Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Divine Intervention for Roadrunner

 Ron Walker was the human "Roadrunner".  It was his codename in the Nixon White House for world wide communication.  The White House Communications Agency (WHCA) took it away from a Nike Missle site in Alaska, and gave it to Ron, who always had a little twinge of feeling bad about that.  But Roadrunner he was.  (Actually we call our home here on the High Mesa, near Tucson, Arizona, "Casa de la Roadrunner, which means "House of the Roadrunner."

An amazing thing has happened recently right here on the High Mesa near Tucson, Arizona.   An authentic roadrunner started visiting us more often.  He came by most days to get a drink of water, and he would come right up the the sliding glass door to see if the human Roadrunner was in residence.  Ron started calling him "Rodney" because that was a nickname that many of his White House Pals, called the human Roadrunner, and he was loving seeing the bird more often.

After using a push broom on the patio, Ron stuck it upside down in the corner near the door to his office.  Roadrunner, the bird, took a fancy to it, and moved in.  He's been sleeping there everynight since our long-time buddy John Kinnear died.  Now, Johnny K goes way back to our college days, and he was always such a campus hot dog that we called him "The Mustard King."  His wife, Corky, was a delta gamma pledge sister of mine.  Over the years, Corky and John gave Ron a couple of DeGrazio's paintings of Roadrunners, and we treasure them.

Now here's my theory.  John Kinnear got to heaven, the same week as Colonel Jack Brennan, President Nixon's long time marine aide, and they were all having a fun reunion sharing tales with Jon Foust, Mike DuVal, Dewey Clower and all the others who made history together.  They decided to send THE Roadrunner, a roadrunner to let them know they were thinking of him.  How else would you explain this?  Thanks guys, we love him and you!

Friday, August 28, 2020

 Remembering Coach Lute Olson

In 1988 Ron and I were very honored to be a part of the Ronald Reagan Official Presidential Delegation to the Olympics in Seoul, Korea.  The first night there was a welcome party at Jim Lily's home, our American Ambassador to South Korea. When we were introduced, along with the other members of our delegation, Ron spotted the University of Arizona basketball coach, Lute Olson in the crowd.  Because we were both U of A graduates and had a gigantic satellite dish on our roof in Potomac, Maryland for one reason only, watch the U of A wildcats play basketball.  Ron would call the University, get the coordinates for the game, and beam that sucker across the US of A to pick up the feed.   Somehow he'd always manage to find it and we were right there amid the hoopla.  It was magic. 

And because of this, Ron obviously knew exactly what Lute Olson looked like.  He couldn't wait for the speeches to end, and when they finally did, we made a B-line through the crowd to find our coach.

When we introduced ourselves, both Lute and his wife, Bobbi, said they were so glad to meet some Arizona folks because they didn't know a soul.  Ron told them to stick with us, and they joined the Official delegation as our special guests.  They were a wonderful addition and it was so much fun.

For years we would spend Christmas in Tucson with Ron's mom.  It was so great to leave the freezing east and enjoy the sunny weather in the southwest.  We would always get tickets to the Fiesta Classic Basketball tournament held in late December.  It was our chance to get to know the players and we always had dinner with Lute and Bobbi.  If it was around New Year's Eve, Bobbi always said we should wear something Glitzy.  She was such a dear lady and so fun to be with.

During this time, Ron was a member of the NCAA Leadership Foundation and they always held their annual meeting at the Final Four.  We did this for fourteen straight years.  Often it was another chance to spend time with Coach O and Bobbi and he never failed to reminisce about how we met and what fun our friendship had always been. We were there when the Arizona Wildcats blew away three number one seeds to beat Kentucky in triple overtime.  The year was 1997.

We will miss our precious friend, but we cherish all the special times we spent together.  Thanks for the memories, Coach O.  Tucson will never forget you.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

From White House to Walmart

Greetings everyone.  I haven't blogged for awhile, but at this scary, unbelievable, chaotic time, all the thoughts in my head are colliding with each other.  The result seems to be that they crowd out the reason I just went in the kitchen, or the what did I just remember I needed, thoughts. We've seen the best of times and the worst of times, but this is like a bad science fiction movie. Do you think we'll ever be normal again?

Ron and I are blessed to be stuck here on our High Mesa with it's million dollar view, warm swimming pool, no traffic, not many houses around, and the Wayne B. Collins Memorial citrus grove producing lots of Vitamin C.  We now have triple digit hot days forecast, and under normal circumstances we'd be thinking about heading to our cowboy cabin in Jackson Hole, but we won't go because we'd leave two daughters and two grandsons behind, and we wouldn't have the wonderful support we have here in the desert.

And . . . alas, our middle daughter Marja Walker is really sick with the classic symptoms of the corona virus.  She is so miserable and I feel so helpless and unable to comfort her. She has been tested twice and both came  back negative.  Yet she still has all the symptoms, although they may be getting  a wee tiny bit better each day.  With apologies to my pal Don Rumsfeld, there sure are a lot of unknown unknowns!  Please remember Marja in your prayers.

Daughter Lisa, after seeing her dream job as an aesthetician at beautiful Miraval Spa disappear, her college student, Hugh and high school junior, Jake under foot full time and mad as hornets about it, she got herself hired as a Walmart Associate, filling the grocery orders of others to put food on her own table.  She's owns the title role of this blog.  Right after college she worked in the Reagan Advance office, the only one of her college pals to have a job after graduation.  Now she's keeping three houses stocked and walking over 18,000 steps every day.  Her wonderful attitude peeks out when she tells people that Walmart is paying her to exercise.

Luckily Marja and Lisa live here in Oro Valley within easy walking distance of each other.  We all have coolers outside for drop offs that now have replaced the always wonderful and welcome drop ins of yesterday.  Air kisses, hands over hearts, and shouts of "Love ya" have replaced wonderful hugs and sitting comfortably together to chat.

Daughter Lynne and the best son-in-law possible, Barry, live in Lexington, Kentucky.  Way too far away to have a cooler outside waiting for necessities to appear.  Lynne, as president of the International Spa Association abruptly shut its doors, cut staff, and now spends her time talking members, friends and strangers off the telephone poles while working remotely via Zoom.  Barry, with a huge inner-city, developing historic district as his office, still checks it out early every morning because his tenants have all closed their businesses and the not-working do nothings of the area watch for their chance to steal and vandalize.  Since Barry always carefully researches all things he wants to do, when he comes back home he enters the breeze-way, strips naked, and streaks through the house and up the stairs headed to the shower.  Sometimes he flies past Lynne's Zoom call with-in camera range.  Luckily he's a fast runner.

As for myself, I never seem to have the time to feel bored.  My book club and bible study quickly adapted to ZOOM.  We have regular family ZOOM cocktail parties.  Among my other things to do, I have been making masks.  I deliver them to the precious, peaceful prayer garden at our church at first light in the morning.  Church members, hikers, and many others stop by to say a prayer and find a moment of quiet peace.  As word got out, folks have been stopping by to pick up a mask to keep them safe. That makes me so happy.  It might be corny, but I like to think that each one is AnneOriginal and each stitch is full of prayers to keep the wearer safe.

I also, happily, accept catering requests.  Today it's Marja's request for some chicken salad.  Soon someone will stop by to pick it up for the Hart House and Marja's front door cooler.  I put several dozen healing hugs in the cooler too.

Anyone recognize that fabric?  (Our couch and curtains in the Dallas house.)
Stay safe everybody.  Hope it is over soon!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Remembering Barbara Bush

Rest in Peace dear Barbara.  You inspired so many by your caring, compassion, charm and wit.  We will miss you in so many, countless ways, and be forever grateful for all you did for our wonderful country.

Barbara Bush was my friend.  Barbara Bush and I were co-conspirators!

During the second Reagan/Bush Inaugural, in 1985, the 50th Presidential Inaugural, Mike Deaver and Ron Walker were co-Chairmen.  The plan was that the Deaver's would accompany the Reagans to all the Inaugural Balls and Ron and I would accompany the Bushes.   When Mike Deaver got sick and couldn't participate, Ron and I were asked if we wanted to go with the Reagan's.  We said, no, we'd stick with Vice President and Mrs. Bush.

It was a merry whirl, as you can imagine.  The four of us would arrive at one of the 12 Inaugural  Ball sites, be introduced, dance a few moments, change partners, acknowledge the crowd, and move on.  The only time the President and Vice President were at the same location, was at the Kennedy Center.  As the Vice Presidential party stepped to the back of the stage and the President and Mrs. Reagan stepped into the spotlight, our vantage point behind them provided us with quite a unique view.  The bright lights in front of them made Mrs. Reagan's white gown, completely see-through from behind.  She appeared to be completely and shockingly stark naked.    I heard Mrs. Bush gasp at the same time I did.  A startling sight to be sure.

Later in the car, we agreed that we probably should keep that secret to ourselves and we have done that.  But all these years later, I think the statute of limitations has expired.  And it sure was a memorable moment.  Just think, if I'd had a cell phone in my evening bag way back then, do you think it would have been as easy to keep this secret?

The Walkers and Bush friendship goes way back to the first days of the Nixon administration.  We saw them often over the years, both socially and officially.  Socially meant exchanging warm hugs and happy smiles.  Officially meant we'd try to be completely, well, you know, "official."

Mrs. Bush holds the record for riding the National Park Service "cherry picker" to the top of the National Christmas tree on the mall to put the star at the very top of the tree.  I went often to witness the event and cheer her amazing skill at what must have been a possible stomach turning ride.  It's been said so often that she was courageous and brave.  Yes she was.

She scolded me just once.  It was in New Orleans at the Republican National Convention when George Herbert Walker Bush announced that Dan Quayle would be his running mate.  Our cherished pal, Ron Jackson, long-time commander of the White House Mess, was dying of lung cancer and couldn't travel to New Orleans.  I wanted to take a movie to show him when I got back to Washington.  Being a short person, I couldn't find a good vantage point to film the big moment.  I climbed up on a ship's mast, next to where the Quayles would be arriving on another boat.  With movie camera in hand, I waited for the show to begin.  Later Mrs. Bush told me, "George and I were beside ourselves when we saw you climbing up on that boat.  You shouldn't have done that."  She was right of course, but Ron Jackson loved seeing all the hoopla going on, and it made me feel good to share a little bit of the fun with him.

It's also been said that Barbara Bush was one of a kind.  She definitively was that, so let's all strive to be more like her.  We can start by wearing pearls to church on Sunday.  A small token of our love, affection and gratitude for a woman worth emulating. Oh, how she will be missed.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Remembering Billy Graham

With great sadness, we have learned of the death of Dr. Billy Graham at the age of 99.

The Reverend Billy Graham was a National Treasure. Ron and I are proud to have called him our friend. His wise counsel to President's of the United States is impossible to measure.

Ron spent a great deal of time with Billy Graham over the years. They became acquainted because of their common bond, President Richard Nixon. As chief advance man for President Nixon, and founder of the first White House advance office, Reverend Graham asked Ron to come and talk to his crusade staff. That was in the 1970's and he wanted them to learn the finer points of raising a crowd and organizing large events. We were honored to spend time with him. He sat in our box during two events that Ron chaired, the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas and the 1985 Presidential Inaugural.

Fast forward to the funeral service for the 37th President at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California. Ron had been asked, by the President, to arrange the service and Billy Graham had been asked to deliver the eulogy. Ron and I were staying at the Fullerton Marriott near the Library. The night before the service, the phone rang late in the evening and T.W. Wilson, a long-time aide to Dr. Graham, called and asked Ron come to Dr. Graham's room. Ron found the famous preacher, who suffered from phlebitis, propped up in bed, with his legs resting on several pillows. The two men talked about the service that was to be held the next day, and Ron was asked to pray with Dr. Graham about the event itself and the words that would be said. Billy Graham asked the Lord to guide them during the ceremony.

The day of the Funeral was a very unusual one for Southern California. A storm had moved in, rain was falling and lightening and thunder filled the normally sunny skies. Ron and Dr. Graham walked out of the library to await the arrival of the hearse accompanied by the Nixon daughters and their families. As the motorcade approached, a loud clap of thunder roared overhead. Dr. Graham said to Ron, "That is the Lord, welcoming the President to his house of many mansions." Ron replied, "Dr. Graham, sir, I think it was the Old Man, saying I am here to offer my help."

Dr. Graham wrote to Ron on July 28, 2009:

"Dear Ron, How wonderful to get a letter from you. I would like to congratulate you on being named president of the Richard Nixon Foundation. I had no better friend through the years than Richard Nixon. There were so many different sides to his life, and he was frequently misunderstood. I remember the long talks I had with him before, during, and after his presidency. Ron, I will never forget what a faithful friend you were to the president, and how highly he thought of you.
With warmest affection, (signed)"

One cannot help but wonder where those wise men, like Dr. Billy Graham, have gone.  Our country needs them, "Now more than ever," as the saying goes.  He will be missed.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Matter of Balance . . . . Managing Concerns about Falls

Greetings Blogger Buddies.  I want to tell you about my newest adventure.

I recently became certified as a Balance Coach and I am very excited to tell you about it.

You know the deal.  As we age, we are not as agile as we used to be.  Falling is a very real and serious concern.You hear about it all the time. Statistics show that folks who fall and break a hip are usually dead within a year.  Our pal Dewey Clower died from complications from a fall. My church friend, Ethel, fell and broke both her wrists.  Ron had some serious falls last year and I wanted to try and figure out how to help him.

The National Council on Aging offers classes on how to prevent falls.  I signed up here in Tucson with our Pima Council on Aging (PCOA) to take the class.  I learned so much and decided I really wanted to share my new knowledge, so I signed up for the Coaching Class.   We will be holding classes at my church, Oro Valley United Church of Christ during the month of March.

The foundation for A Matter of Balance started in the State of Maine.  Today, many other states offer the course.  Google it if you are interested in learning more.  In an effort to get you interested, here are a couple of tips:

TIP ONE, WRIST TWIRLS:  When you fall, you usually try and block your fall with your wrists.  Start strengthening them so in a perfect world they won't break like Ethel's did.    Twirl them in circles.  Clockwise and counter clock wise.  Wave at folks when you are out and about.  Do it a lot.  Some might view you as a little balmy, but most will just think you are a very friendly person.

TIP TWO, ANKLE TWIRLS: Our ankles hold us up.  Duh.  We want to keep them up to the job.  Circle them around.  Do it in both directions.  It's super easy to do.  You can do it from your favorite chair while reading.  I find that when my feet are cold, ankle twirls warm them up.  It's a really nice,  cuzzy feeling.

TIP THREE, SIT TO STAND:  The Matter of Balance folks say that if you can do this, it will keep you out of a nursing home. Doctors ask people to do this before referring them to an assisted living facility. (I think it is just a polite way of determining if they can get on and off a toilet without help.)  Sit in a chair that has no arms.  Stand up and sit down.  Try to master ten "sit to stands" every time you finish a meal. If you have to start small, I promise you will improve!

This is just a quick overview of a Matter of Balance.  There are many more useful tips and exercises. Staying active is key.  People are afraid of falling, so they stay home and become couch potatoes.  And get frailer.  That's not good.  We don't want to do that.  You don't have to move fast, but just move.  Let me know if you want more info.  Good luck and stay strong.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Nixon Alumni Reunion

We gathered at the NEW Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California in February for a Nixon Alumni reunion.  It was a smaller group than the crowds on hand for the pre-grand opening last October. But smaller somehow made it seem more intimate and much more emotional for so many of us.

Ron and I were accompanied by two of our daughters, Lisa and Marja, and our two grandsons Hugh and Jake.  Alas, Lynne and Barry were frolicking in Hawaii at a beautiful wedding.
Hugh Hart, Jake Hart, Marja Walker, me, Lisa Walker Hart and Ron Walker in front of Norman Rockwell's portrait.

After watching the movie and taking a tour of the exhibits, Ron, as Chairman of the Nixon Foundation, took the prerogative of introducing the White House advance staff that were present at the luncheon in the East Room.  Red Cavaney, Alan Hall, Gordon Straughan, Julie Rowe Cooke, Bill Moeller, John Pitchess and Keith Kretchmaier.  Also on hand was Jack Brennan, the President's Marine aide, Chet Ward, the president's doctor,  and two men from the White House Communications Agency, (WHCA), Fred Swift and Tony Koppi.  These people had traveled the world with President Nixon, and were so happy to be together again, after so many years.

Then, as he so often does, Ron called on some in the audience to say what was their favorite part of the exhibits we had just seen.  Almost to a person, they said the movie.  (Oscars go to Frank Gannon, Dwight Chapin, and their brilliant team of consultants)

 Red Cavaney speaks to the group 
The film didn't waste a heart beat, it started with Watergate, the resignation, and boom, it was over . THEN the movie talked about the man, his humble beginnings, and his many, many amazing accomplishments.  The walk through the exhibits after the movie was a walk down memory lane for so many of us.  Many could be overheard pointing out themselves in exhibit photos.  I think probably Hugh and Jake's favorite part was seeing who was first in finding GranGran in many, many photographs.  They soon found that he was most often in the back somewhere, doing his "staff job" with a passion for anonymity that was Chief of Staff, Bob Haldeman's trademark.

And that brings me to our role today.  Ron often asks me, "Why Me?"  Why am I the Chair of the Nixon Foundation?  I was always just a little guy, "Painting hand signs, blowing up balloons, and putting asses on seats."

I guess there is not an easy answer, but Hugh Hewitt, as a moderator of one of the panels about the Nixon presidency, said this:  When we were building the library, we called on Ron Walker for help and he came out and made things happen.  So much in fact, that we gave him a bull whip at the Grand Opening.  When we buried Mrs. Nixon, Ron Walker came and oversaw the funeral arrangements.  When we buried the President, Ron Walker came and again helped make all the arrangements.  When we needed new leadership in the disarray of the Taylor/Naftali time, Ron and Anne Walker, and their family and doggies,  moved to Yorba Linda and worked tirelessly to provide leadership and right the ship.

The docents, the heart and soul of the library, and just about every staff person, will often mention and second these opinions.

During this recent reunion, we were gathered in the lobby, when a group of High School students were about to start their tour.  They were standing around, looking bored, staring at their phones, when Ron walked into their midst.  He introduced himself and started telling them stories about the 37th President.  You could see the looks on their faces change dramatically as they were given an up close and personal history lesson.  I'll bet they will long remember their visit to the Nixon library, because of a close encounter with a man who lived it.

As a member of the Association of Presidential Libraries, I urge all of the other libraries, if you have anyone who was a part of your time in the White House, and who is still among the living,  invite them out, send them out among the visitors, and watch the magic happen.

 The start of the exhibits, visit and see it for yourself.