Thursday, May 29, 2008

Memorable Day

Memorial Day 2008 was memorable for many reasons.

As many of you have heard, an F5 tornado (more pics here) ripped through Parkersburg, Iowa (30 miles north of our home) and destroyed 350 homes in a town with a population of 2,000. We saw reports of the storm almost immediately after it hit from the Channel 13 helicopter. It was stunning to see the immense destruction, the loss of life (5 in Parkersburg, 2 in New Hartford), and the grieving of the community's residents. Then, something amazing happened... Teenagers came out in droves to help their friends, family, and neighbors. Surrounding communities gathered in prayer and then met to determine how they could help. Inspirational stories of hope and determination flooded the local papers and tv stations.
On Monday, I had the honor of organizing the Memorial Day Program at the Iowa Veterans Home. About 200 people crowded into the event space for a brief program, singing, and saluting. Then, we marched down to the Veterans Cemetery on the grounds where a resident laid the memorial wreath, participants placed pine boughs on the some of the 2,500 graves, and Taps was played. It was during Taps that this resident bowed his head in memory of his fallen comrades. The whole experience was so moving.

The Power of Pictures

Photos offer glimpse at life in 1940s small-town Iowa
POSTED: May 29, 2008 DES MOINES — He spent his entire savings of $12.50 on the 35 mm Argus AF camera in 1939 and for four years documented life in the small Iowa town of Ridgeway. But it wasn’t until he was diagnosed with cancer more than 60 years later that Everett Kuntz actually printed the more than 2,000 snapshots — church picnics, his mother husking corn, soda fountain scenes from the town’s drugstore. Although Kuntz died in 2003 at age 82, the University of Iowa Press has published dozens of his photos in a book, ‘‘Sunday Afternoon on the Porch.’’ ‘‘People thought he was kind of funny,’’ said Kuntz’s wife Helen. ‘‘He took all those pictures and didn’t even have the money to print them.’’ After Kuntz bought the camera, he carried it with him everywhere, clicking away during town gatherings, lazy afternoons on a neighbor’s porch or even standing before a table piled high with his family’s Sunday dinner. He built a camera case using an old boot and a clasp from his mother’s purse, and he bought movie reel film in bulk. He rolled his own film and developed it in a closet on his parents’ farm. The 350 residents of Ridgeway took to calling him ‘‘Scoop.’’ ‘‘There are some (photos) in which he seems to have captured so much in one shot, maybe partly by accident,’’ said Jim Heynen, who wrote vignettes to accompany the photos in the book. ‘‘They remind people of what you might see in an old collection of family albums from the 1940s.’’ Heynen described pictures depicting ‘‘chiseled-looking prairie people’’ and a ‘‘community gathering spot along the creek with homemade ice cream.’’ Kuntz left Ridgeway after college, married Helen, had three children and worked as an electrical engineer in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. He took his photo collection with him — neatly packed in a box and still unprinted — and told no one about it. After being diagnosed with cancer, Kuntz pulled out the box and developed his photographs. His final months were spent looking over his collection and reminiscing about old times. ‘‘He was emotional,’’ said Kuntz’s son David. ‘‘You could see it in his eyes that it brought back memories.’’ One particular photograph seemed to interest Kuntz more than the others, his wife said. It showed his parents harvesting on their farm — his father carrying stalks of oats and his mother driving a team of horses. ‘‘He stared at that one for 20 minutes,’’ Helen Kuntz said. ‘‘In those last months, it all came alive for him.’’ His fondest memories of Ridgeway are captured on film. Like wading along the sandy Turkey River, or the day he walked past the railroad as workers laid down track with shovels and hammers. It’s a nostalgic collection Kuntz’s family cherishes. His wife has several photos on display at her home in the Twin Cities suburb of Mounds View, as does his son David at his law firm in St. Paul. ‘‘I kind of have tears,’’ Helen Kuntz said, pausing to compose herself. ‘‘It’s a fun tribute to him. ... It would have been such a blessing if he could have seen this book.’’ The photos represent more than her husband’s legacy. For Helen, it’s a reminder of the way America used to be — a lifestyle it should strive to rediscover. ‘‘The idea of family is reflected there,’’ she said. ‘‘Friends and the simple life.’’
[I will be adding this to my bookshelf soon]

Friday, May 16, 2008

My Other Office - Part 2

This is the front entrance to the Iowa Veterans Home, which sits on 150 acres on the Iowa River. The Home was founded in 1887 and is now the second largest state-owned veterans home in the country. We serve approximately 725 residents between the ages of 28 and 101. Our residents range in accuity level, from skilled nursing and dementia care to domiciliary care (independent living). Since I started in December, I've only seen snow and mud; but spring is a glorious time here on the grounds.
Yesterday, the 21st Annual "Jerry's Barnyard" event took place in the courtyard. There were 15 different animals for residents, staff, and local school kids to enjoy.
My job also takes me to some less-than-desirable places, too. Last week Governor Culver signed legislation that provides funding for infrastructure improvements at our facility and also for the state's maximum security prison in Ft. Madison. So, my boss and I drove down for the bill signing in Ft. Madison and got a tour of the facility. This photo was taken by John Gaines of the Associated Press (we weren't allowed to take cameras in). We were standing in the area of the prison built in 1839 (solitary confinement) where the worst of the worst in our state judicial system sit in their cell for 23 hours a day. It was incredibly moving to see such young men (average age is 28) so lost and without a shred of hope or humanity. I stood on the other side of the glass and iron wall and could see their empty eyes. I will never forget that experience.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Movable Cold

DD graciously shared her cold with me. This stuff is awful! Fever for a few days, cough, chills, headache...yuck!

The weather and illness cleared enough for her to play soccer last week. The girl has a ways to go in the coordination department.

Sam was de-clawed and neutered last week. We all took pity on the poor kitty and treated him well while he recuperates.

We lost a dear friend last week. After nearly a year of health issues, Frances H passed away. I have never known a kinder, gentler, more genuine person. What a blessing it was to call her friend.

Earth lost an angel but heaven gained a saint.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Birthday Girl

DD celebrated her 7th birthday last weekend with a slumber party, dinner at Pizza Hut, movie night to see "Nim's Island", and a terrible cold.

DD and O at Pizza Hut. DD didn't even want a birthday cake, but I talked her into these (so adorable) cupcakes:
DD and O play Simon Says to wear off some of that energy (didn't work):
Dancing and jiving to "Bratz" movie soundtrack - - still had lots of energy:
And, this is DD on Sunday morning with a 102.7 temp. She was definitely out of energy. She slept most of Sunday and my mom came over Monday to sit with her. Slowly, but surely, she's getting back to normal.