Category Archives: Personal

Graduations 2020

It is that time of year when school seniors the world over get excited about their graduation. Well, not so much this year as we practice proper distancing and isolation. Our oldest grand-daughter was due to graduate from college. We had planned to go to Pittsburgh PA, attend the ceremonies, and celebrate. Instead, the school officials arranged for graduation via Zoom.

It is a small school and class, so the number of people involved was not a problem. Graduates, parents, siblings, grand parents, and friends were all welcome. They zoomed in from all over. Here is one of several pages with little boxes with people inside we could see online. We’re in the top row, second from the left. I’m taking this picture of the screen.

To our left was the emcee of the ceremonies. She was funny, made it very informal, and had kind words for all of the graduates. Here is a better shot of her and her colleague. She is saying something to our grand-daughter about her diploma and course of studies.

Our grand-daughter gave thanks to family, friends, and school officials for the day. Here she is in her living room with cap and gown and decorations. Each graduate got their time in the spotlight. It was a very unique and positive commencement. Nothing at all like the normal. But, it will be remembered. We were happy for our grand-daughter. We wish her well and success in the future.


Good Hope Sky Baby

Recently I stayed overnight at my sister’s house. After dinner she pulled a large plastic storage tub from the closet. It contained old photos, guest books, and various other memorabilia from our parents after their deaths more than 10 years ago. She wanted help deciding what to keep. We sorted most of the contents that evening. The next morning I looked at the rest and found two thick scrapbooks Mom had kept. The books had newspaper clippings from the 1960s to the late 1990s covering a wide range of topics. They were interesting and brought back many memories. This clipping from 1986 caught my attention.

Good Hope is a small town in west-central Illinois. My parents moved from their farm home to Good Hope about 1980 as Dad neared retirement from farming.

On 13 Aug 1986, Republic Airlines Flight 586 was headed from Phoenix to Detroit. Passenger Tammy Martin, 20, of Mt. Clemmens, MI was going home to join her husband Thomas. She was 7 months pregnant. During the flight, Tammy noticed her baby was about to arrive two months prematurely. A call went out on the plane for a doctor or nurse. An obstetrician-gynecologist, a nurse and a paramedic were on board. Tammy was taken to the back of the plane where she was placed on the floor to be more comfortable.

Cheers went up from the passengers when they heard cries of the baby. Her medical team ″used dental floss to tie the umbilical cord and cut it with a butter knife. She had excellent attention.″ The pilot informed the passengers and new mother that the baby was born while in the sky over Good Hope. “I was embarrassed” said Tammy.

Since it was premature and in an airplane cabin at reduced pressure, the baby suffered from respiratory distress. The flight was diverted to Chicago where the baby was taken to Resurrection Hospital. Husband Thomas drove all night from Detroit to be with them. This photo from the Cumberland News in Maryland indicated it was a nationwide story for a time.

Sky births are rare. But they do occur. This one was pinpointed over the town of Good Hope. The baby was given the name James Good Hope Sky Martin.

In searching for James in other more recent sources, one from nearby Western Illinois University noted James was to be Grand Marshall of the 28th Good Hope Sodbuster Days parade in 2002.

I also found an entry in the Gardner News in Kansas. It listed the marriage of James Good Hope Sky Martin to Angela Renae Besta in 2013. Apparently, James uses his full name for legal purposes.


AP story by Nicholas Geranios

UPI archive story.

Gardner News of northeast Kansas for notice of marriages and divorces.

The Cumberland News of Cumberland Maryland.

The Western Courier of Western Illinois University.


After Mom’s stroke, she was unable to care for herself or Dad. She was a strong and capable woman, raised nine children, and lived a farm life. They were married over 66 yrs when her stroke happened. It removed her from Dad’s life one dark winter night. He prayed for her return. He wasn’t ready to let her go. He held tight to the dream of getting her back.

22 Sept 2000

Many of us lived near enough to give Dad daily rides to the nursing home to be with her. She didn’t get better. The efforts to bring him each day became more difficult for him and for us. It seemed best for him to stay in the nursing home with her. The staff gave them much gentle care and attention.

Dad died on 28 March 2002. Mom on 16 May 2005. Maybe they are hand-in-hand again.


On New Year’s Eve 31 December 1999, Mom suffered a stroke. It affected her ability to process things going on in the present. Much of her long term memory was still intact. She was near her 88th birthday. Dad missed her terribly.

As I browsed through photos recently, I found one of her hand resting on the arm of a chair. It was taken in September 2000 when we visited her in the nursing home. She had arthritis. Swollen knuckles and wrinkles were obvious. If they could talk, they would have many stories to tell about life and the hard work it demanded. I gathered my pencils, charcoal, and paper.


Recently I was introduced to Deborah, who works with my new neighbor, Heather. When I told Heather about it, I thought about the web of connections leading to this chance meeting. 

A mid-August day in western Illinois can take your breath away. Temperatures run high that time of year. The humidity of the Mississippi River and the flat, fertile ground clings to everything and makes it hard to breathe. But on that day in 1933, the air was milder than usual and a light rain freshened the skies.

On that day in 1933, John welcomed Dorothy to his side, and they spoke their vows to honor and love each other, vows that were kept for 69 years. While Dorothy held his hands, her bridesmaid and cousin Rosemary held the bride’s bouquet.

John and Dorothy had nine children together, one of whom was Jim. Rosemary and her husband had children, too, one of whom was Chuck. Chuck and Jim, second cousins, knew each other as they grew up, attended the same university, and had overlapping social circles.

When Jim graduated college, he married, began a teaching career, and became a father. His teaching career thrived and his daughters grew, but his marriage struggled and ultimately ended.

One summer Jim began a master’s degree program at another university in Illinois. While there, a mutual friend introduced him to Melanie. Melanie and Jim quickly fell in love and married the next year.

After Melanie finished her degree, she applied for a job in downtown Chicago. Her interview was on the coldest recorded day in Chicago history (really!), and she got a job developing software for a major bank. One of her work mates was Bruce. Soon Bruce left the software development team to join the bank’s trust management group.

After a couple more years, Melanie left the bank to enter graduate school. She finished the degree and gave birth to a son, after which she taught Finance at the same school.

In the summer of 1992, Jim, his wife Melanie, and their young son moved to Iowa. Melanie was about to start graduate school (again!), but Jim didn’t have a job arranged yet. After 23 years teaching high school science, he hoped to find a similar position.

John and Dorothy’s son Jim spoke with Rosemary’s son Chuck. Chuck had a connection in the same Iowa town, a man who worked in administration for the school district. With Chuck’s recommendation to ease the way, Jim accepted a teaching position in the district. Jim had many talented co-workers at his school, people dedicated to their students. One of those was Jan, a gentle man who taught physical science.

Jim, Melanie, and Son were fortunate in other ways in their new home. Across the street in one direction lived Darrell and Judy, who treated the new family with kindness. In another direction lived Kathy’s family. Her son attended the same school and played on the same soccer team. The mom of another boy on that team was Beth, a relative of Kathy.

In 1996 Darrell and Judy moved across town. Melanie finished her degree in 1997 and applied for a job in trust investment management. The man who interviewed her and hired her was Bruce, her co-worker from Chicago, now living in Iowa.

Between Melanie’s new job and Jim’s teaching position, it made sense to move. In 1997 they moved to a new house, right next door to Darrell and Judy. Darrell and Judy’s neighbors on the other side were a woman named Hazel and her daughter Holly.

Holly was older than the son, but the two became friends. Their friendship deepened when Holly helped Son learn how to play clarinet and saxophone. She helped him learn the basics and Son came to love the saxophone. When he entered junior high he was fortunate to have an excellent band teacher. The band teacher encouraged the kids to play in the jazz band, which Son did.

In high school he continued to play. His jazz band excelled and often won area jazz band contests. One of those contests was hosted each year at Son’s high school. It was the annual qualifying contest for state competition. Many of the judges are professional jazz musicians and educators from the area. When Melanie helped run the qualifying contest in 2006, she met a jazz musician and professor named Steve.

Steve plays with a few different bands. One of those bands is called “The Beaker Brothers,” and they play a lot of rock from the late 1960s and ’70s. Ed is one of Steve’s bandmates in that group.

After Jim retired from teaching in 2007, his friend Jan recommended he work for an education resources company. Jan started there when he retired from teaching. Ed worked there, too, as did Darrell.

Backtracking in time… In 2002 Jim and Melanie and Son moved to a different house. Next-door neighbors on both sides worked for the same education company where Jim later worked. Two doors down lived Nancy, a retired teacher who quilted. In 2007 Nancy invited Melanie to a meeting of the local quilters guild. At the meeting, Melanie reconnected with Bethrelated to Kathy, who lived across the street from Melanie and Jim when they first moved to Iowa. Beth quilts, too. 

In summer of 2017, Nancy and her husband, the neighbors two doors down, sold their home to downsize. Heather and her husband, moving to town to work at the hospital, bought the house.

A different stream of time… For decades Jim has been a blood donor. Years ago, one of the phlebotomists at the blood bank, who frequently jabbed Jim when he donated, was Deborah. Yes, the same Deborah who recently met Melanie.

On a Friday night a couple of weeks ago, Melanie and Jim went out to hear The Beaker Brothers play. Steve and Ed were on stage with their bandmates, covering the Allman Brothers and other bands of the era. When they took a break, Steve visited with Jim and Melanie. As he did, Deborah approached to say “hello” to him. She already knew Steve through her friendship with Ed and his wife. As it turns out, Ed is Deborah’s ex-in-law.

Deborah recognized Jim and introduced herself to Melanie. She now works at the hospital in a different department. It is the same department in which Heather works.

Deborah and Heather might know each other despite all the other connections. But Jim and I only know that Deborah and Heather know each other because of all the other connections.

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”

Herman Melville

Storm in Nature and Life

Jim’s story of the book “Storm,” with some fascinating and unexpected connections.

How I See It

Some things we keep over the years carry strong ties and meaning in our lives. In our house, we try to not keep very many things, only the most important. Given the chance, we part with some of the things we’ve kept that might not have much meaning any more. When we die, we don’t want to leave the job of sorting through our stuff to our children.

I sorted some books on the shelves to see which could be donated to the public library for their sale. I decided to keep this one. The book and I have connections that goes back several decades. I will explain.

The Book

Storm is a novel by George R. Stewart published in 1941. Each of the twelve chapters is a day in the life of the storm. Each details the impacts of a storm which began in the western Pacific. The storm…

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Miss Pickerell and Me

Jim’s memories of a favorite book and author from his childhood.

How I See It

One of the first books I remember reading was Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars written by Ellen MacGregor and illustrated by Paul Galdone. It was published in 1951. It had a strong influence on me. Many other young readers apparently felt the same way as evidenced by the comments on this page at Goodreads. That book made me hungry for more adventures in science by the independent spinster with a pet cow who was willing to say what was on her mind.

I read about her trips to the Arctic and the Undersea as well as her adventure with a Geiger Counter. The science in each book was explained in ways a young person could understand. I have no doubt those books helped reinforce my interest in science. I became a teacher of physics for my career. Thank you, Miss Lavinia Pickerell and Ellen MacGregor.

MacGregor first wrote…

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I noticed two huge burls on this big old oak tree during a recent walk. They are at least 18″ (~0.5m) across. They are on city park land and should be safe. They are valuable wood and can be made into beautiful objects.

As I walked farther, it occurred to me I had a very tenuous connection to another burl. Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives was born in southeast Illinois. I was born in Illinois. He attended Eastern Illinois University not far from his birthplace. I attended EIU. He dropped out. Sixty years later a university building was named after the school’s most famous dropout. I graduated with a master’s degree in physics education. No buildings were named after me.

His brother Clarence Estie Ives farmed only a few miles from our home farm in western Illinois. He is buried in a cemetery I passed many times as a youth.


Peace | Can’t We Act Better?

by Jim and Melanie

We stepped out the front door into the sunshine for a walk. Nearby were two young doves. They sat very still so we would not see them. Adult doves fly away in an explosion of sound. These sat there until our return.

How nice if they carried a message of peace and harmony between people of Earth. Such terrible things we humans do to each other. Our thoughts and prayers are with our French brothers and sisters today.