Springtime Here, Memories, A Friends Last Need is a Thing to Heed

Greeting to all and welcome new friends to the EastWing.   Spring has arrived at the EastWing, but winter never really came by this year, so I guess we just kinda dodged the winter bullet. Just another reason to thank God for taking care of ya when ya needed it most.   With the spiraling cost of travel, gas prices upwards toward $4.00 per gallon, an unusually mild winter brings much lower heating costs, so the gas price impact has not been as devastating as could have been here in the flat lands of northern Indiana. God, and small favors, gotta love it. But from here on into the future we’ll know the difference, and we’ll be mad, and we’ll yell foul.   Had a acquaintance pass away back in January of this year.  It hard to lose a friend, but it’s time I told ya about Tom Boldenweck. Tom was a friend of mine. An old warrior who served in WWII. One of the very last of that “Greatest Generation” Those old soldiers are dying off at a rate of some 3,000 per day. Soon they’ll all be gone, and with them the “Greatest Generation”.   My friend Tom was a warrior and a pacifist. Like most of those who’s ever looked into the very face of death, they hope never to see it again. And so they prey, no more wars, Lord, no more wars. Tom spent his life in the pursuit of peace and justice for all. I guess in some ways I’d consider Tom right up there with Superman in his pursuit of “ Truth, Justice, and The American Way”   Tom was a retired college professor, an artist who loved to create art in the style of graphite line drawings, had owned an art gallery in Chicago, lived one winter in the North Woods of Michigan where the potty was outside, and ya had to keep the seat inside in order to stay warm, had toured Europe by bicycle, was a published author, and a dear friend.   Tom asked me to read and comment on one of his books. I did. It was a “high brow” type book on the architectural aspects of the great Catholic Cathedrals of Europe. Tom had studied architecture as a young man and always wanted to see those old Catholic Cathedrals up close and personal, so he did, and wrote a book about each and every one he visited. I read Tom’s book and didn’t know what the hell he was even talking about.   It was a book that was destined to forever remain in the academic world. After telling Tom his book was to me, as exciting as reading Dick and Jane all over again, Tom smiled and said he’d been  happy if it sold 2,000 worldwide. Tom’s book sales exceeded this expectations.  But to me, an uneducated hillbilly, it was still liken to Dick and Jane all over again. But I’m not an architect.   I didn’t know Tom for most of his life. But I knew him for the end game. I knew ‘em when he was old enough to tell the stories, and tell ‘em good. And so he did, tell the stories. We traded stories, me and Tom, lots of times we traded stories. And sometimes we even drank the whisky.   When I first met Tom he thought the only alcohol fit for human consumption was vodka. I introduced Tom Boldenweck to Kentucky Bourbon. The last time Tom and I shared a drink, it was Makers Mark, the premier Bourbon produced in the world today, Tom’s words, not mine, but I did agree.   The last two years of Tom’s life were spent at the Indiana Veterans Home in Lafayette Indiana. I cannot say enough good words to describe the care and comfort this place provided to my dear friend Tom Boldenweck.   Tom and I had a deal, that upon his death I’d tell the world of how he  really felt about the Indiana Veterans Home. When it was time to do so, I kept my end of the deal.  I just hope my friend Tom would have approved of the words I chose to speak. I believe he would have approved.   After I spoke at Tom’s Memorial Service there at the Indiana Veterans Home, I was asked if I had a copy of what I’d said so it could be shared with the whole staff. I’d not write or rehearse a speech for Tom’s Memorial Service. I just  simply stood up and told the story as Tom and I had agreed that I would. And so as final tribute to my friend Tom, I’ll share with you what I’ve sent to the staff of the Indiana Veterans Home. For those of you who may have shared this before, please forgive the duplication here.   Below is what I wrote the employees and volunteer works at the Indiana Veterans Home as a final message from Tom Boldenweck:   Greeting to the Staff and Volunteers of the Indiana Veterans Home. A friend of mine has just recently spent the last two years of his life in your most gentle care. Tom Boldenweck died on January 10, 2012. A memorial service was held on Feb 17th in the Chapel and I was in attendance. The crowd was not large, in fact, some may even consider it small. I did not consider the crowd small. Those in attendance were lives that had been touched by Tom Boldenweck. The size of the crowd was just right. The Chaplin, a kind and gentle man, even though I met him for the first time the day of Tom’s Memorial Service, I do know when you meet those doing God’s work the way it must be done, it shows.  A Chaplin for the old warriors, a kind and gentle man. I also met for the first time one of Tom’s caregivers. She cried and told me how much she had come to love Tom during the time he had been at the Veterans Home. We hugged, and we shared a tear, and a memory of an old man. Pat and Jerry, the volunteers who provide many hours of service to the Veterans Home, and the ones who Tom insisted I come down and meet some day, they too were at the Memorial Service  for Tom. Special friends of Tom. Tom and I talked of Pat and Jerry often. The very first time I visited Tom after he arrived here he told me how excited he was to be where he was at this stage of his life. The last two decades had not been kind to Tom Boldenweck, he so needed a safe harbor for the remainder of his life. Thank God the Indiana Veterans Home provided that safe harbor. It was on my third visit that Tom and I discussed what I would say when he passed. Tom had a message for the staff and the volunteers. A message so sincere and so touching, Tom didn’t feel he could adequately convey his true feelings of appreciation for what you people were doing for him and his wife, Ann. It was only after the Chaplin had read the prayers, we’d sang the song, and everyone present had an opportunity to say whatever they wanted to say about their memory of Tom, and then it was my turn to speak what I had come there to say. Tom didn’t believe that, in life, he could ever sufficiently convey this message of gratitude and thankfulness to  his caretakers, all . And so we agreed, Tom and me, we agreed that I’d carry his message. That I’d tell the world about Tom’s thoughts on such matters after he passed on.  One of the very last emails from Tom reminded me that “sooner more so than later, you’ve got things to say”. I told Tom I remembered, and when the time came, I’d go tell it on the mountain,  and I  hoped later than sooner. It was sooner. I spoke on behalf of Tom Boldenweck when I expressed his gratitude to the staff and the volunteers for the care, the love, the friendship, and the compassion which had been extended to  an old soldier and his wife. I spoke on behalf of Tom Boldenweck when I told of Tom’s joy at just being in all of your company. Thru me, Tom thanked each and every one of you for making the end years of his life so much more pleasant that the decade before. Thru me, Tom Boldenweck thanked you all for the care given to his wife Ann. Care so much needed and all the while Tom being unable to provide. On what was to be my final visit with Tom, he told me his only regret at the Indiana Veterans Home was that he had not come ten years sooner. That way he would just have had that much more time to spend with all of you. Tom loved his home there, and he charged me with making sure that you knew that he loved all of you. It’s my prayer, as I reflect on the memory of my dear friend Tom Boldenweck, that I have carried out his wishes to put into words his deepest and most sincere appreciation to each and every staff member as well as all the volunteer workers who are all the people that make the Indiana Veterans Home what it is today. As I reflect on my friend Tom, and on his journey into immortality, hopefully going in the right direction, in any event, surely  making lots of friends along the way. And all the while telling stories about his Indiana home, up there on the Banks of the Wabash, far away. Stay safe in Afghanistan.   From the EastWing, Springtime Here, Memories, A Friends Last Need is a Thing to Heed I wish you well, BobbyRay  Howard   And now for the latest project from the EastWing, just going together as of right this very minute.  I sure hope all of you will join in and support:   HELP THE TORNADO SURVIVORS OF SALYERSVILLE KENTUCKY On Friday March 2nd a massive Tornado destroyed a major portion of Salyersville Kentucky, and surrounding areas.  Many, many families  have lost their homes and all their worldly possessions.  We must now act as soon as possible.   Here in Starke County, Salyersville KY is surely the most recognized name of any town in Kentucky. Most everyone in Starke County either have relatives from Salyersville or know someone who have relatives from Salyersville. The time has come to help those friends and family.   We urgently need:  Money, Clothes, Bottled Water, Personal hygiene items, Shoes, Coats, Pots and Pans, Pillows and Blankets, Canned Food and most everything else you can imagine.    (Just picture yourself losing everything you own on this Earth, everything. Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about, ya need a lot.)     You can bring your donations to Pioneer Florist in North Judson or Robert Howard Co. in North Judson. Any questions, just call Regina at 896-5421 or Bob at 896-2221 If you can help in the transportation end of this mission, we need to know that too.   Together we will make a difference in Salyersville, and they’ll know we are Christian by our deeds.   For your help, for your prayers, for your donations, on behalf of those in most dire need, I thank you all. BobbyRay