Sunday, March 29, 2015

A COLLEAGUE, A TIME

  By Arthur H. Gunther III
ahgunther@yahoo.com
     If you combined a well-composed, British statesman-like fellow, complete with ever-present smoking pipe, and a fan who could give "da" loudest Bronx cheer at a New York Rangers hockey game, that would be Dick Yerg, the late newspaper sports editor.
     Dick and I began our days at The Journal-News in Nyack, N.Y., in the earlier 1960s. I was a young photographer and he was the newly named Rockland sports chief after Joe Dineen was drafted. We worked together on many assignments, with Dick always in the field with both notebook and pipe. As a Nyack/Rockland native, he knew everyone in local sports. His father owned the village Buick dealership, and that showroom introduced Dick to even more people. Having such connections quickly paid off, with the new sports editor obtaining exclusives and adding much color to his well-written stories.
     In those 1960's and early 1970's days, The Journal-News Sports Department was a raucous group, not beyond throwing volleyballs across the room and cheering as the radio shouted out yet another baseball or football game. Dick was the mother hen in all this, letting the kiddies play but fully expecting top work. As such, he was a beloved boss, almost unflappable, very professional.
    Back when newspapers were in every home, sometimes several papers, morning and afternoon editions, the local sheet earned its bread and butter in its sports reporting. Little League games, high school football, every sport for boys and girls, in every school, in every town and community, that was news. Countless scrapbooks have been filled over the decades because of local newspaper sports departments, and Dick Yerg was among those editors directing scribes and photogs in the gathering of memories.
     Newspaper writing is often at its most colorful and descriptive in sports, because the full range of emotions is played out: victory, defeat, cheers, joy, tears, sportsmanship, the buddy system, even cheating when the sport goes dark. When Dick was in charge in Nyack, and later at the sister newspapers in Westchester, this sort of “color” writing was routine, expected. What a productive moment for both reporters and readers. Now so much less in the growing disappearance of newspapers and any writing longer than a Tweet.
    Though Dick retired and moved to Florida after decades in newspapering and in Nyack, he never forgot local sports and his hometown village, often posting on Facebook commentary about Nyack, Rockland, and, of course, his favorite team, the New York Rangers.
     Dick Yerg: A true class act.
     The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at ahgunther@yahoo.com

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A LIFE'S JOURNEY (CONTINUING)

By Arthur H. Gunther III
    There is, of course, a cycle to life — a beginning, an end and if the gods are with you, much in between. The beginning begets most of that fill-in-the-blanks, with so many tangents formed, much like the branches of a well-rooted tree. And the apples do not fall far from the tree.
     In a wink of an eye, it seems, my father, who is one of the roots of my tree, has aged, sent off to hospital with the ailments of his moment, soon to a try at rehab and then we will see. A man in his 90s, driving up to a week ago, living alone long after my mother passed, independent, cleaning his home, cooking, washing, never a complainer. An hour at OTB, the local news on TV or in the paper, short visits from his sons and my own son — that made him happy enough. Not a hermit, not a recluse, but a man of solitude, of quiet. 
    Then came “sudden” medical complaints — blood thinner overload, dehydration, an infection. And the worst ailment of all: utter helplessness when you cannot walk. You cannot stand. When you fall and it takes two hours to drag yourself to a phone just across the room and call someone, and that person, once so fearful of his father’s authoritative voice, hears instead a child-like plea. 
     You get to his home, only four miles away, but it seems to take an hour, and you find your dad wedged behind a chair. He is not hurt — doesn’t yet need medical help, doesn’t want anyone to come anyway — the independence, self-reliance still at work — so you try to get him to bed. But he is dead weight, this father once of strength, and you no longer can  lift dead weight. You drag him by the shoulders of his sweatshirt down the hall to his bed, both of you laughing at the absurdity of it all. You have not been this close physically to your father since the two of you, with your brother thrown in, wrestled in the first grade.
     Once at bedside, thankfully a low one, you manage to get a leg up and to cantilever your father onto the mattress. He is pleased enough and falls asleep. But the next day, you both realize an ambulance is a must, a hospital stay inevitable. You tell 911 it is not a dire emergency, and the Orangetown police, South Orangetown Ambulance Corps and the paramedics  are superb — understanding, so professional.
     Later that day, after your dad is settled in the emergency room and is awaiting admission, and you can do nothing for a time, you leave to do your Thursday duty, to walk two grandchildren home from the Upper Nyack Elementary School. Sam and Beatrice sing and skip, and even when you tell them that you had to take great-gramps to the doctor, that does not sink in, as innocent as their time can be and ought to be.
     You go to their house, in a beautiful old Hudson River village where so very long ago their great-grandfather at similar age walked with his dad, and you find yourself sitting in a rocking chair, the same one your father’s father bought his wife Maud so that she could comfort infant Arthur Henry Gunther Jr., my dad.
     In one day, my elderly father’s roots come full cycle, and though time is now very limited for him, and by relation and relativity for me as well, the laughter, the silliness of my dad’s great-grandchildren playing as I sat in that family chair reaffirmed that the tree continues to grow from its roots, as in the beginning, the end, as in new seasons, as in fresh apples falling not far from the tree.
Arthur H. Gunther II is a retired newspaper editor who can be reached at ahgunther@yahoo.com

Sunday, March 8, 2015

'SEA LEGS 'IN THE SNOW



By Arthur H. Gunther III

     Ride a bicycle and you never forget. Years, decades later, and you hop on as if you were still the eight year old though your  joints may creak more than the bicycle chain. Not that much different when you have the coldest/snowiest February in Northeast America since 1934. You get in the swing again.
       Most of us weren’t around in 1934, and even if we were, it may not have been in the Northeast, but there have been enough snowy times in most lives that while recent winters have not been so harsh in my area, at least, we can recall when snow was piled high, icicles overhung our house gutters and we could not get warm enough though we might carry 15 pounds of layered clothing.
     Of course, we all exaggerate, so it is common to hear many of us say, “When I was young, the storms were relentless. …” It’s as if there was a Blizzard of 1888 in each existence, though the individual may have been born in 1988. Or we say, “This is an old-fashioned winter” when all we ever saw of that was a Hallmark card, complete with sleigh, a Victorian home up a drive and an ice pond filled with skaters. Perhaps we all want to feel nostalgic even when we may well be tired of the snow. It surely is true that the first snow of the season brings the greatest childlike excitement, but like young love, the effect can be wearing if it continues too long.
     For me this winter has been about the survival instinct. So back to the bicycle analogy. When the first flakes fell in February, and the road had ice beneath the snow, I drove 9-20 mph on a six-mile trip at 2 a.m., with few others on the road. If I had been 16, I probably would have hit 30-40 and tried to fishtail my car. If I were 40 with kids in the car, I would have been cautious, but confident, perhaps traveling 25 mph. But as a senior and not having driven in heavy snow all that often in the past few years, I could not immediately find my sea legs. I was on the bicycle but didn’t get balanced.
     That ended quickly, right on the return trip that icy morning, when confidence returned and the “feel” of the snow road came through the tires to the brakes and to my foot. I was again at 20-25 mph, with assurance. Now, five or so storms later, I am an old hand, as if all our winters were like 2015. It’s even fun to drive a bit in the snow.
     While the false bravado of youth has not returned, recognition of experience and application of commonsense sure do truss you up and make you feel as of you can tackle the winter beast.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman who is reachable at ahgunther@yahoo.com This essay may be reproduced. 
    

Sunday, March 1, 2015

CLASSROOM PSYCHOLOGY

By Arthur H. Gunther III
ahgunther@yahoo.com

     A photo of a dress from a London shop, blue and black, made its viral way around the Internet last week because some people saw it as white and gold, or hues that approached blue, gold, etc. It all has to do with how your eye accepts light exposure. No big deal, except that it was yet another of those games that you spot more and more on social media sites, some meant to test your inner psychology. (As in “What car are you like? Take the test!”) Heck, there was one good way back in anyone’s school days that is just as psychologically true today, just as relevant in a light-enough, non-earth-shattering way.
   Take the test.
     Where did you sit in class? Always near the windows? Close to the door? The third row? In the middle of any row? The last seat way in the back?
     When I was in college, this time on a renewed try while working for a living, I didn’t have many moments to spare since the combined hours of traveling, sitting in class, being a newspaper photog, helping run a household, etc., kept things tight. So, it was easier to choose the same seat in every class, if I could. I’d get to the first day of class early and hit the window row half-way back. Much easier to find my place in any class in a rush. It worked for most of my courses.
     In high school, often the seat you took on the first day was the one you had for the term, the teacher making up a seating chart, which might be amended if you talked to your neighbor. Somehow, the same people were always in the front row, the back one, the window side, the seat under the wall clock, the middle row, middle seat. I bet if high school reunions — elementary ones for that matter — were held in the old classrooms, some of us would gravitate to our old spots, no matter how many years have passed since we day-dreamed like me or sat up straight, hands folded on desk.
     Just like the social media site psychology tests (“What color are you?”) seem to be on the mark, so, too, would your chosen seat (or the assigned one, if the teacher intervened) reveal YOU. Day-dreamer near the window? Tired fellow with pre-school-hours job in the back row? Or the one who didn’t want to be noticed? The person in the middle row, middle seat, who liked to be kept secure, surrounded by classmates? The two friends near the back, against the wall, who could talk without being noticed?
     What seats are best for passing notes, flirting, getting out of class fast?
     And who disliked it when the teacher had us push the desks to the side and form a circle of chairs. Did you feel vulnerable? Did you raise your hand to be noticed? Could the day-dreamer do his (her) thing in a circle? At least rows of seats added to individuality, or joining the crowd, or sharing friendship with one or two or three other students in nearby seats.
    Finally, what about the teacher? Did he (she) have a favorite row to glance at, others to stare at, still others to ignore a bit?

     Like I said, Psychology 101.

    The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at ahgunther@yahoo.com This essay may be reproduced.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

EDWARD HOPPER AND 'PAINTING'

                                        Completed wall in the Edward Hopper bedroom.
By Arthur H. Gunther III
ahgunther@yahoo.com
     82 North Broadway, Nyack -- When you paint in a great artist’s childhood bedroom, in space where the Hudson light seems a direct path from Heaven, off the river and straight up Second Avenue, you are humble. Humble even if you are simply covering a wall with latex, part of a sprucing-up after a fairly serious renovation.
     Recently, I was the artist in an artist’s bedroom, not doing artist’s work but trying to be artistic. I am a trustee of the Edward Hopper House Art Center and, along with Lynn Saaby, Dave Sirois and Brian Levine, we of the House & Grounds Committee try to offer as much volunteer repair work as possible. Giving free labor, and, often, materials, has been the secret of success in affording maintenance of the 1858 house where Edward Hopper, the famed American realist painter, was born in 1882.
     Ever since the once-deteriorating home was rescued by concerned citizenry and refurbished largely through volunteer work in the 1970s, the mantle has been passed from crew to crew to keep the iconic village structure in top shape. While these days that cannot always be accomplished with just volunteer expertise and labor, and focused fund-raising is necessary for infrastructure concerns (such as the ongoing drive to waterproof the basement), Hopper House continues to rely heavily on what labor and materials can be offered. I have been privileged to be among the volunteers, all of us taking cues from Win Perry, the Upper Nyack historian and architect, and his original 1970s restoration crew.
     Those volunteers and early trustees saw to rewiring, heating, structure and wall repair, flooring and other work so that the art center could begin to offer space for artistry of all design and taste and to honor Hopper as as well as to rescue an old Nyack house. The mission continues more than four decades later.
     For whatever reason, a portion of Edward’s childhood bedroom, a particularly sunny part of the house on the southeast side, was never fully repaired. A long-ago water leak had deteriorated the original horse hair plaster on wood lath, and the wall on the south side, including the fireplace surround, had been removed down to the full-size 2x4-inch balloon framing, made of locally milled wood and which runs from the basement sill to the roof line.
     Over the years, the bedroom had been rented to various artists to help supplement Hopper House income, and those painters did not mind the rustic nature of the exposed wall, which included Haverstraw brick infill for mass and early insulation.
     Last year, the room was taken off the rental list and opened up to visitors eager to see Edward’s bedroom, where most likely he was conceived as it was the master bedroom until just after his birth when an addition was put on the north side.
     Hopper House decided then to complete the long-overdue repairs, which was to include new wall work,  period molding, improvement of the fireplace hearth and paint. I got the job, and this volunteer spent about two weeks wonderfully enjoying the tasks.
     Each day, and some nights, it was inspiring to see the effect of both sunlight and moonlight in the room and to again realize that Edward, whose paintings are so very much about light, was obviously affected by constant nature in his bedroom. The birth of a great artist took place in this room, literally and figuratively.
     Repair work was made easier by a large table, perhaps 4 feet by 12, which Edward built in his Washington Square, New York City, studio to dry printed black and white line drawings from copper plate etchings. (Hopper House was given the table by Edward’s neighbor after the man, a professor, retired a few years ago. He had received it from Jo Nivision, Edward’s wife and fellow painter.) I was careful not to damage the rustic oak table, and it sure came in handy.
    The wall repair was quick enough, using drywall and a finish that mimics plaster. The moldings required extra work since we had to match them with what might have existed, or at least come close. I mixed this and that profile and hand-milled some pieces to achieve the desired result.
     In the end, the restored wall fits the original bedroom, itself the inspiring scene of several Hopper paintings. It may not be perfect, for I am but a volunteer craftsman, but I took pains to respect the house and the artist.
     No, I did not channel Edward Hopper, which might seem a temptation, especially when you are in the bedroom at 8 a.m. on a bright, sunny day and the light streams up Second Avenue through the large windows and onto the walls. But neither can you ignore the fact of his existence, his childhood and early adulthood in that room. As a writer, photographer and painter, I can call myself an artist, though that definition bears no resemblance to artist Edward Hopper. Yet if there is kinsmanship at all, it was a bit brotherly to be working in the great man’s bedroom.
     The writer is a retired newspaperman who long toiled for the original Journal-News at 53 Hudson Ave., Nyack. This essay recently appeared in the newsletter of the Nyack Historical Society. It may be reprinted. 
I

By Arthur H. Gunther III
ahgunther@yahoo.com
     82 North Broadway, Nyack -- When you paint in a great artist’s childhood bedroom, in space where the Hudson light seems a direct path from Heaven, off the river and straight up Second Avenue, you are humble. Humble even if you are simply covering a wall with latex, part of a sprucing-up after a fairly serious renovation.
     Recently, I was the artist in an artist’s bedroom, not doing artist’s work but trying to be artistic. I am a trustee of the Edward Hopper House Art Center and, along with Lynn Saaby, Dave Sirois and Brian Levine, we of the House & Grounds Committee try to offer as much volunteer repair work as possible. Giving free labor, and, often, materials, has been the secret of success in affording maintenance of the 1858 house where Edward Hopper, the famed American realist painter, was born in 1882.
     Ever since the once-deteriorating home was rescued by concerned citizenry and refurbished largely through volunteer work in the 1970s, the mantle has been passed from crew to crew to keep the iconic village structure in top shape. While these days that cannot always be accomplished with just volunteer expertise and labor, and focused fund-raising is necessary for infrastructure concerns (such as the ongoing drive to waterproof the basement), Hopper House continues to rely heavily on what labor and materials can be offered. I have been privileged to be among the volunteers, all of us taking cues from Win Perry, the Upper Nyack historian and architect, and his original 1970s restoration crew.
     Those volunteers and early trustees saw to rewiring, heating, structure and wall repair, flooring and other work so that the art center could begin to offer space for artistry of all design and taste and to honor Hopper as as well as to rescue an old Nyack house. The mission continues more than four decades later.
     For whatever reason, a portion of Edward’s childhood bedroom, a particularly sunny part of the house on the southeast side, was never fully repaired. A long-ago water leak had deteriorated the original horse hair plaster on wood lath, and the wall on the south side, including the fireplace surround, had been removed down to the full-size 2x4-inch balloon framing, made of locally milled wood and which runs from the basement sill to the roof line.
     Over the years, the bedroom had been rented to various artists to help supplement Hopper House income, and those painters did not mind the rustic nature of the exposed wall, which included Haverstraw brick infill for mass and early insulation.
     Last year, the room was taken off the rental list and opened up to visitors eager to see Edward’s bedroom, where most likely he was conceived as it was the master bedroom until just after his birth when an addition was put on the north side.
     Hopper House decided then to complete the long-overdue repairs, which was to include new wall work,  period molding, improvement of the fireplace hearth and paint. I got the job, and this volunteer spent about two weeks wonderfully enjoying the tasks.
     Each day, and some nights, it was inspiring to see the effect of both sunlight and moonlight in the room and to again realize that Edward, whose paintings are so very much about light, was obviously affected by constant nature in his bedroom. The birth of a great artist took place in this room, literally and figuratively.
     Repair work was made easier by a large table, perhaps 4 feet by 12, which Edward built in his Washington Square, New York City, studio to dry printed black and white line drawings from copper plate etchings. (Hopper House was given the table by Edward’s neighbor after the man, a professor, retired a few years ago. He had received it from Jo Nivision, Edward’s wife and fellow painter.) I was careful not to damage the rustic oak table, and it sure came in handy.
    The wall repair was quick enough, using drywall and a finish that mimics plaster. The moldings required extra work since we had to match them with what might have existed, or at least come close. I mixed this and that profile and hand-milled some pieces to achieve the desired result.
     In the end, the restored wall fits the original bedroom, itself the inspiring scene of several Hopper paintings. It may not be perfect, for I am but a volunteer craftsman, but I took pains to respect the house and the artist.
     No, I did not channel Edward Hopper, which might seem a temptation, especially when you are in the bedroom at 8 a.m. on a bright, sunny day and the light streams up Second Avenue through the large windows and onto the walls. But neither can you ignore the fact of his existence, his childhood and early adulthood in that room. As a writer, photographer and painter, I can call myself an artist, though that definition bears no resemblance to artist Edward Hopper. Yet if there is kinsmanship at all, it was a bit brotherly to be working in the great man’s bedroom.
     The writer is a retired newspaperman who long toiled for the original Journal-News at 53 Hudson Ave., Nyack. This essay recently appeared in the newsletter of the Nyack Historical Society. It may be reprinted. 
I

By Arthur H. Gunther III
ahgunther@yahoo.com
     82 North Broadway, Nyack, N.Y. -- When you paint in a great artist’s childhood bedroom, in space where the Hudson light seems a direct path from Heaven, off the river and straight up Second Avenue, you are humble. Humble even if you are simply covering a wall with latex, part of a sprucing-up after a fairly serious renovation.
     Recently, I was the artist in an artist’s bedroom, not doing artist’s work but trying to be artistic. I am a trustee of the Edward Hopper House Art Center and, along with Lynn Saaby, Dave Sirois and Brian Levine, we of the House & Grounds Committee try to offer as much volunteer repair work as possible. Giving free labor, and, often, materials, has been the secret of success in affording maintenance of the 1858 house where Edward Hopper, the famed American realist painter, was born in 1882.
     Ever since the once-deteriorating home was rescued by concerned citizenry and refurbished largely through volunteer work in the 1970s, the mantle has been passed from crew to crew to keep the iconic village structure in top shape. While these days that cannot always be accomplished with just volunteer expertise and labor, and focused fund-raising is necessary for infrastructure concerns (such as the ongoing drive to waterproof the basement), Hopper House continues to rely heavily on what labor and materials can be offered. I have been privileged to be among the volunteers, all of us taking cues from Win Perry, the Upper Nyack historian and architect, and his original 1970s restoration crew.
     Those volunteers and early trustees saw to rewiring, heating, structure and wall repair, flooring and other work so that the art center could begin to offer space for artistry of all design and taste and to honor Hopper as as well as to rescue an old Nyack house. The mission continues more than four decades later.
     For whatever reason, a portion of Edward’s childhood bedroom, a particularly sunny part of the house on the southeast side, was never fully repaired. A long-ago water leak had deteriorated the original horse hair plaster on wood lath, and the wall on the south side, including the fireplace surround, had been removed down to the full-size 2x4-inch balloon framing, made of locally milled wood and which runs from the basement sill to the roof line.
     Over the years, the bedroom had been rented to various artists to help supplement Hopper House income, and those painters did not mind the rustic nature of the exposed wall, which included Haverstraw brick infill for mass and early insulation.
     Last year, the room was taken off the rental list and opened up to visitors eager to see Edward’s bedroom, where most likely he was conceived as it was the master bedroom until just after his birth when an addition was put on the north side.
     Hopper House decided then to complete the long-overdue repairs, which was to include new wall work,  period molding, improvement of the fireplace hearth and paint. I got the job, and this volunteer spent about two weeks wonderfully enjoying the tasks.
     Each day, and some nights, it was inspiring to see the effect of both sunlight and moonlight in the room and to again realize that Edward, whose paintings are so very much about light, was obviously affected by constant nature in his bedroom. The birth of a great artist took place in this room, literally and figuratively.
     Repair work was made easier by a large table, perhaps 4 feet by 12, which Edward built in his Washington Square, New York City, studio to dry printed black and white line drawings from copper plate etchings. (Hopper House was given the table by Edward’s neighbor after the man, a professor, retired a few years ago. He had received it from Jo Nivision, Edward’s wife and fellow painter.) I was careful not to damage the rustic oak table, and it sure came in handy.
    The wall repair was quick enough, using drywall and a finish that mimics plaster. The moldings required extra work since we had to match them with what might have existed, or at least come close. I mixed this and that profile and hand-milled some pieces to achieve the desired result.
     In the end, the restored wall fits the original bedroom, itself the inspiring scene of several Hopper paintings. It may not be perfect, for I am but a volunteer craftsman, but I took pains to respect the house and the artist.
     No, I did not channel Edward Hopper, which might seem a temptation, especially when you are in the bedroom at 8 a.m. on a bright, sunny day and the light streams up Second Avenue through the large windows and onto the walls. But neither can you ignore the fact of his existence, his childhood and early adulthood in that room. As a writer, photographer and painter, I can call myself an artist, though that definition bears no resemblance to artist Edward Hopper. Yet if there is kinsmanship at all, it was a bit brotherly to be working in the great man’s bedroom.
     The writer is a retired newspaperman who long toiled for the original Journal-News at 53 Hudson Ave., Nyack. This essay recently appeared in the newsletter of the Nyack Historical Society. It may be reprinted. 
I

Sunday, February 15, 2015

OF SOUP& HUMANITY


By Arthur H. Gunther III
ahgunther@hotmail.com
     Here’s a story. A very human story. One that might remind you of your mom. And a cold day. And simple soup. And a complex world.
    We have been having old-fashioned winter in the Northeast, not as bad in New York State as in New England, but quite cold — single digits and enough snow to double the  effect. Not too bad if you have today’s central heating, a warm car with electric seats and a climate-controlled workplace. But not so good if you are homeless or otherwise stand in line at 7 a.m. waiting for a local volunteer breakfast program to open its doors.
     One recent Tuesday, during a storm that prevented five of the six volunteers from hitting super-icy roads in the wee hours so they could prepare breakfast and a bag lunch,  a line of hungry people formed outside United Church in Spring Valley, N.Y., where, since 1985, the Rockland Interfaith Breakfast Program has unfailingly served daily.
     So far in 2015, an average 100 people, sometimes as high as 150, queue up to eat what the cook of the day and the other volunteers put together. Tuesdays is always pancakes (pancake flour, brown sugar, honey, vanilla, eggs, milk, coffee);  Polish sausage (two-inch pieces, baked for 2.5 hours at 220 degrees in apple juice, with seasonings, sweetness); oatmeal (also flavored and with raisins, not boiled but simmered in a boiled mixture); and soup (might be canned mixed vegetable or minestrone, seasoned and simmered for two hours). There are desserts, juice, milk, coffee as well. Then the fellows and gals take a cold bag lunch.
     On the recent stormy Tuesday, only one of us was able to get in, and by luck, that was me. I could not prepare the fine lunches the ladies do (I have five girlfriends at RIBP, I am the only male Tuesdays). I also could not get desserts out, but I did do the pancakes, sausage and, most of all, the soup.
     This was a soup day if ever there was one, with temps at maybe 10, with most of the homeless sheltered overnight at the church in the Helping Hands program, also run by volunteers and Ya’el, the director. But not all the homeless chose to stay inside, as is the way with independent people who harden to adversity. We also had in line men and women who hoped to shape up for whatever shoveling or other work that local contractors might offer.
     So, it was very cold, the line to get in was long despite the storm, and awaiting them was nourishing, tasty food. But what was the hit of the morning? It was the soup, this time canned chicken rice simmered several hours with pepper and parsley plus other flavorings. The entire serving area was filled with the fragrance of that soup, that simple offering.
     I worked the ladle, and as the people came up and received a large foam cup of very hot soup, as the steam of that hit their chins, almost to a man and woman, their noses dropped to the rim and they took in the smell of the soup. In English, in Spanish, in Creole, you heard “thank you,” but it was as if these good people were not thanking the fellow ladling the soup, or the breakfast or overnight staff, but their moms.
     Just about all of us recall playing in the snow, walking home from school in February, horsing around with pals on a Saturday, and mom called us in — friends, too — for steaming tomato soup with noodles, or chicken soup with rice. Homemade, canned with seasoning and noodles added, whatever, the hot soup was proof that moms existed, for those lucky to have one. And affirmation that someone cared.
     That was the look on those men and women, in a small but significant, long-serving  volunteer food program that asks no questions, makes no judgment and does some good.
     The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at ahgunther@hotmail.com This essay may be reproduced. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

OF A FRIENDSHIP

By Arthur H. Gunther III

    Sometimes a person comes along as if the moment were a conversation with a plane passenger whom you’ve just met and who will soon move on to her own destination. Yet, however short the time, there is a connection that cannot be forgotten, though it is also not something you dwell upon. It is reassurance that life isn’t just about getting through things.
     That is what happened to me so long ago now, about 1970 when a newspaper colleague and I found we were often on the same assignment, she a writer, I a photographer. Town Board meetings can be long affairs, with downtime, and you shoot the breeze. Diana was an involved conversationalist, and we both began to look forward to exchanging thoughts. She listened, I listened, and the mutuality of that recognition of worth proved key to friendship. This wasn’t romance, the conversations, but the growing strength of expectation, of sharing words, was ardent in itself.
     Diana could enter sentences I began, and I hers, and that had happened to me only once before. It is a gift when there is such synchronicity, when there are goose bumps from the understandings made, the reaches into another being realized. It is a purring moment, like two friendly cats comfortable with each other. You cannot invent such relationship --  it just happens.
     A few months after our conversations, I would move from photography to the news desk and then on to editing and eventually editorial and column writing, and Diana would marry Al and move to New England for a very long and happy relationship. I would say we simply lost touch, though there never was any thought of keeping a connection, and except for two brief but sad greetings when her parents died some years back, I had not heard of or from Diana. Now I have.
     I am told by her brother, who was my school classmate, that Diana passed Feb. 1 after a long illness which even he knew little about. Diana apparently wanted no one to suffer with her, not surprising given the breadth of her compassion for others in those long-ago conversations.
     In my remembrance of her after I heard the news, I can hear the words, see the gestures, feel the human connection between two friends in a public meeting hall. You cannot underestimate having a special friendship forged in a moment, not celebrated much beyond that but somehow an eternal one. And I am eternally grateful, Diana.



     The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at ahgunther@hotmail.com.