In Loving Memory
A Great Crusader, Dennis R Winters
My brother, Den is dead, gone forever from this Mother Earth. He didn’t believe in God yet was His best steward of the planet. He loved the earth from childhood, as he reaffirmed during our August visit, and he worked lovingly and tirelessly for her health and future his entire life.
I remember once, being with him as a kid, watching as he stood at the end of the grocery line unwrapping every product he had just purchased before carefully placing them into his “Earth Day” reusable bags. “Excess packaging”, he explained to everyone watching with both frustration at the “hold up” and admiration that he cared so much. I always wished I cared that much.
He was also an awesome big brother. Once he rescued me from junior high school, when no one else was available, because my period had started unexpectedly. He thought nothing of going into the pharmacy for my feminine products and laughed it off so completely it erased my embarrassment and humiliation. He made me laugh about it. He was a hero.
He was a passionate, dedicated servant to the chosen crisis and loves in his life. The world is a better place because of his willingness to go out of his way for a cause, a person, a bug. The pride he took in explaining the life of a beetle or the detriment of an energy policy, or the horror he felt as people intellectually ignore the causes so clear - and documented so well in the books he collected over his lifetime, an intended gift to the Academy of Natural Sciences.
I’m sad Covid 19 kept us apart this Thanksgiving, despite his early plans to come to Florida so I’m very thankful for our August visit – it was unforgettable to be together on his home turf in the historical city he loved. He took the wheel of the Soul he loved showing us the street where he lived, the USS United States – he dearly loved, old buildings, favorite haunts, museums and workplaces. Our meal, “al fresco” at our hotel on a beautiful Philly early evening, was delicious in atmosphere, company and food. Hours long conversation, declaration, dedication, talk of love, of family, of future and joy at our mutual success in surviving so far. This wonderful physical frame will end my “Den video.”
I feel jealous of his own children for being able to enter his space and grieve over his things. How awful does that make me sound? I am a handler of details. I can’t imagine not being able to “sweep offstage” the boy who kidded me, the man who loved and nurtured me and the brother who has been by my side every breath of my life. Grief is a process for us all and we learn to live with it by individual experience.
But that’s the task, isn’t it? To say goodbye, to “let go,” to lie peacefully and joyfully in all our memories and moments in the days to come here on Mother Earth. So, I will. I will take better care of myself and Mother Earth and be a role model, if nor a crusader, for others. I will be better at staying in touch with those I love and will work to make the world a better place. I will honor my big brother’s memory in acts great and small and look forward to his surprise at Heaven’s gate!
Until I see you again…I’ll be your Champion down here, dearest Den,
The Cowboy Rides Away
In Loving Memory of Square Dance Caller,
Paul Place, an American Hero
On Friday, July 11th, with his performance of the “Cowboy Rides Away,” Paul Place concluded an illustrious 30 year calling career with over 18 squares on the floor and several others seated to watch. Whirl & Twirl’s grand hall has not seen a crowd so large in recent memory, if at all, with visitor’s from all over the state present to send Paul back to Auburn buoyed by the love, support and prayers of all in attendance. Who would have thought we could dance with tears in our eyes, hearing Paul’s voice, for the last time, singing songs that have brought so much fun and joy to so many over the years…yet we did it! In combination with Wednesday night’s 15 squares or more of dancers, Friday was a wonderful tribute to a beautiful person and a talented caller, who is already sorely missed by several local clubs.
Most of us have a very small sense of the extreme physical challenge and mental turmoil Paul has been enduring since his diagnosis in the spring; yet, he still devoted precious time and energy, having settled his spirit to give us his relaxed smile and the gift of his talents. Those who know Paul well, know this is simply his character; those who don’t know him as well, may now understand and appreciate the man we love so much. Championed by a close and loving family, Paul seems to have centered himself in the outpouring of love offered up for him and hearing him talk leaves us hopeful, cheered and fully aware of his inner resolve.
Whirl & Twirl’s hall, so full of history already, will echo forever with the haunting notes Paul offered up this past week to joyful listening ears. May we all “keep the beat in our feet” as we continue to celebrate the dancing Paul loves so much and taught us to love, as well. May we stay challenged to be better dancers, honoring Paul’s excellent teaching and wish for us. May we remember Paul, Linda and his warm, extended family in our prayers asking for a miracle, if it be God’s will. Most of all, may we be as blessed in the future as we are today in knowing a man who yearned to contribute and did, who decided to stay positive regardless and did, who has an inner warrior fighting the good fight, a heart as big as the world and a multitude of friends and family to show for his time on this Earth.
Jump The Rat!
One Family's Grand Adventure
Spring break, 1986! It was a cold and dreary April when our family embarked on a qrand adventure to the Big Apple, New York City! My husband and I took turns driving on the long, straight cruise up I95 from Central Florida, our daughter and her friend, and our two sons all restlessly, excitedly vying for space in the rear of our Dodge Ram Minivan. Sleep, even during the overnight hours, was difficult for everyone in the car, all New York virgins.
Because we were six while New York city hotel rooms allowed a maximum of five, and having limited funds, we booked a room in Fort Lee, New Jersey just over the George Washington bridge. Ah, to be young, spontaneous and without a clue! How brave we were.
After checking in, Hubby and I left the kids enjoying the indoor pool while we ventured into Manhattan for maps and a plan. Someone told us Columbus Circle was the place for tourist info so that was our goal. As it turned out, the hotel was on the highway entrance to the bridge’s upper and lower levels, so traffic was horrendous. Knowing parking would be an issue downtown, we hailed a bus and, exhausted as we both were following the overnight drive, we couldn’t contain our excitement. We sat next to a young woman who was very helpful in telling us how to find new transportation at the bus terminal on the other side of the bridge.
We took our first subway and sure enough, Columbus stood in the center of a small grassy area heralding “his” circle. There we found subway maps, train and bus schedules and we spent several glorious minutes with our eyes turned up hoping to see the top of the buildings so unfamiliar to us Florida folks. WOW! The sound, the energy, the people bustling - these are not imaginary trademarks of the city but truly and fully experienced while there. That first overwhelming glimpse of our days to come made sleep difficult, even when back in the comfy hotel bed at last.
The next day, we realized our budget was going to be expanded by our travel into and out of the city each day. It was $30 for the six of us to get over the bridge from Fort Lee to the George Washington bus terminal. Since the bridge was an excitement in itself, we decided to walk across and save some of that daily expense. The sound of the two layers of traffic and the rumbling of the bridge with the weight was exhilarating. Watching the brown Hudson flowing past us inspired visions of bungee jumping, someone’s suicide, or the dreams of those who crossed it to begin a new life in America.
It was during our first such walk our vacation got its name and reputation. Single file we would exit the hotel, carefully (and looking back recklessly) crossing traffic to get to the bridge’s walkway. Fortunately it was cool out, and once on the bridge we could safely breathe a bit easier and enjoy the view as we walked. After our busy day in town, the day after arrival, we were making our way back across the bridge, herding ourselves single file through the curbs, drains, metal work and concrete when one of the kids screamed. “A rat!” Word spread down the line quickly - that it was dead, stinky and as we each, one by one, stepped over it, we realized we were not home at “Disney World” anymore.
From that day forward, our delicious memories - hot dogs in central park, wonderful museums, the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island, the Empire State building - pale in comparison to our daily “jump the rat” walk across the bridge. It became so much a part of our visit that the kids competed to see who could get to it first, who would be brave enough to touch it - you know kids! While the girls were about 14 at the time, our sons were 12 and 8, and jumping the rat was the highlight of the trip. To this day, that’s the big memory and they are now in their mid to late 40s.
Isn’t that what life is about? Whenever we think about that trip, and the rat, we also feel again the love, the camaraderie so far from home, the awe and inspiration a city like New York offered to us, its Southern cousins. We have all been back at one time or another; we have made new memories we cherish. But, it's our “Jump the Rat” trip that melded our family and underlined that the experiences we share far outweigh the sight of the places we visit. New York, with its tall buildings, streets full of honking cabs, the energy, the lights, the grandness - pale to a dead rat under the George Washington bridge. Go figure.