Eulogy for My Father

Below is the eulogy that I gave at my father’s burial service on October 1, 2003, in my home town of Martinsville, VA.

My father won’t have any buildings or roads named after him. But if we measure a man’s success from where he started to where he finished, my father was a very successful man.

I’d like to tell a story. On Christmas day 2001, my sister Joyce gave my sister Billie and I a gift of a photo of my father when he was a little boy. It is the only photo from his childhood we’ve ever seen. He was about twelve years old, standing in front of a unpainted clapboard shack. It was his home. His father was an alcoholic who abandoned the family during the depression, leaving his mother to raise seven children with no financial support. My father never spoke of his father.

At Christmas dinner, I asked my father what he got for Christmas when he was a boy. He said, “we always got a good meal for Christmas.”

From that beginning, my father — along with my mother Ruth — created the wonderful home at 2 Hampstead Place. He worked hard to provide his children with so much he never had. He put all three of us through college.

If I look at my father in the light of where he started and what he accomplished in his life, he was a very successful man.

Here’s the photo that Joyce found. (My father is on the right; his younger brother is in the center and his sister Nellie is on the left. In the back is a cousin who was visiting.) Every picture tells a story and this one tells me so much about my father’s childhood (which he was very reluctant to discuss). If I had really understood how he grew up and the implications of that experience, I would have appreciated his success more and forgiven his mistakes more readily.

Related Link: Hampstead Place Renamed to Myers Place

Hampstead Place Renamed to Myers Place

I wrote a letter (below) that was published on March 28, 2004, in the Martinsville Bulletin, the newspaper in my home town. (They edited out several sentences from the original letter because they do not publish letters of gratitude.)

In 1962, my parents, Tommy and Ruth Myers, found their dream home at 2 Hampstead Place in the Druid Hills area and purchased it from the Bill Franck family. It was located in a beautiful setting — in the city but surrounded by a forest. Martinsville was a wonderful place to grow up in the 1960s, friendly, safe, and innocent. In the 1970s, my sisters and I moved away to live in distant cities but we always came back to the home where we grew up for Christmas.

In 1997 my mother lost her battle with cancer. Six months later my father sold the family home to Jay Frith and moved to Kings Grant. It was a sad time for my sisters and me when we came back to Hampstead Place to pack up among all those memories in a house that seemed empty and sad without my mother¹s warmth and love.

In September 2003 my father passed away at the age of 86. Two months later I learned that the Martinsville City Council had approved a request to rename Hampstead Place to Myers Place. I was totally surprised and overjoyed.

The Martinsville City Council warmed the hearts and friends of Tommy and Ruth Myers with that vote. Charles White, who has lived in the woods on Hampstead Place for many years and knows what a special place it is, also supported the request.

However, one person deserves most of the credit for this act of pure kindness. Jay Frith had the idea, gathered the support, made the request before City Council and followed through until a new street sign was installed.

Whenever I need a positive thought to chase away the sad and tragic news that is so prevalent in the world today, I remember what Jay did to honor my parents.

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Background: Link to Eulogy For My Father

Holocaust Survival in a Cave

Off the Face of the Earth By Peter Lane Taylor, National Geographic Adventure Magazine, June/July 2004

Over a decade ago, cave explorer Chris Nicola began his investigation into a little-known tale of Holocaust survival. What he uncovered involved 38 Jews, one of the longest caves on Earth, and 344 days without daylight.

In the spring of 1944, a group of 38 Ukrainian Jews emerged weak and jaundiced from a cave they’d used for nearly a year to escape the horrors of the Holocaust. Nearly fifty years later, one caver began his quest to bring their story of survival to life.

In 1993, veteran caver Chris Nicola became one of the first Americans to explore Ukraine’s famous Gypsum Giant cave systems. While there, during an expedition into the tenth longest cave in the world, his team came across two partially intact stone walls and other signs of habitation. Local residents, who revere the Gypsum Giants as national treasures, told Nicola that a group of Ukrainian Jews spent months in the cave evading the horrors of the Holocaust. No one seemed to know who had survived, however, and some questioned whether any had seen daylight again. Fascinated, Nicola grew determined to learn how people with no prior caving experience or specialized equipment were able to live in such a hostile environment for so long.

Ten years later, after an extensive search, Nicola located six of the cave survivors, most of them members of the extended Stermer family. The story they told was even more remarkable than the legend Nicola had heard while in the Ukraine, involving not one cave hideout, but two, and nearly two years spent underground.

By piecing together interviews with the survivors and artifacts they found while in Ukraine, Nicola and Taylor were able to develop a clear picture of the Jews underground life.

Link National Geographic Adventure Magazine: Holocaust survival

Life, Experience, and Adversity

Rajesh Jain writes:

…we use ‘crucible’ to refer to an intense, meaningful and often transformational experience.”

That is the context for a “crucible experience” – something which transforms us, and shakes and shapes our lives. We have all gone through these experiences in our life – some of these experiences last a short time, others much longer. Either way, they help change us in some way. More often than not, these are intense and deeply personal experiences, which we would rather not talk about. Even thinking about these experiences makes us want to purge them from our memories. But whatever happens, they leave an indelible mark on us for the rest of our life.

Crucible experiences have a way of testing us. They bring out aspects of our personality that we did not know existed. We can think of them in other words (for example, adversity). In each case, they help build our character – be it as an individual or in the workplace. These events can be voluntary – for example, a difficult and dangerious trek we decided to take. At other times, they just happen – leaving us rushing to react. It is also at times like these that we realise whom we are really close to. All in all, the crucible experiences are character-building. While we are going through these experiences, we may wonder why is it happening to us. But later (sometimes much, much later), when we reflect back, we realise that there was definitely some good that came out of it.

Each of our lives is the sum of our experiences. As Albert Einstein said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.” Add to that Benjamin Disraeli’s quote, “There is no education like adversity.” Take them together and you can think of crucible experiences as life’s step functions: each taking us to a new, higher level, as long as we are willing to learn.

From E M E R G I C . o r g

Gen. Wesley Clark on Iraq

Below are the last two paragraphs from an essay Broken Engagement by General Clark.

We need to take the American face off this effort and work indirectly. But there are some American faces that can be enormously useful. Among our greatest assets during the Cold War were immigrants and refugees from the captive nations of the Soviet Union. Tapping their patriotism toward America and love of their homelands, we tasked them with communicating on our behalf with their repressed countrymen in ways both overt and covert, nursing hopes for freedom and helping to organize resistance. America’s growing community of patriotic Muslim immigrants can play a similar role. They can help us establish broader, deeper relationships with Muslim countries through student and cultural exchange programs and organizational business development.

We can’t know precisely how the desire for freedom among the peoples of the Middle East will grow and evolve into movements that result in stable democratic governments. Different countries may take different paths. Progress may come from a beneficent king, from enlightened mullahs, from a secular military, from a women’s movement, from workers returning from years spent as immigrants in Western Europe, from privileged sons of oil barons raised on MTV, or from an increasingly educated urban intelligentsia, such as the nascent one in Iran. But if the events of the last year tell us anything, it is that democracy in the Middle East is unlikely to come at the point of our gun. And Ronald Reagan would have known better than to try.

Link “Broken Engagement ” by Gen. Wesley Clark

Strange But True: Brad Hanson

Excerpts from a story in the May 23 Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Two men named Brad Hanson who both felt the death grip of chest pain the morning of April 13 and ended up in the emergency room of North Fulton Regional Hospital in Roswell.

Both Brads have wives named Vicki or Vickie; the Roswell wife spells her name with an e.

Both wives drive white Toyota Camrys.

The women’s cars were parked side by side in the hospital parking lot.

Both Brads were born in October, both Libras.

Both families have two daughters and one son from previous marriages.

One Hanson family has a dog named Ziggy; the other, a dog named Izzy.

And both Brads had two cockatiel birds. And now both have only one because one bird died last year in each Hanson household.

Link Atlanta Journal-Constitution

New Sources of Energy: Solar crystals double output

Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory have tapped the efficiencies of nanotechnology to increase solar cells’ potential energy production by as much as 37 percent.

Solar cells generate electricity by absorbing photons and directing the resulting energy to move an electron from the low-energy valence band in a material to a higher-energy conduction band where it is free to flow.

Researchers working to squeeze more energy from sunlight are generally aiming for solar cells that can absorb and use a higher percentage of the wavelengths of light in the sun’s spectrum. Today’s commercial solar cells can use anywhere from 10 percent to 35 percent.

The Los Alamos researchers have found that it is possible to increase a cell’s energy production by making each photon move two electrons. “Carrier-multiplication-enhanced solar cells can, in principle, produce twice as large a current as conventional solar cells,” said Victor Klimov, a team leader at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The method could increase what has been thought of as the maximum power conversion of solar cells by as much as 37 percent, depending on the materials used, resulting in a solar cell with a potential efficiency of over 60 percent. The method could also be used to increase the efficiency of other optical components, including amplifiers, lasers, switches and light absorbers, according to Klimov.

Solar crystals get 2-for-1
May 19/26, 2004
By Kimberly Patch, Technology Research News

Link Solar crystals get 2-for-1 TRN 051904

Justice Prevails for Greenpeace, Peaceful Protest

Selective prosecution, Ashcroft style.

Federal Judge Tosses Out Ashcroft Effort to Stifle Greenpeace, Peaceful Protest

The Justice Department’s prosecution of Greenpeace, sparked by the environmental group’s peaceful protest against the importation of illegally harvested mahogany, was thrown out yesterday afternoon in Miami.

Federal Judge Adalberto Jordan accepted Greenpeace’s contention that the U.S. government provided insufficient evidence to support its claim that Greenpeace had violated an 1872 law against “sailor-mongering.”

The Ashcroft Justice Department brought the charge some 15 months after two Greenpeace volunteers boarded a ship three miles off the Miami coast in February, 2002. The volunteers were attempting to hang a banner calling on President Bush to stop illegal logging. They were arrested and served one weekend in jail.

The cargo ship was carrying 70 tons of mahogany that had been illegally cut in the Brazilian Amazon. The Justice Department brought no charges against the shipper, despite the fact that the importation violated both U.S. law and international treaties.

via Bush Greenwatch

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Too Close for Comfort: Wal-Mart SuperCenter Opens Nearby

May 19, the Grand Opening, finally arrived. The new Wal-Mart SuperCenter opened 1/2 mile away from our home. (If we cross the street, go behind our neighbor’s house and walk 300 yards down the hill through the woods, cross the creek, and walk 50 yards — we will be in the parking lot. Not that we would want do that!)

Several small horse farms were transformed into a huge Wal-Mart. We are witnessing the paving of Atlanta’s outer suburbs. It’s not a pretty sight.

BusinessWeek on America’s Leadership

Here’s the last paragraph of the BusinessWeek Editorial for the May 24, 2004 Issue:

The fiercest anti-American backlash in history may well be under way. The policy of unilateral preemption and its inept execution has, in the end, made the U.S. less secure. The barbaric beheading of Nicholas Berg is a grim reminder that America faces a long war against a savage enemy. It must regain the respect of those it needs to win that war. To do that, America needs to change its rules of engagement not only in Iraq but in the world at large. A nation that relies on its global ties for economic growth, on immigration for its dynamism, and on foreign capital for its finances cannot long ignore virulent anti-Americanism before facing dire consequences. Restoring America’s respect in Iraq is but the first step in restoring America’s leadership and moral authority around the world.

Link BW Online | May 24, 2004 | Iraq: How To Repair America’s Moral Authority