Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Memorial Day in Grand Rapids

The weather for celebrating the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country ended the way it began: warm but low-humidity, clear blue sky with sun all day. A perfect day to be with family out at Clear Lake.

But since we weren't scheduled to gather until about two in the afternoon that gave me an opportunity to pay my respects to a few of the men from the 3rd Michigan Infantry who served in the Union army during the Civil War but didn't live to see the end of that conflict. So, about 10 in the morning I drove into downtown Grand Rapids to Fulton Cemetery. At the time of the war this was the city cemetery and the scene of much anguish among the citizens during the war. I stopped by to say hello to
  • Captain Samuel Judd, whose body was brought home after he was killed at Fair Oaks, Virginia, on May 31, 1862; 
  • Major Peter Weber who fell at Falling Waters, Maryland on July 14, 1863; 
  • regimental Chaplain Francis Cuming, who at age 64 was the oldest man in the regiment; he became sick early in the war, returned home but never recovered and he died in the city on August 26, 1862; 
  • Brigadier General Stephen Champlin, Kent County; prosecuting attorney before the war and former colonel of the Old 3rd he was at his home in Grand Rapids when he succumbed to wounds on January 20 1864.
Located just a few feet from each other are Weber, Judd and Champlin at the top of the hill:



In subsequent years many of their former comrades would join them in these few acres at the corner of Eastern and Fulton streets.

A little after 1pm five of us squeezed into our car -- Bernice, Susie, her sister Joyce and Joyce's friend Avery -- and headed off to Woodlawn Cemetery to pay our respects to my father-in-law Tunis VandenBerg's and Van Halsema family members who have passed on: we first stopped at Tunis's grave right near the 7th green of Indian Trails golf course and then walked the few meters to the Van Halsema graves (Susie's grandparents Emo and Nellie, her uncles Dick and Gerard and cousin David and his daughter Dana). It was grand to see so many people out decorating graves of loved ones, and to see so many flowers on gravesites.

From Woodlawn we made our way to Route 131 north and Clear Lake. It was, I said before it bears repeating, an absolutely beautiful day to be alive and out at the Lake. Lots of faces new and old, and of course plenty of warm conversation and delicious food.



Joyce and Susie (that's Scott's mother Gwen on the right)

Maria contemplating the food

Uncle John and two of the Palma sisters

Monday, May 16, 2016

Words that seem to define the Republican Party

What rhymes with Trump?

Dump, rump, chump, bump, sump, crump, stump, frump. One could go on.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Benny, Silvie and Donnie

Whaddya get when you cross Benito Mussolini with Silvio Berlusconi? 

Donald Trump.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Update from Grand Rapids

This past April has seen a number of major events in our lives and in the lives of loved ones near and far, events that range from the very good to terrible. Here we go:

As of March 31 I finished his tenure at Johnson & Wales University (that was a good thing, by the way).

On April 13 our beloved Aunt Marian Ten Have died; on April 21 was the visitation and the following day the funeral service in Grand Rapids.

On April 14 I published my guide book to the sculptures of Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

By April 15 our kitchen remodeling project was at long last complete.

On April 21 Susan served her first afternoon tea, having created and implemented the menu.

On April 25 I celebrated my 68th birthday, which Susie and I spent in Chicago at the Art Institute where we met up with my younger brother Greg and his wife Joyce.

The following day my older brother Don died in Fresno, California.

On April 29 I gave my very first presentation on the sculpture in Pére-Lachaise Cemetery to an audience made up of members of the local chapter of the L’Alliance Française.

On May 2 I flew to Fresno for the funeral of my brother, which was held the following day at Sacred Heart Church in Fresno. A former captain in the Marine Corps, he was buried with military honors in St. Peter’s Cemetery.

On May 4 I returned home and learned that I’d been asked to give another presentation, this time on Paris Cemeteries this autumn at Aquinas College’s lifelong learning center.

All our love to the Sopers in California and Illinois, to the Galloways and Ten Have-Chapmans in Michigan and the Loaney’s in Missouri.

Life is short. Go to Paris.

To Fresno, California to see my brother one last time

I flew out to Fresno last Monday. On Tuesday was the funeral for my older brother Don. After the funeral we all drove out to the graveside for the interment.

There was an honor guard of Vietnam Veterans on a motorcycle motorcade, a large contingent of Marine Corps Leagues folks and an official Marine honor guard to provide both the 21-gun salute and the flag ceremony. It was all capped off with a fly-by with the missing man formation. Powerful stuff that morning in St. Peter's Cemetery.

After we left the graveside everyone returned to the church for a lunch in the fellowship hall and there was plenty of lively reminiscing. That evening the family gathered at the home of Dirk and Jan (Tina's brother and sister-in-law). I eventually made my way back to my motel and to bed -- the next day was going to be a long one for me.

Wednesday morning I packed up, drove to the airport, dropped the car off and checked in for my flight to Dallas. I was back in Grand Rapids by midnight. A long day indeed but I needed to see Don one more time.

He was my Big Brother.

You should be so lucky.

Presentation of the flag to Tina

Lisa Soper making more lemonade

Mike Soper going through the line

Mackenzie Soper and Adam Soper

Dirk and Don's half-sister Janice

Adam Soper Tina Soper and Amanda Soper

My 68th birthday at the Chicago Art Institute

It was a gorgeous day for drive to Chicago. We used valet parking at the Art Institute (oddly enough it was the same cost as the nearby parking garages but for more time).

After a brief wait out front we were joined by my brother Greg and his wife Joyce and the two of us spent a pleasurable two hours touring this incredible creative space.

Greg and Joyce left to drive home to the suburbs and Susie and I strolled up Michigan Avenue to the river before returning to pick up our car. We, too, eventually made our way out to the western suburbs and had dinner with G & J at a Mexican restaurant in Woodstock. A grand time and a wonderful birthday to be sure.
Michigan Avenue in front of the Art Institute


"The Child's Bath," 1893 by Mary Cassatt

"Woman Reading," 1879-80 by Edouard Manet

"Woman in a Garden," 1882-83 by Berthe Morisot

"Rainy Day" by Gustave Caillebotte

"La Petite Danseuse" by Edgar Degas

"Young woman sewing," 1879 by Auguste Renoir

"Woman at her Toilette," 1875-80 by Berthe Morisot

"Windows" by Marc Chagall

"Flower girl in Holland," 1887 by George Hitchcock