Category Archives: Amazing people

Up, Up and Away

Of all the running races I’ve done in the past 35+ years, one of my all-time favorites is the annual Up, Up and Away 5k,  held in conjunction with the Findlay (Ohio) Balloonfest.

Why does this race stand out? For one thing, it starts at 8 a.m., which is significant in August in Ohio, where the temp and humidity can often reach into  the 80s by 8 a.m. Then there’s the added exhilaration of watching the multi-colored hot air balloons fill and drift up to the sky above us as we approach the starting line. As we return to the finish line, the sky is dotted with many balloons.

And then there is the food table, sagging under the weight of slices of watermelon and bagels from Tim Horton’s.

Sure, those are all good reasons for loving this race, but the real reason we’re there is to help the Findlay Striders raise funds for the Hancock County (Ohio) Special Olympics. Following this year’s race, the local running club presented a check for $8,000. How great is that?

Once the 5k is over, we get to cheer on all the Special Olympians who are able to participate in a one-mile run/walk. Their persistence and strength far outshine the rest of us.

And somewhere in our attic is a box of race awards collected over the past 35+ years. But none of them means as much as the ones I’ve received at the Up, Up and Away. These unique awards are handcrafted by the Special Olympics athletes at the Kan Du Art Studio in downtown Findlay.

These are the only awards I actually keep out where I can see them on a daily basis because they serve as a daily reminder to be grateful for what is really important. photo (14)

photo (12)

Three men and a lawnmower

Guess what happens when you pair a nurse anesthetist, a lawyer, and a journalist with a lawnmower whose adjustable wheels have a mind of their own. Surgery.

I’m serious. I know this because I witnessed this in action. One minute, there’s said journalist happily trotting around the backyard, creating neat rows of mowed grass.  The next minute? Silence. No mower engine to be heard.

At first, I ignored the silence. After all, I was busily working away in my sewing room, hoping the funny sounds from my serger didn’t mean another trip to the fix-it shop. Besides, the mower started back up pretty quickly. And stopped again just as quickly.

After about 10 minutes of these fitful stops and starts, I peeked out the window. There were the journalist and the lawyer crouched over the now-silent and upturned mower. A few minutes later, the nurse anesthetist  — black bag in hand — joined them.

Here’s the problem. My little voice told me to stay out of this. But then, I’ve never been very good at listening to my little voice. By the time I got outside, the three of them were on their way to the anesthetist’s shop where, they informed me, they would be performing some sort of surgery on the wheel lever.

At first, there were just two heads bent over the mower….IMG_0478[1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and then there were three….IMG_0480[1]

 

 

 

 

 
And then somehow, as if by magic, the surgery was over and the journalist happily trotted off to level off the grass. The other two? Deliriously happy at having been able to perform a successful procedure, they retreated to their respective shops to take on the next project.

The journalist is a lucky guy to have two such good friends with mechanical expertise.

 

Pottery, ceramics, and the snap of a tongue serve as reminders of a beloved man

When you asked Darvin Luginbuhl the age-old question, “What is art?”, he’d turn it right around and respond with a pointed “What do YOU think art is?”

It’s a difficult question and one for which Darvin probably never answered point-blank. Because, artist that he was, Darv never put “art” into a box. He could find art in everything and wanted everyone else to share that experience of discovery.

For example, my husband once asked Darv if he would help him design a children’s Christmas coloring contest for the newspaper he edited. Darv very subtly suggested that the traditional Christmas picture of Santa or Christmas scene — meant to be colored by each child — lacked inventiveness and would produce nothing more than a colored picture. Instead, he suggested including a blank page with instructions that each child draw or color a picture of Christmas. It was his way of encouraging youngsters to discover art from their hearts. It worked.

Growing up, our back door was a quick, 30-second jog from the Luginbuhl’s back door. I say back doors because there was no need to use the front door. Darv and my dad, who were on the faculty together at Bluffton University for about 30 years, were often found in the middle of one of their respective gardens or in Darv or Dad’s shop. Their wives — Evelyn and my mom — still share a friendship as close as sisters.

Our house was always filled with various pottery and ceramic items created by Darv. Because his son, Bill, and I were childhood buddies, my Christmas and birthday presents were often a ceramic pot filled with candy. When my husband and I married, my mom asked Darv to make a tea set for us. The gray and blue-glazed teapot and mugs are still in use after nearly 33 years.Tea-Set

So when Darvin died yesterday at age 91, it felt as if a huge piece of this small, Swiss community had gone with him. No more would we hear his cheery, “Vie gehts?” Even in the past few years as he struggled with health issues that interfered with his mobility, that cheerfulness remained intact and conversations were always entertaining.

Little bits and pieces flit through my mind as I thought about Darv’s contributions to life in a small town, as well as to the wider art community. For as much as we knew him as a small-town Swiss boy who produced beautiful pottery and ceramics, the art world knew him as a creator of fine art and a man of great knowledge.

But there are other, more intimate memories — like Darv and Dad calling us  home from wherever we were playing. Darv could snap his tongue against the roof of his mouth so loud that we could hear him at the old college track field nearly a quarter mile from home. At the same time, Dad blew through a conch shell, producing a quirky “conch honk” that could be heard just as far away. Who needed cell phones? If we missed one, we’d hear the other.

When we wanted to earn quick spending money, one of them would hire us to dig dandelions. We always went to Darv first because he paid a penny for a dozen and Dad made us fill a whole bushel basket. Or something like that…

Ah Darv, we’re going to miss you. We’ve got pieces of pottery to remind us of your creativity, but more importantly you left us with a passel of memories.  Thank you.

The down-to-earthiness of an extraordinary woman — Helen James Minck

Some individuals walk into our lives quietly and unobtrusively, yet leave such an indelible impression that we feel their presence long after they are gone. Helen James Minck was one of those individuals. When Helen died on Christmas Eve, I felt saddened that I’d never get to hear more of her stories, to hear her laugh. Yet her face and voice are so clear, so present.

I met Helen about five or six years ago when she and her husband, Richard Minck, invited us to join them for dinner at the Shawnee Country Club in Lima. My husband and I had known Dick, a  Bluffton native, for many years. In fact, he’d been my landlord when I’d lived in a tiny garage apartment at the back of his property.

On that first meeting, we met at their condo that bordered the golf course. Having never met Helen, I was nervous. In the first few minutes, she put me at ease. My first impression of Helen was that she was a lovely, sweet woman who dearly loved to listen to her husband’s stories of their extensive art collection. It wasn’t until later when we were sitting in the club dining room, which overlooks the golf course, that I began to understand just how accomplished this woman was.

Dick and Helen Minck

We happened to be seated at a window from which we could see some young high school golfers teeing off. I knew little about golf, but it was clear that Helen was an old pro. Until back problems prevented her from participating in one of her favorite sports, she’d been a champion golfer at Lakewood Golf Course in St. Petersburg, Fla., where she’d lived when not summering in Lima. Without a hint of snobbery, she began telling stories about golfing with so and so. But it was her mention of “Chi Chi” that caught my attention.

Chi Chi? Rodriguez? Yep, that’s the one. She grinned and recounted a story he’d told. I’ve forgotten it, probably because my brain stuck on the name. She really did know her golf.

The old feature writer in me surfaced and I began asking questions. Pretty soon she’d told me about growing up first in Toledo, then Lima, before heading to Wellesley College, a women-only school in Massachusetts. Then she really surprised me — she had majored in physics — one of only two physics majors in the class of 1941. I remember her saying she loved the sciences and math.

By that point, I was pretty much awestruck, although not by any fault of Helen’s. Her stories were just that. Stories of a life lived fully.

On the wall in my office/sewing room, is a mounted photo that Dick Minck took while he and Helen were traveling. It’s a scene of a fishing village in Alaska, I think. Dick will probably tell me I’m wrong. No matter. If I look at the photo just right, I can imagine Helen standing on the old pier, ready to tackle yet another of her favorite sports — fishing.