Saturday, August 31, 2019

Some Special Individuals and Couples that Enriched Our Lives

When you reflect on your life’s journey, the larger groups of friends you make are very important, but the individuals and couples that float through our life experiences are no less important…and often make life even more interesting. Like umami (savory, the 5th taste perception) in the culinary world, we can richly enhance our lives when we appreciate those individuals and couples that dance and weave their way through our life’s journey. Reflect on those people and what they have added to the spice of your life. I’ve already introduced you to several groups of friends that helped create “the tasty and hearty soup stock base” of Susan’s and my life, so here’s a few of those many individuals and couples (in no particular order) who have further enriched us with their unique additions.

Diana Circle with flowers for Susan, May 2019

Diana Circle – Diana was one of Susan’s first friends in Roseburg. Susan met Diana when they both enrolled at UCC and the two of them became quite close. Although we faded in & out of contact with Diana, she was always there for Susan. When Susan was diagnosed with cancer, the two of them would play cards during chemo sessions and often at our house. Diana had both Respite and Hospice Care experience and Susan requested that only Diana and I be at the hospital when she went into Comfort Care. I will be forever thankful to Diana for helping ease Susan through those final weeks into her passing, bringing flowers and a constant, bright smile into the hospital room every day. Also Diana was instrumental in keeping me sane & focused (on Susan’s needs and comforting) during that difficult time.

Dan & Cheryl Yoder – Susan was on both Dan & Cheryl’s hiring committees at UCC and they bought a house just a mile away from us up the North Umpqua. Over the years we became much closer and made several vacation/adventure trips with them. Cheryl & Susan played cards together often during Susan’s last two years and Dan & I worked together on several “house/yard” projects. We both thoroughly enjoyed the Yoder’s company and they became really close family members to us. Susan’s & my last trip together (out of state) was with the Yoders to Kaua’i and the big island of Hawai’i in the fall of 2018. Dan & Cheryl have been very helpful and attentive to keeping my spirits up after Susan’s passing. I am extremely fortunate & grateful to have them as such an important part of Susan’s and my life.
The Yoders with us at the most southern point of the U.S. (on the Big Island, Hawai'i) Sept. 2018

Susan and Kari on the Pacaya volcano in Guatemala Nov. 2016
Kari Kroll – Susan always referred to Kari as her favorite niece (Jerry & Barb’s daughter). Over the years the two of them were always close and just enjoyed being together. Kari has recently become very interested in baking breads so, of course, she & I have become baking buds online. Kari has been with us and her folks on several long trips and was always great company (as well as very entertaining with her entertaining stories and positive outlook on life). On our cruise through the Panama Canal in 2016, Kari proved herself to be enthusiastic, willing to take on challenges, and able to deal with difficult situations (and people). All the while, she actively enjoyed and reveled in every moment of her life–always looking for (and finding) the positive component of any situation. Although we had often seen glimpses of these qualities in her, that cruise really proved to me that these were all solid components of Kari’s core personality.

Susan’s siblings – Joe & Elsie Graf were the proud parents of 5 children. Two older brothers and a younger sister & brother were together on the dairy farm with Susan as they all grew up outside of Shell Lake, Wisconsin.

(L to R) Mark, Mary, Jerry, Susan, Dale at Shell Lake in Dec. 2005

     Dale was the eldest and set a high bar for the Graf children’s academic standards. Unfortunately Dale also was not too interested in the hard work/tedious chores involved with life on the dairy farm. According to Jerry, Dale would intentionally botch various chores or do them so poorly that Joe would have Jerry do them. Dale eventually moved to Chicago, married Lee and among other things became heavily involved with the German club…I think it was because he collected and cataloged beer memorabilia. Although Dale died of diabetes at too young an age, he relished every day, was a master at the quick quip or retort,  and never sat around wondering what to do next. I’m glad I got to know him at least a little bit before he passed away.

       Jerry – Susan’s immediate older brother took an early retirement from teaching high school mathematics and became an avid golfer and fly fisherman. He married his high school sweetheart Barb and she worked with special needs children in the Minneapolis school system until she retired a few years after Jerry. They have been out to the West Coast several times to visit and travel with us and we always stayed with them while visiting family in the mid-west. They are great traveling companions and we made several “trips of a lifetime” with them. Jerry was instrumental in the construction of the Dragonfly Den (and we were both always under Susan’s direct supervision during that project). Both Jerry and Barb are “can do” personalities and I am always in awe of their goals and accomplishments. They both truly embrace the concept of living every moment to its fullest.

     Mary – Susan’s younger sister became a dental hygienist and married Gene Harrington who has just recently retired from serving as a judge in the Wisconsin Judiciary system. Mary took an early retirement from the dental health industry and since then has consistently volunteered with several organizations to provide care and services to people and areas with limited health and human resources. Her easy laugh and dedication to helping others is a tremendous inspiration to those around her and those receiving help. Gene’s knowledge of the law, appreciation of fairness, respect (for those deserving it), and excellent common sense has been a bright star in the in the Wisconsin court system. Those great attributes, plus the willingness to smile and enjoy the moment will be sorely missed in the judiciary realm of the Badger State.

     Mark – Susan’s younger brother and his wife Lee Ann live in Burlington Wisconsin. Mark was instrumental getting me started with the WFO (he was a master mason and instructor with the Wisconsin Masonry union). Both Mark & Lee Ann are very relaxed and although we didn’t see them very often, whenever we got together it always seemed that we hadn’t missed a day. Both of them love to ride motorcycles...specifically Harley-Davidson bikes. It was always amazing to me to hear of their efforts to locate & rent a Harley on their vacations. Mark was diagnosed with Celiac disease a few years ago, which keeps me from sending them loaves of bread over the holidays. On an upbeat note there, Mark had introduced me to several very tasty gluten free beers and they are both doing very well with all the gluten free products on the market right now. Mark and Lee Ann are definitely the kind of people you would want as close neighbors and friends. I am lucky that I’m now family with them through my marriage to Susan.

June 2008, all the siblings (True Grafs) and spouses

Shore excursion in Costa Rica, Dec. 2016 on our Panama Cruise.
Grant & Sandy Thurston – We first met Grant & Sandy in Seattle just before we moved to Oregon. They moved to Portland and we continued on to Roseburg. Grant got a job that brought him through Roseburg several times a year and he’d stop by to play cards. When The Ten Friends started having our Christmas Dinner in Portland, Grant & Sandy would join in the Friday night pre-event. Susan & I also enjoyed spending long weekends at their shared cabin above Cougar, WA on Swiftwater Reservoir by Mt. Saint Helens. Their kids Geoff & Stacy always treated us like their aunt & uncle and made us feel like part of the family.

The Kraby's 50th anniversary Alaskan cruise

Jim & Pat Kraby – We met the Kraby’s at the first Wok party. They lived just across the street from Lynn & Tony Kuhn. Jim had been hired as president at the college (UCC) recently and they both were good at making new friends. They became close to the Engles and traveled several times with them. Susan & I had both worked at the college on the faculty and when there was an issue with a CIS instructor leaving, Jim asked if Susan & I would come and fill in. We agreed and became the first and only job share faculty “member” at UCC. We retired in that shared position and over the years enjoyed traveling with the Kraby’s on several cruises (one being their 50th wedding anniversary with the family). We also celebrated their 60th anniversary at the Moose Lake Resort just a few miles NE of Bemidji, MN.

Pat & Patty Boyd – Pat was the instructor at UCC that developed the Microcomputer Specialist degree program. I was in the first class group for that program and since Susan was also teaching several classes in the program, we started getting together socially. With Pat & Patty, we joined a small gourmet group and always had EOT (end of term) parties together with the Kuhns.

All the Staff at Community Cancer Center – Our appreciation and respect for these people can barely be expressed properly with the English language. Everyone was very professional, yet attentive to us at a very personal level. They always greeted us with a smile and made us feel very comfortable being in the “chemo lounge” for Susan’s treatments. Thanks especially to Dr. Stephen Williams, Mandi, Nicole, Betsy, Cassandra, Kylie, Shawna, Heather, Sarah, Teri, & Sam. I am in awe of the entire community of fantastic professionals that work at the CCC. I didn’t think there was any way to ease the pain of a loved one and those close to them going through diagnosis and treatment for cancer...I was wrong! Although it’s difficult to say (and may seem very odd), I actually looked forward to going in with Susan for her treatments. It was essentially like a comfortable visit with family for an experience that was always uplifting with joy and hope for a better tomorrow. The attitude of many of the patients was positive and we always were met with smiles and heartfelt greetings from all of the staff and those other patients we’d come to know.  Thank you, Thank you, Thank you all! I’m pretty sure that all the positive vibes in that chemo lounge did as much to slow down Susan’s cancer as the chemo drugs themselves.

Sable Drive neighbors – I volunteered to be on the Sable Drive Road District committee and got to know a lot of the people who live in our little community. When I retired and we started to build our WFO, I borrowed vehicles & tools from many of them. As I started making bread in the oven, their generosity and friendship was rewarded with a weekly baguette or loaf of bread when we weren’t traveling. It’s really awesome to walk or drive the road and have a friendly wave or conversation with everybody we met on Sable & Impala drive. (...and a little bit amusing to have someone say “Are you leaving again? Who’s going to bake me a loaf of bread for next week?)

Francis & Pat Engle – Lynn Kuhn’s parents welcomed us into their circle of friends when Lynn and Tony introduced us at the Wok parties. As we started getting invited to more events, Francis & Pat became pretty close. We traveled on a Princess cruise to SE Asia with the Kuhns & Engles in the late 1980s and had a fabulous time. Francis always said that was one of his favorite trips. They also gave us a loan to travel to Africa with them and some other friends in 1998. Susan & I both did computer work for Starfire Lumber (Francis’ mill). Francis loved that the database program Susan created for him gave him production and inventory data that no one else in the industry had. We were very sad when they passed away after their long and happy lives together. A more generous and caring couple I can’t imagine...knowing them certainly changed (for the better) how I looked at those around me.

Francis & Pat with Marilyn Barnhart in 2002

Frank & Barbara Hart with us in 2002 (Wildlife Safari event)
Frank & Barbara Hart – Frank was a big game hunter in Africa before coming to understand the importance of all these animals and turning to their conservation. He started taking groups of people to Africa on picture safaris to show them the wonders of the continent. We went with the Harts, the Engles, the Kuhns, the Krabys, and the Barnharts in 1998 to South Africa (on another one of our trips of a lifetime). Frank had lots of terrific stories and Barbara was always the life of the camp party, able to find humor and have a great laugh out of every situation…and she loved to wear very, very bright red lipstick! Founding Wildlife Safari in Winston was Frank & Barbara’s pride and joy. What an awesome legacy to leave to future generations!