2001-Present

Gillens-Sandy and I had known Anne and John Gillen ever since my early political days in AH. They had five children, three boys and two girls. The oldest two boys, John and Ken, played football for the U of I and eventually played a little pro ball. In about 1975, John was moved up to Neenah, WI the headquarters for Kimberly Clark. They bought a very large three-story brownstone house just off the lake. It had been the home for KC’s original Treasurer. John was in charge of national sales, which meant he personally had all the big accounts, like P&G, K Mart, etc. It was a big job, but John was never happy unless he ran things. It took him ages to get Kimberly Clark to go along with things like his plans to sell K Mart truckload quantities of pre packaged large bundles of product for sale in their parking lots. When John was 59 he decided to take early retirement and took out all of his retirement money in lump sum. He, with much help from Anne, started a telemarketing company in Neenah. For three years he lost money and he was almost broke. We visited him during these tough times. Finally his business started to click and he made some money. His strategy was to get, say P&G to give him a geographic area or other market sector where it did not pay for them to have a sales force. He would then call the potential customers by phone and through various means involving high tech and sending them samples by mail, sell them some of the product. He did this for many, many large companies and his people built up a relationship by phone with the customers. When we toured his operations he had almost twenty people working on a 3M-product line and they had access to 3M’s inventory records, etc. To make a long story short he grew this business from scratch to one that employed about 1200(now 1600) people in two locations in Appleton and Neenah. He became the largest employer in the area. Sales in excess of $2 billion. In about 2001 he sold the business for many millions of dollars to a large outfit from Omaha, Nebraska. Until very recently the Gillens owned four homes. The big one in Neenah, which they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars remodeling, etc.; an apartment on the lake in downtown Chicago, to which they made major renovations; a large A frame house in door county which they doubled in size; and finally a very nice large home in Sedona.

One day in the early am while we were in SCW we got a call from John to ask if we could come up to Sedona for lunch that day. He and Anne had some big news to tell us. We met at a very nice restaurant on Oak Creek and they told us that they had just bought a house the night before in Sedona and wanted us to be the first to see it. They had looked at a number of other homes, but none were right for them until they saw this one. They had been there for several days and were just about ready to leave without finding something. They had never been to Sedona before and when they saw it they just fell in love with it. Anyway we went out to see the house and it was in a gated section NW of town, built into a hill overlooking a large southern pine forest. It was gorgeous. Oh yes, almost as if it were an after thought, he told us they were selling the business to this Omaha outfit. He was going to stay on for a few years at a very good salary and then just fade away. We visited them often in Sedona, up in Neenah and in their Chicago apartment. We still have not seen their Door County home, but almost went up there this year. Maybe next summer. We have gone sailing on their boat in Lake Winnebago, attended their big 50th wedding anniversary party and done a lot of other things with them. Their health is not good these days and we have not seen them since spring of 2009. One of their recent projects is to build home for the Navajo Indians in New Mexico through the Gillen Charitable Foundation. The original idea was that the Tribe would match their funds. This has not worked out well. The Indians are very difficult to help for a variety of reasons.

Trip to Florida-2001-We knew our house in AZ would not be ready until late January because much of the furniture was not scheduled to arrive till then. Helen and Dale were wonderful and agreed to let the furniture people in whenever they had a load to deliver. Accordingly, since several of our close friends had only recently bought homes in Florida, we decided to visit them over a two-week period in mid January 2001. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale and drove to Naples. Stayed with Costigans in Winberry for a night or two. Played golf on their course and also visited their community’s gulf beach property. They had a boat that shuttled people over there about 20 minutes away. They had a very nice condo apartment right on the golf course. We then went to Torrences were we stayed two nights also. They were in a golf community called Kensington. Their home was a three bedroom one on the golf course also. It was furnished very nice. Had a good time with them and played golf at least once. Also got together for dinner with them and Costigans. From there it was not far to Drazba’s place in Vanderbilt Beach. Their house was of similar size to Torrrences and again on a golf course. We played golf there and also drove down to the gulf and went walking along the coast. From there we drove up to Venice and visited the Frerks . We were going to play golf, but it was too windy and cold. Went to an art show in town and also to church Sunday morning where we met someone else we knew, but I forgot their names. Finally, we drove up to Sarasota where we stayed with the Martensens on Siesta Keys. We did try to play golf once with them, but it was a bit windy and cold there too. It just started to warm up when we had to leave for the Tampa airport and back home. (Movies)

Jonathan’s Continental Divide hike-After Jonathan’s PCT hike he returned to the Seattle area and did not seek full time employment. We do not remember just what he did for the next couple of years, but his needs were very modest and he had saved money while working. He told us in early 2001 that he was going to hike the Continental Divide trail from Canada, near Glacier Park, to Mexico, at Antelope Wells, a very small border station in New Mexico. He started in May and completed it in October a total of about 5 months. This time he sent his own food packs from various places on the trail so we did not get involved in that process. His full diary of the hike is posted on his web site. We arranged to meet him on our way out to AZ in Pagosa Springs in central southern Colorado on October 3. To get there we had to cross Wolf creek Pass on Hwy 160. This is where the continental divide trail passes through. We got a couple motel rooms on the east end of Pagosa Springs on Hwy 160. We found Jon at a self-service laundry in town. On the next day we drove over to Durango and explored the area a bit. We also visited some of the hot springs around Pagosa Springs. On the third day we drove Jon up to the trailhead and he took off all-alone. We felt a little heavy hearted to see him go, but we also knew he was very experienced at this and took some comfort in that. We agreed to meet him in Antelope Wells in about six weeks.

One of the interesting things that happened to Jonathan on this next part of his trip was that he lost his camera in a van on a ride he accepted from the trail to Chana, NM. Jon called us and described the couple, etc. I called the school in Chana where they taught and the Superintendent was very cooperative and eventually tracked down the teachers who sent Jon’s camera to his next supply point. It was a small miracle. I sent the story to their local newspaper and they printed an article about it and it was on their local radio station. Antelope Wells is about 60 miles south of I 10 at the end of Hwy 81-a very remote area. Thankfully it had just been paved a couple of years earlier. We had left SCW very early in the am, but it took longer than we expected to get there. Finally we arrived around 2 pm and Jon had already been there for a couple of hours. The only thing there was a small border control building and one house. Across the border the road was dirt. There actually was a van coming north that was being inspected when we arrived.

We left shortly thereafter and drove north on Hwy 180 thru Silver City and then across the border to AZ and Eagar. From Eagar we drove east on Hwy 260 about 15 miles to the turn off for Greer, a very small town at the tip of a plateau overlooking the Mogollon Rim. The reason for this destination was that Jonathan’s former boss at Cypress Semiconductor in San Jose, CA and his wife had retired early and purchased a small resort on the outskirts of Greer. We arrived after dark, about 7 pm. We stayed with them in their big log cabin house. Had dinner that evening at their sports bar on the property. The next day we explored the place and left about noon for SCW, via Hwy 260 and Payson into Phoenix area from the NE. Jonathan stayed a couple more days in Greer, with his friends, and they drove him to Show Low where Jon caught a bus to Phoenix and we picked him up at the Greyhound station near the airport. Jon then flew back to Seattle after a few days. (Movies)

Fifth cruise-Alaska-2001-Sometime in 2000 we agreed with Martensens, Bostroms and Drazbas to take a cruise to Alaska. We did some research and eventually agreed to do it in August 2001 on the Princess Regal. Last cruise of the season for them. We flew to Vancouver, Canada and caught the ship there. It was just a seven-day cruise and we had a great time. The weather was very good, but that does not mean 70s or 80s. A lot of sun and no rain. Visited Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, and Sitka before returning to Vancouver. In land locked Juneau we went whale watching. Some of our gang took a helicopter up to the glacier. In Skagway we took the train up to the top of the pass and only road to Canada and Alaska Hwy. Glacier Bay was spectacular and rather cool near the glaciers. In Sitka Jack Drazba and I went salmon fishing early in the am and caught several nice salmon that we had shipped back home. Only problem was, the salmon they shipped us were not the ones we caught, or else they cut them up because we specifically tagged them to remain whole. Saw a few sights in Vancouver, B.C. also. What a lovely and scenic city. (Movies)

Terrorist attack 9/11/01-I remember going down to the kitchen to get some breakfast before heading off to a Labe audit committee meeting. It was about 8 am and the TV in the kitchen was on. Neither Sandy nor I could believe what we were seeing. One of the towers of the World Trade Center was on fire from a plane collision. At that time they did not know what was going on and thought it was just a horrible accident. There was a frantic attempt to rescue people high up in the tower. I watched for a while before driving down to Labe for our 9 am meeting. By the time I got to the bank the second plane had hit the second tower and a third plane had hit the Pentagon. Also they knew there was a fourth plane that was highjacked and headed for Washington, DC. They also knew that the high jackers were Muslim terrorists. Because we had a Muslim reading room/temple just across the street from Labe we put the entire staff on alert. Lowell Stahl, our chairman, gathered the staff to try to give them some words of comfort and assurance that we would do whatever necessary in case we were attacked. I tried to conduct our meeting, but after about 15 minutes I gave up and we adjourned so that everyone could go home or to their offices. I went home and Sandy and I just watched TV almost the entire rest of the day. The events were so horrific that we were in shock. Even the next day, Friday the 12th I believe, was sort of wasted because of what was on TV.

Mom Theisen dies (12/29/01) Shortly after Christmas, Ermie called and said Mom Theisen had passed away. She had been going down hill for some time and could barely recognize anyone. We had been up there that fall and we knew she could not hang on for long. We left the day after we heard the news. Five of her kids flew home and her funeral was planned for Saturday, December 29 in the nursing home chapel in Cold Spring. I gave a short eulogy and Harold read a poem he had written. There were maybe 50 or 70 people there. I cannot remember which of our children attended, but I think Margie and Tom came up. It was a difficult time of the year to travel although I think the weather turned out to be rather decent. Mom was buried in the St. Boniface cemetery right next to her husband and our Dad Steve. Ermie took care of all the arrangements as she had taken care of Mom’s affairs for many years while she was in the nursing home, etc. We are all eternally grateful to her for doing that.

Member/Guest Golf tourneys-Sometime around 2001, I started to invite son Steve to play in our Member Guest golf tournament at Rolling Green. This is a three-day event, but the first day is just a practice round and we did not play in it. Some years Suzanne and some of the kids came up with Steve and sometimes he just came alone. We had fairly good luck in this tournament and won our flight maybe three or four times in eight years. We never won the overall event. Many members and their guests got to know Steve fairly well over the years. Steve also invited me down to their club in Springboro to play in their Member Guest. Theirs was always in early June and ours was in mid July. Sandy always came with me to Dayton. At Rolling Green there was always a big cocktail, heavy hor ‘devours and dancing on Friday night and then a big sit down dinner with awards, etc and dancing on Saturday night. A similar routine was followed at Steve’s club-Sycamore Creek County Club. We only won our flight at Steve’s club one time-2007. These events were always a lot of fun. We did not play in 2009 because of my knee problems, but plan on doing so in 2010 and thereafter as long as possible.

Golf in SCW-After we bought our house in SCW I started to play a lot more golf. Maybe 4 or 5 times a week. I broke 80 three times and on the toughest courses we have. My all time best was a 76(42-34) on Trail Ridge. I was playing against Al Lundsberg and as we always did we played scratch for $1 a hole. I could do no wrong on the back nine and had seven pars and two birdies. The best I ever played at Rolling Green was an 83 which I felt pretty good about at the time. My lowest handicap in SCW was 16 and at Rolling Green a 19. In SCW I won my flight of the classics twice. The first time I won by one stroke on the 18th hole when I rolled in a 15-foot par putt. The other time there was no contest. Some years I came in 2nd, 3rd and out of the money a few times. Now in 2009 my handicap is around 25 and going up at both courses. My neuropathy is just too much to cope with and I can only hit a drive about 160 yards vs. about 220 only six years ago. So it goes. Still fun, but if I don’t play another round I will be satisfied with all the golf I played over the years.

Rolling Green SW Golf Tournament-Sometime around the year 2000 someone started a golf tournament for rolling green members living or vacationing in the Phoenix and Tucson area. This tournament was originally held at the Orange Tree County Club in northern Phoenix and then a couple of times at the Wigwam and the last two years at the Briarwood Country Club in Sun City West. Warren Hansen organized it for a few years and then a few years ago Bernie Gill and I sort of co-chaired it. Bernie and Ruth Gill had been members at Rolling Green some years ago and now live full time in SCW, but rent a condo in the AH area for a month or two in the summer. There are about 15 couples that participate, but we need new players because everyone is getting too old and have too many aliments. We had the same event in March 2010, but I don’t know how many more years.

Sixth cruise-Western Mediterranean and Vacation in Southern France- Although Jack Drazba had Parkinson’s disease for some time, he and Loretta wanted to go on a trip with us. We found it easy to pick a place because we had been to so many other places and already had plans to go to a few more. So in September 2002, we took a one-week cruise of the western Mediterranean aboard the Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas sailing out of Barcelona Spain and returning there. We also rented hotel rooms in Avignon France for about 5 days. In addition we stopped overnight in Carcassonne France and stayed overnight in the old walled city. Loretta and Jack came over a few days before us and stayed in Barcelona. We met on the ship as we went right there from the airport. Our first stop was in Monte Carlo. We took buses all over and saw everything we could, including the changing of the guard in Monaco. Next stop was on the Italian coast just west of Florence. Loretta and Jack took a tour to Florence and we took a tour of the Tuscany countryside because we had been to Florence. The highlight was a huge lunch at an Italian farmer’s house. From there we went down the coast to a port just west of Rome. Loretta and Jack had also been there like we had, so we just explored the coastal city and had a leisurely day doing that. The fourth day we docked at Naples. We all took a bus tour of the Amalfi coast and that was spectacular. Nothing quite like it anywhere we had been. The fifth day we went to Malta and just explored the main city there on foot. The sixth day was at sea and then back to Barcelona.

We had rented a car (suv) at the airport so we all went there and picked it up. Drove north then to Carcassonne and got there mid afternoon. We had to park outside the walled city because they only opened it up for a short while around five pm so people could drive into their hotels. All the hotels were very small and the streets were barely one way. I was the driver and when I went to park in the hotels car park I could not find it and had to back up on one of those narrow streets, which was loaded with people. They all helped me and finally I found it. From there we drove up to Avignon and amazingly found our little hotel in the outskirts of town. From there we made day trips to all parts around there including Marseilles. We had lots of fun bumming around. It was a good formula. On the last day we drove back to Barcelona and were to drop Drazbas and the car off at the airport. The only problem was that we got right next to the airport, but could not find a way in. Instead we got on a highway that took us to the northern part of Barcelona and then over to the coast. From there we could drive south to where the ship had been and follow signs to the airport. Thank goodness Drazbas did not miss their flight.

Sandy and I had made plans to stay in Barcelona a few more days and had a very nice hotel directly across the plaza from a big church. Little did we know that this weekend in September was the annual Santa Maria holiday for the Catalonia section of NE Spain. They had big parades that started at about 9 pm and went right past our hotel room until the wee hours of the morning. There was dancing, fireworks, etc. This went on for two of the three nights we were there. Fun, but tiring. We saw a lot of Barcelona including a bullfight, the last of the season. (Movies)

Fourth house and selling Palatine house-2003–We started to think of looking for a downsized home in mid 2003. Owning a house in SCW and taking care of this big house in Palatine was just too much. We looked all over and nothing seemed right. Either it was too expensive or too small. We wanted a master bedroom on the first floor. Then out of the blue, Alvina Schroll told Sandy that the widow living in a house just a few doors down from her was thinking of selling and moving to New Mexico to be near her son. She lived in a section of Lake Arlington called the Village. It has about 45 living units with 13 stand alone homes. We called the widow and she agreed to let us look at the house. She had not even contacted a real estate agent so had no idea what price she should ask. We liked the house because it had many features we were looking for. There already were four couples from Rolling Green living there. Anyway she finally said she wanted $450,000 for the house. Everyone we talked to said do not pay more than $400,000. Well she would not budge and we then talked to her son in NM. She finally settled for $435,000. It was a sellers market. We closed in November and moved in on December 8. We used Mayflower movers. Naturally we needed a bridge loan to close the deal.

Home at Lake Arlington

We still had not sold our Palatine home. We had put it up for sale in August and based on what our real estate agent friend Patty Ancona told us we started by asking $720,000. Well, we were selling it ourselves and got three unrelated offers for around $570,000 each. We declined each of them. Ours was the biggest house in Forest Estates and the other home sales sort of dragged the market down. We then listed the house with Patty Ancona and we told her it did not matter what she sold the house for as long as we would net $570,000. On Christmas Day Patty called and said we had sold the house. What a relief.

We closed in February while we were in SCW.

Seventh cruise to the Baltic Sea-2003-Sometime in late 2002 we got together with Torrences and Costigans to plan a Baltic Sea Cruise which we had tried to take several years earlier. We settled on the Regal Princess, same ship we did the Alaskan cruise on a few years earlier. This would be a ten-day cruise out of Copenhagen, Denmark. It was their last cruise of the season in August 2003. We all made our own flight arrangements, but stayed at the same hotel in Copenhagen. We flew on Polish Air via Warsaw, Poland. We met up with the Torrences at our hotel a day later and then met the Costigans on the ship. We saw a lot of things in Copenhagen, including the Tivoli Gardens. I had heard a lot about this place from my many Swedish friends and it was everything they said. Sort of a Disney world, European style.

Our first stop was Stockholm Sweden. I had made arrangements for a private mini bus and English-speaking driver. Well the bus seated about 20 people and the driver knew very little English. That morning Dave reported in sick and he and Nan stayed on board and after visiting the ship doctor, were quarantined for 24 hours. We got two other couples to share the bus and cost with us. We saw everything one could in one day in Stockholm. The weather was gorgeous.

Next was Helsinki, Finland. We also had a private car there, but this time there was an English-speaking guide with us. Dave and Nan joined us here. We had lunch at a very authentic Finnish restaurant and the guys all had osso bucco reindeer. It was delicious. We got to see the big Finnish icebreakers that were used to go to the Arctic Circle, etc. One interesting tid bit the guide told us about was that fines for traffic violations were based on ones taxable income. The police had access to your tax returns.

Next was St. Petersburg, Russia. We had two nights here. One day we went to Catherine the Great’s summer palace and had lunch at a very rustic Russian restaurant. Each table had a bottle of vodka, one white wine, one red wine and some seltzer. There must have been ten courses of very good and totally different food. We had a ball. Some people had too many “Na Zdorovia”s, which means “to your health”. The next day we toured the huge Hermitage Museum. We got in an hour earlier than the general public because it could get crowded. This was very impressive and we only saw a tiny bit of it. Too big. The first night on ship we had a Russian song and dance group for entertainment.

Next was Tallinn, Estonia. Very clean and quaint. From there it was Gdansk, Poland where Lech Valinska hailed from. They also had a very large completely brick church that they said held 25,000 people. It was a holy day of some sort and the church was crowded. The service was just finishing when we got there, but still it was interesting.

Our final destination was Oslo, Norway. It was an overnight trip there. Oslo was very clean and picturesque. We went to the top of their biggest ski hill, which is a big thing there. It must have been Sunday, because it was very quiet in the city.

Back in Copenhagen, we all went our separate ways. Sandy and I went to Zurich, Switzerland. The next morning we took a fast and very quiet train to Geneva and then another train to very near Zermatt, our main destination. There we transferred to a cog railway train for the climb up to Zermatt, where cars were not permitted. We got there early enough to take another cog railway train to the top of a mountain nearby where we had very excellent views and pics of the Matterhorn. Back in town it was both eerie and strange to find a small cemetery filled with unsuccessful climbers of the Matterhorn. Zermatt is very touristy, but colorful and quaint. The following morning we took the “top of the world” or “Snow train” from Zermatt to near St. Moritz where we transferred to a high-speed train back to Zurich. This top of the world train was very slow and went through countless tunnels high up in the Alps. It was very sceinic and well worth the time spent. From Zurich it was back home. (Movies)

Eighth cruise-Australia & New Zealand-2005-Sandy and I decided to take a cruise on the new Sapphire Princess out of Auckland, New Zealand in late January 2005. We were able to use Mileage Plus for this trip. We flew from Phoenix to LA and stayed with Patty and Charlie for a couple of days and then we were off to Sydney from LA. This is a very long flight-maybe 13 hours. Most of the flight was at night. We arrived in Sydney the second following morning because we lost a day going over the International Date Line. We walked from our hotel to the Opera House and it is quite a structure. Sydney is beautiful and very interesting. There is water all over. The next day, Sunday, we walked to their Catholic Cathedral for mass and low and behold we ran into Emily Costigan. We knew they were on a trip over there, but had no idea that we would run into them. John was climbing over the big bridge they have over the bay. As part of our pre-cruise package we went on a long cruise around the various bays of Sydney and just generally explored the city and suburbs.

On Monday, we left for the Sydney airport and our pre-cruise trip up to Cannes (3 hours north) where we stayed two nights and went out to the Great Barrier Reef. It was quite hot up there as it was in the middle of their ‘July’ and not far from the equator. The reef was a bit of a disappointment because a storm had riled the water up a bit and we could not see down as far as normal. Following day we flew back to Sydney and went right to the ship. It left that night amid much fanfare by the city of Sydney, because it was the maiden voyage for this fairly large ship. Maybe 3000 passengers, fireworks on the bridge and thousands of people lining the shore.

We next went to Melbourne, where we took light rail from the ship to downtown where we rented a private car there to see the sights. Even took a drive out west along the coast to see a very unusual coastline. Then on to Hobart, Tasmania, which is an island province south of the main part of Australia. We only spent about 6 hours there so only saw the market and a few sights all in Hobart. Then it was off to New Zealand and we sailed for two nights to get there. We started on the mountainous SW side of the south island and went into a few fjords. Very picturesque. Spent all day and overnight going around the island and then to Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington. Spent a day at each place and took train up into the mountains, visited a sheep ranch and also some pioneers’ mansions. There were a number of other sights and all was very interesting. Finally we got to Auckland and spent some time on the west coast at a very interesting beach of black lava. In Auckland itself we saw the very high tower (forgot name) where people bungee jump. No one did it while we wee there. We caught our plane late that day for San Francisco and then home. (Movies)

Children In Need-In mid 2005 we heard a talk given at mass in St. James Parish, by a young Indian couple about their work in India to help the poor in an area about two hundred mile SE of Hyderabad. Hyderabad is a major city in the center of India and has a population of 4 million. The couple’s names are Dr. Geetha Yeruva and Tom Chitta. They are devoting their lives to helping the poor people of SE India. She is a medical doctor in India and Tom is an engineer. They spend about 6 months each in India and the US. In India they have started and are maintaining about 20 different facilities, including schools, hospitals, medical clinics, nursing homes, food pantries and related projects. In the US they spend their time traveling to a number of major cities around the country, giving talks and recruiting more sponsors of children, etc. They do not engage in outright fund raising and asking for money. They have about 1500 sponsors of children. You can learn a lot more about them at www.fcindia.org

Sandy and I were both very impressed with what Geetha and Tom were doing and decided to become sponsors of a young man to help him go to school. His name is Shiva Prasad Reddy Eragamreddy or just Shiva for short. He writes us about twice a year. We gather from his letters that his is a very good student. He was 12 years old when we first became sponsors and, of course now is 17. His father is a very small farmer using leased land and his mother is a homemaker. He has two older sisters. Their family income is about $300 a year. Two pictures of him are below.

Shiva - Age 12

Shiva - Age 16

I also give Geetha and Tom rides to and from O’Hare whenever I can. They do not own a car and live in a house owned by St. James which is for future parish expansion. Over these last few years we have gotten to be good friends of Getha and Tom. One time I asked them what we cold do to help Shiva’s family and after some thought they said maybe we could buy a Brahman cow for them. They said the cow would stay in their house with them. Well when they went to India next time they found out that this would not be a good idea because the other villagers would be angry with them for having something that they do not have. They then said that it would be better to give the cow to the nursing home they run. It has over ten acres of land for the cow to graze on and a small shed for shelter. The caretaker and his wife would take care of the cow. I asked them what we should name her and the laughed heartily and said they do not name cows in India. I told them to name her Mary and they agreed. Next year they said someone else donated a cow so they now have two. Mary had a calf this year and we also bought another cow for them. They told us they could accommodate maybe ten cows and the nursing home would use all of the milk. They still have to buy some now.

Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary-In mid 2004 we started thinking about having a 50th wedding anniversary party or family get together in 2005. Our first thought was to just invite our immediate family. We had been to the Osthoff in Elkhart Lake, WI a couple of times before and thought it was a very nice and appropriate place. Just to be sure we did not overlook anyplace else, we took a trip up to the new Blue Moon resort on Lake Michigan in Sheboygan, WI. We also looked at the Olympia Resort in Oconomowoc, WI and Lake Lawn Lodge, the Grand Geneva and other resorts around Lake Geneva, WI. Everything considered it appeared that the Osthoff would be best. It has one, two and three bedroom apartments, was on a beautiful fairly private lake, had golf and just about everything else we could ask for. It was a bit farther away than Lake Geneva, but well worth it. We told the kids we were doing this and planning on maybe the last weekend of July 2005. All they would have to pay for was the cost of getting there. To our surprise some of the families had already made some plans for those dates and so we had to jockey the dates a bit, but we managed to work it out.

Everyone arrived on Thursday, July 28, 2005 and we had a great time. Golf, horse back riding, swimming in the lake and two pools, cruising the lake on a big pontoon boat, outdoor barbeque, tennis, sailing and a few other activities. The big finale was on Saturday night when we had a very nice dinner in a private dining room. The kids had decorated things up and Jonathan and Tom had prepared some slides to put up on a big screen. Jonathan took the last family portrait we have. Somehow he got back into the picture in time to be included. We also had his girl friend and future wife, Nancy Knowlton, with us. Charley’s mother, Margo Moser, also joined us. The only one missing was Charley’s son Christian.

The Family in 2005

We also had two other small 50th parties. One was at Rolling Green CC for about 40 of our best friends, other than the bridge club, about four weeks later. The other party was a very informal dinner after our annual bridge club golf outing. This was held at the Arboretum golf club in northern Buffalo Grove about two weeks later.

Right knee arthroscopic surgery-2005-During the member/guest golf tourney in 2005 I was really in pain from my right knee. I had problems with that knee off and on for years, but it always went away after a week or two. This time it was worse and I could hardly walk on it. At our closing dinner Dr. Mike Grear, an orthopedic surgeon told me to call his office on Monday and he would arrange for an MRI ASAP. He did this and told me that there was significant torn cartilage and arthritis. He thought surgery was needed. I was reluctant to have Dr. Grear do it for a variety of reasons. Kathy told me that she often worked with a Dr. Palutsis, an orthopedic surgeon with Il Bone and Joint Institute. She thought he was good and she also thought she could get me in very quickly. All this was true and my surgery was scheduled for late August. Before that though, Dr. Palutsis said I needed a basic physical from my internist, Dr. Marshall.

I could not get in with Dr. Marshall right away, but one of his associates saw me. She gave me a routine electrocardiogram and thought I should see a cardiologist. She recommended Dr. Spiegel at NW Community Hospital. He told me I had atria fibrillation (a fib) and put me on blood thinner and another heart medicine, Cartia, that was to help smooth the heart beat. Afib is where the heart beats irregularly and causes the upper chamber of the heart not to completely empty. This can cause clots and if they release it could cause heart attacks or strokes. We tried several treatments including medicine, cardio version treatments, etc. but nothing worked. I also met with a cardiac electro physiologist, from University of Chicago, Dr. Lyne, and he confirmed everything and said that there was a 50/50 decision as to whether I should have ablation. This is where they thread a small wire up into the heart chamber and cauterize the nerve causing the a fib. This works 75% of the time, but is not without risks and because my a fib was so mild we decided against it.

None of the above interfered with having my knee surgery, other than having to go off blood thinner for one week. Thus at the end of August Dr. Palutsis operated on me at Evanston Hospital. This was just out patient surgery so I went home from there with a big bandage around my knee and crutches. I healed fairly quickly from this and in about two weeks I even played golf with our bridge group, even though I only hit half strength shots. I did go through physical therapy for four weeks and that helped. The pain was gone and my knee was back to near normal.

Ninth cruise-South America-2006-Sandy and I had always wanted to visit South America and keeping with our thoughts that we might not get to travel like this in a few more years, we booked a trip on the Princess Regal to go from Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina, a two week trip. We used United Miles and had to go from Phoenix to Houston and then to Santiago. On the return trip we arranged to go from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janerio and then to Miami, Houston and back to Phoenix. We left toward the end of January and returned three weeks later around the middle of February. In Santiago, we rented a car and driver to visit the coastal cities of Valparaiso and via del Mar. These cities have populations of several million, but it is very seasonal. Santiago is the capital of Chile and has a population of several million. It is in a valley about 50 miles from the ocean and surrounded by beautiful mountains. One evening we met with a Chilean businessman and fellow Kellogg School graduate and he took us up into the mountains to his country club for a cocktail. He also took us to his house to see his two small children. All very interesting.

We sailed out of Valparaiso and our first stop was about 400 miles south (Chile is well over 2000 miles long and Santiago is about in the middle) at Puerto Montt. This is at the southern end of what they call the “Lake country” so we took a bus trip up into part of it. Very scenic. Next we sailed down toward our next stop Punto Arenas, the southern most city in Chile. This took two days and we went into various fjords along the way. We visited a penguin colony near Punto Arenas. We then sailed through the Magellan Straits and to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southern most city in the world. One of my teeth broke the day before we landed and the ship arranged with a dentist in Ushuasia to fix it on Saturday morning. The dentist’s assistant drove down to the ship and picked me up. The dentist was very affable and his assistant was our interpreter. He charged $65 for his work. His assistant took me back to the ship. The next day we sailed around Cape Horn. The Captain said this was the first time in maybe ten trips, due to bad weather, that he was able to sail around the island rock called Cape Horn.

Our next stop was the Falkland Islands. We were blessed with good weather and went to shore in tenders. One week earlier, a Holland American cruise ship sent passengers on shore and it took over two days for them to get back. There is absolutely nothing on these islands. Hardly a tree. We wondered what these people saw in living there. From there we went to Bahia Blanca, Argentina, a resort town on the Pampas. We bused out about one hour to a relatively small city/town for brunch and singing by local choral groups. From there it was on to Montevideo, Uruguay. We visited a cattle ranch where among other things they fed us a huge barbeque. There were a number of young children and their friends staying at this ranch. All rode horses and they came out to meet us maybe a mile from main road. The last stop was in Buenos Aires. We stayed there a couple of nights on our own. Visited a tango bar and show, Eva Peron’s grave, a steak house, etc. One of the moving sites was a square where maybe only twenty or so years ago a large group of women dressed in white, gathered and paraded peacefully at great risk of physical harm from the regime (many were arrested and punished, even killed), until finally the regime fell and more normal times returned.

We then flew up to Rio and stayed in the very nice Marriott Resort Hotel on the Copacabana Beach. We took a car and driver up to the Corcovado Mountain with it’s huge cross on top. The cross was built by the French for the help Argentina gave them years earlier. The views from this 2500 ft mountain were spectacular. One of the other main things we did was taking the tram up to sugar loaf peak. One tram goes to a midway point on top of a big rock and then the second tram goes all the way up. On the huge Copacabana beach they were setting up for the big concert on the beach by Mic Jagger.

We left Rio for Miami in the evening and arrived in Miami in the early am. While changing planes in Miami I tried to use my cell phone and I got a message that it had been disconnected. I called Verizon and was very upset with them. They explained that their monthly bill had been refused by our credit card. I reminded them that I had been a loyal customer for many years and why could they not wait at least a few weeks to find out why this was happening. They apologized and turned it back on. When I called Master charge to find out what happened they explained that there were some unusual charges on my account and when they tried to reach me they could not get through. Therefore they cancelled my card and issued a new one. I was furious and explained that we were gone and why couldn’t they have just put those charges into suspense until I got back. Lesson learned to call credit card before leaving on long trips. (Movies)

Nancy Stahl dies(11/18/06)-When we arrived at O’Hare from our fall stay in AZ, I got a cell call from Rita Shiltz, telling us that Nancy Stahl had died on Saturday, two days earlier. She had a heart attack at their home in Florida. What a shock this was to everyone. She and Lowell had been married maybe 45 years and we got to know her fairly well in the ten or so years we knew her. She was about 70 years old. The funeral was big.

Loretta Drazba dies (11/28/06)-Also when we got home in AH we learned that the Drazbas had also just returned from Florida. We knew that Loretta had been ill, but she never told us how ill she was. She checked into Northwestern Memorial Hospital immediately and we drove Jack down to see her as soon as we could. She looked to be in bad shape and we only stayed maybe ten minutes. Jack spent a little more time with her alone. She had cancer over most of her body. A couple of days later their daughter in law, Shirley called and told us Loretta had died. We had known Drazbas for over 30 years and had done many things with them. She was about 75 years old. Loretta was one of Sandy’s best friends. This was a very sad funeral. I and Kay Sweeney gave brief eulogies. I was also a pallbearer. It was cold out and there was snow and ice on the pathway we had to carry the casket.

SCW Choir-Many times when we went to church in SCW, someone would come up to me and say that I had a good (loud) voice and should be in the choir. We had really enjoyed the choir and it was good. I had some misgivings, but in January 2007 I finally called the choir director, Mike McGraw, and made arrangements for a try out. One of the songs I sang was Oh Lord It’s Hard to be Humble. He told me I could come to their next practice, but I should wait a few weeks before joining the choir at mass. Anyway, I made it and have been singing with them ever since. Mike is a very talented guy. He has perfect pitch, knows and can sing all parts of every song we sing from memory, is very religious, speaks at least three languages and has a great sense of humor. At first he was on my case for singing too loud, but I have adjusted. The choir members are all fairly experienced and music smart. I enjoy the singing a lot. We practice for two hours every Thursday evening and then it takes about two hours each weekend on either Saturday eve or Sunday am.

Neuropathy-In 2007, I had a routine physical from Dr. Marshall and told him I had developed foot drop within the past year. He said he thought I had neuropathy and should see a neurologist. I went to see Dr. Adajar and she confirmed that I had Peripheral Neuropathy in both legs and that there was no cure for it. Only hope that it does not get any worse. She did all sorts of electrical shock testing, etc. At the second visit she said there was nothing more she could do for me. In addition to foot drop by now I could tell my balance was not real good and I was losing strength in my legs. She agreed that I should try to see another neurologist, preferably one that specialized in peripheral neuropathy. I did a little research and found a Dr. Allen at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. I have seen him maybe three times and taken a lot of additional tests, but still he has no treatment for me. I have now contacted a doctor at the Barrows Neurological Institute in Phoenix and have an appointment with him on Tuesday, January 5, 2010. In the meantime I have increased my physical therapy, but I think the weakness is getting worse. I can still play 18 holes of golf, but not very well and not very often. If this continues I don’t know how much longer I will be able to play golf. I am also trying to reduce my weight from 230 lbs to 200lbs in the next few months.

Kurt Bostrom dies-May 2007-We had just gotten home from AZ when we heard from Bob Bostrom that his father, Kurt, had suffered a massive stroke of the brain in southern Illinois while he and Elle were driving home from Florida. He was in the hospital in Carbondale, but the prognosis was dire and they soon pulled the plug and let him die peacefully. This funeral was also very sad. We all knew that Kurt was living on borrowed time and we always kidded him that he was the bionic man. He had both knees replaced, prostrate cancer, a pace maker for congestive heart failure, shoulder replacement, shingles, etc. Kurt was a talented athlete in his younger days. I, and his long time buddy, Ralph Lindgren, gave eulogies. How painful it was to have lost two very close and dear friends within such a short period of time.

Karen and Kim move to Portland, OR-2007–Early in 2007 Karen told us that she was planning on moving out of the Hammond area. She had graduated from Purdue at Calumet University the year before and had tried a year at teaching, but decided it was not for her. That summer she worked for Russ at his office in downtown Chicago. At first she thought she might move to Phoenix, but later in the summer she decided to move to Portland, OR. Kim had just graduated from high school and decided to go with her. Karen had put her house up for sale early that year and had a few nibbles. Late that summer she had a buyer who had been pre qualified for a mortgage and it looked like the sale would close on September 30. That was the day that Karen and Kim decided to move. At first she was going to rent a truck and I would drive with her. Thankfully she changed that later and hired a moving firm. As the closing was approaching, I kept asking Karen’s real estate agent what was going on and if everything was set for the closing. He was a bit vague about everything and in the end it turned out that the buyer’s bank backed out of the deal a day or two before the closing. They claimed that the appraisal was not based on comps in Karen’s appraisal area. This was true because there were no sales to use from her area. Anyway, apparently that gave the bank a way out and they took it. The RE market was just starting to change about then. Karen had the house listed at $95000, which was realistic then. We were to leave for AZ in a few days so we just had to leave the house vacant as it was.

Nancy and Jonathan wedding (11/13/07)-On our way out to AZ in early October 2007 we decided to fly via Portland to visit Jonathan, Nancy, Karen and Kim. One night we had dinner with Nancy and John and they announced that they had become engaged and were going to get married in November. They said at first that they might get married someplace in the Caribbean and most of Jon’s siblings thought that was just fine and they would be there. This was not what Jon and Nancy had really planned. They wanted a very simple quiet wedding ceremony and then said they were going to Hawaii to get married-alone. No family or friends would be present. That was fine, even though in our family it was unusual. We settled on getting them to fly to Chicago after their wedding and we would host a small reception of friends and family for them at Rolling Green. Everything turned out just fine and several of our family from Minnesota attended. There were maybe 75 people in all. We had a great time. We had a small combo for background music. This was on the same weekend as Thanksgiving, so the immediate family swarmed all over Kathy and Russ’s place for a big turkey dinner. There must have been 25 of us there. (Movies)

Knights of Columbus-In October 2007 a neighbor and good friend of Ermie and Wille by the name of Don Fitzgerald, was killed in a golf cart accident at the corner of RH Johnson and 128th street. We knew Don a little bit. He was very active in the KCs and other things. He was a retired lawyer from Milwaukee. At his funeral there was a huge turnout of Knights. I was impressed with the color guard and drill team and decided to look into getting back into the Knights. I had gone through the first degree many years ago back in Arlington Heights, but dropped out when I did not like the initiation for second degree. I checked into it and before long in January of 2008 a couple of guys showed up at our house and I signed up. It was no big deal and soon after that I was going to the initiation in Glendale for 2nd and 3rd degree. It had changed a lot over the years and I thought it was handled very well. I asked about the fourth degree and before I knew it, on April 12 Sandy and I were headed to Tucson for a weekend of 4th degree initiation, dinner, etc. By the fall of 2008 I was in the color guard & drill team. They don’t fool around with waiting periods, etc. when you get to be our age. I had to buy all the clothes for this and the sword, etc. I had my first performance in early 2009 and when I got half way there I realized that I forgot my sword so had to rush back home and got there late. It was a big deal being the 50th anniversary of a popular priest’s ordination over in Sun City. The fourth degree knights belong to what is called an Assembly. This includes several councils like the one in SCW for all Knights. I have now been in a number of “call outs” as they name the times when we dress for color guard and drill team. The Knights are mostly guys who have been in the KC for many years back up north. I am a true new kid on the block.

Ireland-2008-Our granddaughter Margie and Tom’s Johanna was going to school at the University of Minnesota. She was a sophomore and had the chance to spend a semester in Ireland. We had never been to Ireland so naturally we saw this as an opportunity. In late April, we flew to Dublin, Ireland via Chicago. We used a travel agency in Ireland for part of our trip while in Ireland. They also got our hotel for us. We met Johanna at our hotel on day of arrival, after we had taken a short nap. Went to dinner at a pub and had fish and chips with Guinness beer. Johanna had final exams for the next few days, so we went on our tour of SE Ireland arranged by our travel agent. Somehow we also saw Johanna’s apartment, which was very modern and almost cleaned out because she and her roommates had to leave by the end of April. We took a train to Killarney and stayed there for three nights or so and during the day toured the Dingle Peninsula, Ring of Kerry, Blarney Castle, etc. When we got back to Dublin Johanna stayed with us in our hotel room. We took a city bus tour and visited the huge Guinness brewery among other things. The next day Johanna went with us to the airport. She was going to Denmark and Sweden for a few days to visit friends and then when she returned to Chicago we were just coming back from Arizona and we met her at O’Hare. She stayed overnight with us and then she went back to Minneapolis. (Movies)

Jackie Lundsberg dies-May 2008-When we got back from AZ we got a call from Al Lundsberg who was in St. Louis, MO. He said that Jackie had a massive heart attack while they were driving back from AZ. and died. Al told us that Jackie was not feeling well in AZ and he tried to get her to a doctor out there, but she said she wanted to wait until they got back home. Jackie was a good friend and golfing partner of Sandy’s. They had a house in Sun City and we got together with them every so often to golf and have dinner. It was a total shock to us. They had a lot of friends in Park Ridge and the NW suburban area. They were members of Rolling Green

Fourth European Vacation-Croatia-2008-We and the Costigan’s had made plans back in early 2008 to visit Croatia on a Vantage tour in October 2008. Torrences had originally planned to go with, but they changed their minds. This time we flew together on United Airlines. Vantage usually sells their tours with air included and at very reasonable rates. We flew first to Frankfurt and then to Ljubljana, Slovenia, the capital. Then by bus for an hour or so NW to Lake Bled. This is a very scenic place on a relatively big lake. We stayed there maybe three nights with side trips up into the mountains near Austria. We then bused to Zagreb, Croatia, with a few hours stop in Ljubljana. In Zagreb, capital city of Croatia, we toured the whole city and found it very delightful. We stayed at a top-notch hotel. From there we bused down to the Adriatic Sea shore and a very nice resort city on the NW coast. We took tours of the surrounding countryside, all of which was mountainous and scenic. We worked our way down the coast and made two more overnight stops before getting to Dubrovnik on the SE coast. One of the highlights of this city was our going out into the country to have dinner at some local homes. They were all musically inclined and we joined in. Good times by all. We flew back from Dubrovnik to Frankfurt and home. About a two week trip. (Movies)

Acapulco, Mexico-December 2008-Maybe a year or so earlier, Lowell Stahl had announced that he was going to celebrate his 75th birthday by having a party in Las Brisas, Acapulco, Mexico. Sandy and I had never been there and naturally agreed to go. Lowell picked up all the expenses except for the air fare. We had to fly via Houston on the way down and via Mexico City on the way back. We were housed in a large villa with several other couples. Las Brisas is a gated area on a mountain overlooking Acapulco. It is totally developed with villas large and small. Our villa hosted the first night’s dinner for all of the 60 or so guests. There was dancing to a Mexican band and professional dancers trying to teach some of us (not me) how to do Mexican dances. We had a complete staff at our villa and anything we wanted 24/7 was available to us. Our room was no.1 and right across from the large pool. The view was overlooking the whole city and the bay and ocean. The next day we golfed at the Princess golf courses. Then we had dinner at our villa with the other occupants. The following day we had a small bus take us to the cliff divers on the ocean side of Acapulco. That night there was a big BD party at the top of the mountain in a very large villa. Actually out on the large patio. We had a band, etc. Rita Schiltz had asked me early on to sing Oh Lord It’s Hard to Be Humble. We got a big Mexican wrap and hat for me to use and the band picked it up right away. I guess it was successful. They had even arranged for fireworks to be shot across the bay for Lowell. The next day it was back home via Mexico City and much walking inside this very large airport to get from the domestic side to the international area. (Movies)

Tenth Cruise on the eastern Danube-We had never been on a river cruise, but had heard a lot about them-all good. Costigans and us were joined by two of Costigan’s friends, Kelly and Art Leisten. Art was general counsel of Borg Warner and that is how John met them. We planned this for May 2009, partly because of my planned knee surgery and because we did not want to miss so much of the golf season. This was a Vantage tour and we flew to Bucharest, Romania via London. There we toured Bucharest and then headed about one hour south to the Danube, where we boarded our Explorer riverboat. There were only about 180 passengers so it was cozy and we got to sort of know everyone. There was always open seating so that was nice. Food was great. We headed east for the Black Sea for our first stop. The Black Sea is called that because it is basically a dead body of water with very little oxygen and very few fish. We then went back west to a stop in Bulgaria. Our bus trip inland to some cities was very interesting. We did not know that Bulgaria was a very poor country. It did not seem that way. Romania is not too well off either. Both, and all countries in the region, are still suffering from decades of communist rule. We were depressed with the many factories and apartment buildings that were abandoned and all shot up (literally). We next stopped in Croatia and the highlight was a visit for lunch at a local B&B. Only eight of us were there and we found the owner very interesting. He had spent a number of years in a sort of concentration camp when they were invaded. He was lucky to be able to return to the family home, which had been trashed by the occupying forces. He was able to borrow enough money from the local bank to fix it up and he now has a thriving business. From there we went through some locks and a mountainous area called the Iron Gate Gorge. We also went through the northern part of Serbia including a stop in Belgrade. I am skipping some of the sights we saw because of time and length. We ended up in Budapest, Hungary. Did a little touring there and flew back home via London again. (Movies)

Left knee arthroscopic surgery-I began having a lot of trouble with my left knee sometime during the winter of 2008-9. I had a hard time playing golf and on several occasions I had to quit before finishing the round. I went to an orthopedic doctor in SCW and he took cat scans and confirmed what I guess I knew all along and that was that I had a lot of arthritis and torn cartilage in this knee. I even got some cortisone shots and that helped a little. I called Dr. Palutsis back in Glenview and made an appointment to see him. He confirmed everything and we scheduled surgery for as soon as I got back from our trip on the Danube. Had the surgery on Tuesday June 9th. Everything went just fine, but it took a lot longer to recover than it did four years earlier. In fact I did not feel 100% until about August. As a result of this and my neuropathy I did not play much golf in the summer of 2009. Maybe I averaged once a week and sometimes that was just nine holes with Sandy.

Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks-On Thursday, October 29th Sandy and I drove up to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in southern Utah. We had never been there and have heard so much about it that we just had to go. Helen and Dale were going to go with us when we had it planned for one week earlier, but Sandy was still not over her cold, which she got after our trip out here via Portland. It was 400 miles to Zion and we had not realized how far it really was and that we had to drive through some mountainous roads with switchbacks, tunnels, etc. to get there. The park is truly beautiful with many, many peaks of shear rock and various colors. Also because the season was over we were able to drive up the main canyon about 6 miles through all of this beauty. Very impressive. We had made Springdale, which is at the southern end of the park, our base for this trip, but then realized that we would have to drive through those mountains three more times to get home so we moved the next day to Kanaba UT which we had driven through on the way up. On Friday we drove up to Bryce Canyon, a little over an hour north on Hwy 89, and it too was beautiful, but almost the opposite of Zion in that we drove high up on the plateau to look down at the canyon. At the south end of the park, about fifteen miles from the entrance, we got to the end of the road at 9100 ft. The canyon is 8000 feet deep and it was tough to see the bottom because of all the outcroppings, etc. There was snow up there and it was a beautiful day. Windy at times though so my movies are filled with that some of the time. On the way back to Kanaba we drove west of there to the Desert Pink Sand Dunes, a state park. These were large sand dunes formed over ions of time from the sandstone bluffs to the SW. They allowed four wheelers and motorbikes there and it was neat to watch them rides the crowns, etc. We saw a lot of mule deer and open range cattle on this part of the trip. We also stopped at the Glen Canyon Dam on the way back on Saturday. Many people do not realize that this dam, which forms Lake Powell and is very remote, is actually in Arizona, right by the town of Page. (Movies)

Meeting Phil and Jo Arendt-On about February 4, 2010, I got a telephone call from a childhood friend of mine, Phil Arendt. Phil and his wife Jo were still living in Fresno, CA where we last saw them in 1969 on our California trip (see above). I had seen Phil one other time in maybe the early 1970s when he was visiting Chicago on business. We had dinner near Aurora. Phil and Jo were planning on coming to AZ to visit his sister Janelle, who was and is in an assisted living facility in Peoria, near the end of February. Janelle was married late in life and she and her husband lived in Sun City back in 1998 when we were renting in SCW for the first time. They came over to our house to visit for a couple of hours. Phil was one year behind me in school and we were very good childhood friends. He had an older brother Bob who was a dentist in Alexandria and married to Rose while he went to school in St. Louis. Phil had four older sisters, Alice, Renee(who married Don Bober from Watkins), Janelle and Mary. All four girls went to Mount Mary College near Milwaukee. When I was the business manager of the St. John’s Chorus, I had to go to Milwaukee to arrange for a concert and I looked up Janelle and we had a cocktail at the Schroeder Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. Our families were very close. Other than Janelle, none of Phil’s siblings are living.

Anyway, Phil called toward the end of February, and we arranged to get together for dinner and did so. It was wonderful to see them once again. We promised to stay in closer touch. There was so much more to talk about that we did not get to at dinner.

 

 

 

 

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