[Masthead] Overcast ~ 32°F  
Winter Storm Watch
Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015

Gray Matter: Remembering the memorable

Monday, February 6, 2006

As you may recall, I resolved last week to work on accepting the inevitability of change.  A neighbor and I were regretting the change brought about when mutual friends  moved to be nearer their children, due to age-induced health issues.  This is not unusual, I know, but in this case it  brought some serious "end-of-an-era" issues to mind which bothered me a bit..

Our friends, Jim and Joan, had retired here following interesting careers in Indianapolis -- he as a police officer and she in a high-end position with the telephone company.  They came back because this was HOME.  Joan's father, Art Nielsen, is remembered here as almost a legend.  I knew him first as school custodian the year I taught.  When some students and I were returning furniture we'd used for the stage set of their Senior Class play, a chair was broken.  I panicked, fearing it would take all of my meager savings  to replace it, for I'd actually borrowed it against the advice of our superintendent.   I ran to Art in desperation.  He looked at it briefly, shrugged his shoulders, mumbled something, and took charge. Two days later the chair was repaired, ready to be returned, in better condition than when we'd borrowed it, and that struck me as almost a miracle.

A stream of his "miracles" continued at our house for years after I was married and returned here to live. For example, one involved a copper sugar bowl, part of a treasured antique coffee set.  I think one of my kids had thrown it (probably at a sibling).  It was bent and the handle broken.  I took it to our favorite jeweler to see if it could be sent somewhere for repairs.  Inspecting it closely, he said, "I probably could find a place  where they'd have the special tools to do it, but I'd suggest you just take it to Art.  If he doesn't have the needed tools, he'll make them."  He was right. The sugar bowl was restored to mint condition in no time.  It is just one of the many objects I treasure which he either repaired or made for us.

Art, a Danish immigrant, died many years ago. He was a craftsman of the highest order -- skilled perhaps to the point of genius. His wife who lived to be 102, has now also passed away.   Their son, Duane, earned an engineering degree from Iowa State, and worked all over the world as an executive with  Alcoa Aluminum.  He now lives in retirement in Tennessee.  Mabel, the middle daughter is deceased, and Delores, the youngest of the girls, lives in California.  With Joan's leaving, you see what I mean by "the end of an era".

I guess it all comes down to this -- if I really work at it I can probably accept some change.  I simply don't want it to let us forget the past. So now I will ask all of you who remember Art, and the others like him who have made unique contributions to your life, to join me in cherishing and preserving our memories of them all for posterity.