Both of us suddenly realized that, as adults, we could be cited for “hosting” an underage party. So, we ran! We took off down the alley with high school kids streaming out of all the doors of the house. Only later did we realize that we had left poor grandma alone to deal with the fiasco. We slowly made our way back to the house. Somehow, though, grandma remained unaware of it all. When we got back Jon was sitting in the kitchen counting his money. He was actually glad that the cops had broken up the party. For him, it was a huge success!

Jon followed Pam’s path by choosing to become a Rotary Youth Exchange Student in Birmingham, England, after he graduated from high school. By this time I had finished college, was married, and was serving in Germany with the Army. During a break from school, Jon came to visit us in Germany. From the little kid who annoyed me terribly, who irritated me further by becoming dad’s new favorite, I finally got to see Jon in a new way. He was a neat young man. He brought our dog, Schatzi, a British dog toy – a bust of Ronald Reagan – that became Schatzi’s favorite toy.

One thing that I recall from that visit of my grown-up little brother was that he had become infatuated by a young girl from one of the St. Paul suburban schools. He eagerly shared a photo album of her Senior pictures. Even after being away from this girl for many months during what would have been her senior year in high school, she was still HIS girl. Despite the time and distance, and the many opportunities that he had with young British women, Jon was quick to show everyone the album of his sweetheart. That was remarkable for a young man his age. His loyalty and love was evident to all. And, yes, Jon did end up marrying that girl!

There are various other stories that I could tell about Jon. More than a few of these are about Jon and cars, trucks, and motorcycles! Jon, like all of us, has his odd characteristics (like suddenly disappearing during family gatherings and ending every conversation with his tag line, “Blessings”), but he is genuinely a nice man and almost universally liked. I admire the way that he can interact with just about anyone he meets. I was especially touched with his calm demeanor with our sister, Pam, as she was dying. Jon was there for Pam (without disappearing!) and offered her regular foot massages.

Both Jon and I spent years raising our respective families, so outside of family events and a couple of family vacations, we’ve gotten together only occasionally. For the past twelve years I’ve lived away, so we haven’t had much time together. He has, though, served as a terrific dog sitter, traveling to Maryland to watch our dogs. The dogs always seemed to love him more than any other sitters and I think Jon enjoyed them just as much.

Jon and Buster

On a few limited occasions Jon and I were able to travel together. The first was when Jon and I accompanied Dad and Uncle E.C. to the Bohemian Grove in California. We had a terrific time together. The second was when Jon and his wife visited me in Heidelberg, Germany, during my deployment there in 2007. We had a grand time touring Germany and enjoying one of my favorite activities, lounging at the wonderful Friedrichsbad in Baden Baden. Finally, I joined Jon and son Eli to visit E.C. and the California Graysons in San Francisco and Tiburon in 2010. We enjoyed each other’s company immensely.

Jon and Eli in Tiburon

Jon and Kristy raised two delightful young men, Owen and Eli, who grew up mostly while we were living away.

Jon with Owen & Eli

I am looking forward to moving back to Minnesota soon so we can reconnect. Here’s to you, little brother!

AJ

I am obviously going way out of sequence in sharing my influences and mentors, but AJ’s untimely death has struck me hard.

AJ, Allesandra Jacqueline Lesho, was our dog sitter. She died tragically in a car crash soon after achieving her longtime goals of serving on a mission trip to Ecuador and getting into veterinary tech school. AJ was 24 years old. She stayed in our home several times to watch our dogs. She will be greatly missed by humans and canines alike.

AJ was a wonderful and kind young lady. Small in stature, but a giant in attitude, spunk, and love for animals. She lived nearby and worked as a veterinary assistant at the Elkridge Animal Hospital, where we have taken our dogs for many years. She always greeted us (mostly just the dogs!) with great enthusiasm. Due to frequent vet visits with our old dogs, we got to see her quite often.

Just days before her death, I texted AJ about potential dog sitting for an upcoming trip. She apologized for the slow response since she had to get back from the Ecuadorian countryside to WiFi. I told her I hoped it was going well. She replied, “It is amazing.”

AJ’s lesson for me is not that life is precious and short (though it certainly is). No, the real lesson for me is how much I didn’t even know AJ. I knew she was going on a trip to Latin America this Summer, but I didn’t know that it was to Ecuador. I didn’t know that she was going on a mission trip to care for animals as a volunteer with World Vets. I didn’t know that she had gotten into her dream veterinary program. I didn’t know anything about her background or her family.

In fact, I really didn’t know much about AJ. Yet, she shared our home when we were away and she loved our dogs nearly as much as we do! So why didn’t we take more time to learn more about her? Do we all have so many relationships in our lives in which we know so little about people we interact with on a regular basis?

Yes, I think we do. Some people are much better at learning about the people around them. I guess I’ve always tried to respect privacy, telling myself, “people will tell me if they want me to know.” Others either don’t have the time for “peripheral” relationships or, sadly, don’t care.

I believe the reason that AJ’s short life has affected me so much is a feeling that perhaps I could have helped her more if I’d known more about her. I hope I would have encouraged her more in reaching her goals if I’d known about them.

I also speculate that AJ had to raise a good amount of money for her mission trip. Besides what we paid her to stay with our dogs, AJ never asked us for anything. There is no doubt in my mind that we would have donated if only we had known. With my network of doggie friends, I have no doubt that I could have talked at least one or two others into supporting AJ. Now, sadly, I am left with only sending donations in AJ’s name to WorldVets.org and her school, CCBC.

Tomorrow I will attend AJ’s memorial. I will likely talk to her family and friends to learn even more about AJ. I truly regret not doing so with her. That, I am learning, is a life lesson I’ve missed.

Thank you, AJ, we will definitely miss you!

Grade School

[In the midst of packing boxes, photos will have to come later!]

I’ve already written about my wonderful experiences in our Desnoyer Park neighborhood and our three-room Desnoyer Park school. It seemed as soon as I got comfortable with the school, it was time to move on to another school. That became a pattern in my early life and very well led to me being a bit of a wandering soul in my adult years. I am also convinced that it caused much insecurity and shyness due to always being a new kid at school.

After third grade, all the students at Desnoyer Park had to move on to other schools. In our neighborhood, the closest school was Longfellow. It was over a mile away, probably a bit closer if you could cut through the Town & Country Golf Course. Most days I rode my bike to and from school. That include a good part of the winter months as well!

The fourth grade was an interesting year for me. Not only did I really get to know my friend, Toran, but that was the year that my sister Pam set me up with the evil principal. I became somewhat of a class clown that year, but not until one of my favorite teachers, Mrs. Johnson, left mid-year. Upon returning from Christmas vacation, we returned to a substitute teacher. We were told that Mrs. Johnson was not coming back. No further explanation was ever provided. For the first few weeks we had a succession of substitute teachers. Finally, we got one who stayed. Unfortunately, I don’t recall anyone liking her. That, together with the principal fiasco, led me becoming a class clown.

I did pretty well in classes that year. At that point, school was pretty easy for me. I don’t recall anything particular about the year, except for my friend, Harry, barfing right next to me and the black man who came to talk to our class one day. This was in about 1970, not long after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., so race relations were still rather difficult across the country. At that time, St. Paul, Minnesota, was still very white. Our speaker talked about the difficulty of being a black man in society. I found him fascinating. My favorite story was when he talked about walking through a mall and a little white kid came up and bit him. He said the kid had thought he was chocolate! The class roared with laughter, but the lessons of race relations, kindness, and respect stuck with me. Many years later I remembered that story vividly when accompanying a black friend to a store in Kaposvar, Hungary. Little kids stared at him and followed us, as if they had never seen a black man before.

It seemed that as soon as I got acclimated to the new kids at Longfellow and the new teacher, summer vacation was upon us. During that summer, we moved from Desnoyer Park to our new home on “stately” Summit Avenue in St. Paul. That meant a new school for me and my sister. Our new neighborhood school was Linwood elementary. Linwood was a Kindergarten through Sixth Grade school in the central part of St. Paul. This time it was all new kids. At least from Desnoyer Park, most of the kids moved on to Longfellow. Now it was all new kids.

I never liked Linwood and never really fit in. My mom insisted that I join the band. I did not enjoy that at all. It also was somewhat ostracized at that school, at least among the kids in my grade. As the newbie, I quickly fell in with the wrong crowd. My new best friends were involved in drugs, petty theft, and other questionable behavior. I spend most of my time with Calvin. His family consisted of an older brother, a younger sister and a single mom, who worked her ass off to support her family. I don’t even remember much about Calvin’s dad. Calvin was not a bad kid, but had some bad influences in his life. Calvin’s older brother was in high school and was heavily into drugs. As a result, marijuana and hash were easily obtainable for us.

For whatever reason, I never really liked the idea, but smoked my first joint at about the age of ten! The best part about it was Calvin really was a good friend. Whenever the group would smoke pot, Calvin was okay with me not participating and he backed me up any time others would try to force me to join in.

Calvin provided a number of positive influences as well. He was an outgoing kid, so we always had other kids around. He got me very interested in sports. I was already an avid baseball fan, but never really played any sports. I was a small and short kid, so was often the last kid picked whenever teams were chosen. By playing baseball, football, and basketball with Calvin, I started to realize that I had some natural athletic ability. That still needed a lot of honing, but it was a start. Calvin and I spend hours and hours in the summer playing catch with a baseball and football in the fall. Calvin got me signed up for the local little league baseball team and, while I was still not too good, I learned the game and eventually got pretty good.

Calvin’s family was also very interested in downhill skiiing. His mom had been a ski instructor, so I got to tag along every time they went to Alton Alps or other local ski areas. There were some winter months that we skied at least one per week. I finally had learned a winter sport that I enjoyed!

Somewhat surprisingly, Calvin also got me interested in religion. I had always attended Catholic Mass with my father every weekend, but it really didn’t mean much to me. Calvin’s family went to a baptist church. I tagged along and was encouraged to get to know Jesus. It was in a baptist church that I first recall dedicating my life to Jesus and was “saved.”

After time, my relationship with Calvin started to sour. He became more involved in the drug scene and I moved on to other friends at school. After sixth grade, he moved on to the local junior high school and I followed my sister to St. Luke’s Catholic School. Fortunately, some of the kids from Linwood also moved to St. Luke’s, but there I was at yet again another grade school. By the seventh grade I was in my fourth new school.

During the second half of sixth grade I started a paper route. My first job! I remember trudging up and down the streets at around 5AM delivering papers in the cold and snow. I continued this into seventh grade and made friends with another paper carrier, Martin, who was from St. Luke’s. So, at least I had one friend when I started the new school. Since I was new to the school, I knew nothing about the school’s football team for seventh and eight graders. Martin joined the team and encouraged me to sign up, albeit a couple days late. Sadly, the coach didn’t care much for Martin and wouldn’t let me join the team. All of the “cool” kids were on the team, so I was again an outcast. That team went on to win the Twin Cities Championship in the Catholic school league during eighth grade, so this was a longstanding and bitter point in my life.

I became a bit of a loner in the seventh grade. I spent a lot of time alone at home throwing baseballs and footballs and shooting hoops in our oversized yard on Summit Avenue. I fashioned a ball yard in our back yard and would toss and hit balls for HOURS on end. Very quickly, I had to change from baseballs to tennis balls due to the many broken windows in our house. Due to the configuration. of the “field,” there was no left field and the living room windows were in right field. As a result, I quickly learned to hit to dead center field (and too often to right). I also taped a square on our brick house to throw tennis balls in an attempt to improve my aim. Again, I spent hours and hours every summer throwing tennis balls against the house. All this would later pay big dividends when I started playing competitive softball!

During my second year at St. Luke’s, despite not getting a football champion jacket, I did finally learn more about my Catholic faith. I was confirmed as a Catholic and learned Catholic sacraments. In addition, I got involved in theater and, overall, finally felt more a part of a school community. Most importantly, though, I became friends with Pat and Jim, both who would have a tremendous impact on me and become my high school buddies and lifelong friends. MUCH more about Pat and Jim later . . . .

Jim Shane and Willie Mays

The first non-family person I ever remember looking up to was baseball great Willie Mays. I had come across a book in the library entitled, The Baseball Life of Willie Mays. I knew very little about baseball and had never seen Willie Mays play. My dad was not a baseball fan, so I’d never even been to a big league game. Before I knew it I had re-read the book several times and, outside of family, it became clear that Willie Mays was possibly the most important person in my life. I started studying baseball and watching my hometown team, the Twins. Even with stars like Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva on the team, they couldn’t hold a candle to the great Willie for me.

When I was about ten (a couple of years after my grandpa Grewe died), I befriended an older gentleman that I met on while on a trip with my dad. His name was Jim Shane. We had taken a cruise from New York City to the Bahamas. It was a relatively short cruise that I don’t remember much about. I just remember that after the cruise, we had a relatively large group of people wandering around the city before we had to head the airport. We walked by a storefront that had a large poster/photo of Willie Mays in the window. I was mesmerized. My dad was moving on, but I stayed back from the group looking at the photo. Jim Shane was a part of our group and cajoled me to catch up to the group.

He told me to call him “Shane.” We talked about baseball as we walked through New York. When Shane was my age he watched the 1927 Yankees, thought of as the best team of all time. We talked Yankees, baseball, and later, Twins.

After we returned from that trip, Shane and I stayed in touch. He had worked in the mining industry. When he was in his late 40s, he fell nearly 100 feet and landed on his head. From that point on he was retired by the company and received a nice pension. Shane had no visible problems due to the accident, but he never worked again. Instead, he worked as full-time volunteer. He made daily trips to transport blood for the Red Cross. He drove people all over town. He made deliveries for volunteer organization. He harvested his garden all summer long and provide our family, and many other families in town with fresh fruits and vegetables. Overall, he just made himself useful for others. That was who he was.

For several years, we met regularly for pancakes. He also took me and my friends to Twins games on a semi-regular basis. Jim and his wife, Lucille, had no children. After a year or two of our friendship, Lucille suddenly died. I was in shock, but not nearly as much as Shane was. I remember walking up to him at her funeral and it seemed as he just walked right past me in a daze.

Lucille’s death changed our relationship for a time, but not for long. Pretty soon, he was back to helping others – and taking me out for pancakes and baseball games. Shane was like my substitute grandfather, but perhaps even closer. I called him on the phone nearly every day. We could talk baseball – and life – for hours. I suspect this was a rather unique relationship, as it lasted easily until my mid-teens. When other friends were on the phone with girls, I was on the phone talking baseball with Shane. It’s was probably after I entered high school that I thought I was too old for him. Fortunately, Shane latched onto my younger brother, Jon, and continued the contact with our family.

Shane’s selfish service to others and his basic kindness to everyone he met made a big impression on me. I am lucky to have had such positive, friendly, and giving influences like Shane in my life. His influence, plus my friendship with another great friend named Jim, led us to name our first-born son James. I’m sure Shane would be proud.