Here is an interesting story I would like to share with you. It concerns a couple who live here at Cottage Grove Place. The gentleman is of Czech extraction, 100% Czech, as he likes to say. He is heavily involved in the restoration of Czech Village, their Museum and all else that was so seriously damaged in the 2008 flood.
His wife is an extremely talented artist. Some of her works hang in our halls. Many are for sale in the gift shop, and their apartment is a veritable gallery. But the story I am about to tell concerns their grandson, named Mathew. He is a true Yankee Doodle Dandy having been born on July 4, 1991. The young man's parents are an interesting story in themselves. Kevin, his father, met Celia, his mother, while visiting friends in the Philippines. Celia is one of the most talented seamstresses you could possibly meet. (The family seems to be awash in remarkable skills).
Some time after their marriage they were back on the Islands, as Kevin was then in the air force. They were living in military housing on Clark Air Base which, unfortunately, was located just 16 miles from Mt. Pinatubo, which you may recall erupted in 1991. It was the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th Century, spewing forth ten times more material than this country's Mt. St. Helens.
When evacuation orders came they fled, with their firstborn, Joshua, and the clothes on their backs. All of their earthly possessions, including the nursery lovingly prepared and awaiting Mathew's arrival, were left behind as they rushed to the Subic Bay Naval Base. Though covered with toxic ash, it was in a less threatening location, 50 miles from the volcano. There the USAF organized a massive airlift which brought Joshua and his pregnant mom to Cedar Rapids via a long and harrowing route.
Shortly thereafter young Mathew arrived. His grandmother reports that he was born already sporting two bottom front teeth and a full head of unusually long black hair. It was as if he had a leg up on things from the time he got here. His talents in the performing arts surfaced early and were cultivated at Lin-Mar High School where he garnered top awards in competitions in those areas. He has now completed a year at Kirkwood Community College. This spring he was encouraged to audition for the Follies, the fund-raising arm of Orchestra Iowa, the local Symphony.
This extravaganza has a long and colorful history. The large cast puts on remarkable performances for huge audiences. This year's theme was "Viva Las Vegas." The details of these amazing productions would take up another whole Gray Matter. But suffice it to say, Matthew was one of twenty five young people selected to become new cast members.
The show's gifted choreographer immediately spotted him as the one to do a particular dance she had in mind. With her direction, he innovatively developed it and it turned out to be truly magical. Many who were privileged to see the show reported that his sophisticated stylized dance was "one of the loveliest moments of the entire revue."
All of us here congratulate Mathew, his parents and grandparents, and want them to know we are anticipating his appearance in next year's fund raiser. Its theme, "Follies on Parade" has been selected and plans for its production are already underway.