Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas dear family and friends!  

Let's pretend this is a Christmas card that arrived in your mail box. That way we can wish you and yours all of the best things about this Blessed time of year and save all the hassle that comes with getting it from here to there. Just think about all that we have saved: the ever increasing cost of a stamp, the card selection process itself, and the claw-like hand cramping that I now get when I hold pen or pencil for any length of time.

It makes me happy to say Merry Christmas. It's what we should be saying right now. I've decided not to say "Happy Holiday or Winter Vacation or anything like that anymore. Ever. I think everyone should wish others any type of special occasion greeting that means the most to them. So, Merry Christmas and God Bless us, everyone.

 We are all happy and healthy and thank the Lord every day for all the Blessings that overwhelm us. Jackson Hole is a bit nippy right now, so we are tucked here in the comfort and warmth of our Arizona High Mesa and enjoying the company of all our family. The Kentucky folks have arrived, so December is filled to the brim with almost a month-long house party that also includes two birthday parties.  Two-thirds of our "Irish Tripletts" (they were three under three) have now reached the half century mark.  The concept is a little hard to grasp.  We certainly can't be the Olde Phart Parents that their ages imply, can we?

The celebrations around here include the cacophony of a herd of dachshunds (4) sending the news to all who happen to pass by on the street far down the driveway. If a visitor, the FEDEX folks, the UPS Browns or our mail lady actually comes up the driveway, the celebratory howls are deafening. Usually, only rock stars receive such raucous and loud greetings, but here at Casa de Roadrunner, everyone approaching creates a huge amount of excitement, and the doggies keep us laughing. Not as sure about our neighbors however, but they a so far, continuously polite.

 The days are sunny, with temperatures in the seventies or eighties. The pool is heated and very inviting. The nights are cold and full of dazzling stars and brilliant moon glow. The winter sunsets paint a beautiful mural every evening as we gather in the comfy camaraderie of those we love.  Our hearts break for the Newtown, CT families dealing with the unfathomable grief that we cannot begin to understand or get our heads around.  We can only pray for them and for the hope that our leaders will find the way to try and stop the madness.  More mental health screening instead of just kicking the "weird loners" out of schools would be one place to start, as would toning down the violence in movies, video games and cartoons.  We have seen every parents worst nightmare and every child's monster under the bed realized.  It must stop.

 As we say here in Arizona, "When the mountains turn pink, its time for a drink." So here's a toast to you and yours, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and may 2013 bring good health, comfort and joy to all of you.

With much love,

Anne and Ron Walker and all their family.

Here's the boys in their Christmas Pajamas.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"2016:Obama's America"


If you haven't seen the movie, "2016:Obama's America", you need to put it at the top of your TO-DO-NOW list. If you know anyone who is even remotely considering voting to re-elect the current President, please encourage them to see this movie. It is beyond scary. It answers all the questions about where he came from, so fast, so un-tested, so ill-equipped for the job. What was America thinking? What is everyone thinking now?

One bumper sticker floating around nails it: One Big Ass Mistake America

Dinesh D'souza, the man behind the movie and the author of the book by the same name will be speaking at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace on November 1 at 7:00 pm. He says that Obama's "redistribution" beliefs will not only take money from the haves to give to the have-nots, it will change the United States of America to the United States of Islam.

Did I say OMG loud enough?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Remembering Nate Avery

Dear Friends. This is a sad time. We have lost a cherished friend and gifted man. The loss has left us stunned and overcome by the enormity of the tragedy.

Regular readers of my blog may not know who Nate Avery was. But, if you were in Jackson Hole when our daughter Lynne married Barry McNees, you may remember the affable and friendly young man, who probably introduced himself to you and then wanted to learn more about you. I don't think Nate ever met a stranger.

Lynne, and Nate's wife, Annette (Netter) worked together at Host Communications while Nate was doing his neurosurgery residency at the University of Kentucky Medical School In Lexington. They became devoted friends. Annette sat with us when Lynne had her emergency hysterectomy and we hugged and cried together. As Lynne recovered, she would often wake up from a nap to see Netter sitting beside her, waiting to provide comfort, a cup of ice cream or holding a deli sandwich for them to share. Later, while Lynne was recovering in Jackson Hole, the Avery's left Lexington to move back to their hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona. Nate had decided to become a pediatric neurosurgeon. He was the only physician doing brain surgery in Flagstaff, not to mention doing amazing and delicate procedures on newborns. When Lynne could finally return to Lexington and go back to work, the void caused by the absent Avery's was overwhelming. Then she met Barry, and I thank the Lord every day for him.

Nate and Annette met when he was elected to the Student Senate and she was Student Body Vice President at Northern Arizona University. During college summers they worked as rafting guides on the Colorado River. Nate often wondered to friends how a river rat like him wound up doing brain surgery for a living. But do it, he did, with unfailing kindness and caring, even as he often had to deal with the most difficult and heart wrenching cases. There is nothing more painful to a parent than not being able to ease the suffering of their child, but in "Dr. Nate" they found a doctor who could heal their little one, and could also walk them calmly through those terrifying days. And walk to him they did, and drive and fly and come from all over the world.

Nate Avery was only forty-five years old when he died after slipping on the rocks and falling unconscious into the water at Lake Powell in Arizona. Friends made multiple dives into the murky water before finding him and pulling him out. They began CPR and he had a pulse on the helicopter that took him to Page Hospital, but the pulse stopped and he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

There was a "Celebration of Life" gathering at the Arizona Snowbowl outside of Flagstaff on Friday, August 24th. Daughters Lisa and Marja drove to Phoenix and picked up Lynne at the airport, so they could all be at the service for Nate. As they drove through Flagstaff, every billboard on every business in town had special messages about Nate. "We love you Nate" "Thank you, Dr. Avery." The tributes were everywhere they looked.

Lynne was able to spend some quality time alone with Annette before the memorial service began. Over 1,500 people were on hand, and many of them were people whose life he had saved. Nate's favorite saying was always "Best Day Ever." He felt that about every day of his life. What a wonderful attitude to have.

Nate was a notoriously bad dresser. Spiffy clothes were just not important in the big scheme of his life. He'd rather spend time with his wife and kids and his close knit group of brothers and sisters. It was so obvious that Nate and Netter were soul mates, best friends, and devoted parents.

Nate loved old cars and the joy of all kinds of outdoor activities. I remember a time when we met at the Cracker Barrel in Flagstaff on our way back to Tucson from Jackson Hole. With Nate at the wheel, the Avery's came roaring into the parking lot in an old, open air military transport vehicle. It was his newest, old toy, and he loved it. Actually, it was so unusual, it looked like a one-vehicle parade. His combination of surgical training, working on cars and an architectural background led him to invent and patent a cervical plate for children with injuries to the junction of their head and spine. He received a prestigious fellowship at the University of Utah's Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City, and that fellowship will now bear his name.

The memorial was summed up with the words:

"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

May God's Blessings always smile on you, dear Netter, Cora, Thad and Maddy.

With Annette at the podium, surrounded by some of Nate's family, they salute the crowd with Nate's favorite gesture for "Best Day Ever!" For more information about Nate Avery, visit the official website set up in his memory:

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Honor America Day

Happy Birthday, America!

The 4th of July is a special day for all of us Patriots. All over small town America, people celebrate with parades, picnics, music and fireworks. In our wonderful Jackson Hole, the locals parade around the town square, many with their dogs, some on horseback, some in antique cars, riding or pulling wagons, high a-top fire engines or whatever old jalopy they can coax into taking one more ride around town. The high school band is always a crowd pleaser. A sure bet is that in an election years, everyone running for office will also be a part of the parade.

Some participants throw candy at the crowd, and the 4-H club members and the Farmers Market folks throw ears of home-grown corn. Some come in vintage Western dress. Everyone waves a flag. Everyone cheers for everyone else. It is small town America at it's very best.

When I was a kid growing up in Southern California, the 4th was raucously celebrated with pot luck barbecues, homemade ice cream hand cranked by everyone in attendance, and my granny's delicious pies. My dad always called the American flag, "Old Glory," and he insisted on flying her whenever and wherever he was in residence.

I love Old Glory, too. We had a big flag pole in Potomac and duplicated it in Tucson. I've sewn quilted flags and knitted flags that are now pillows. Our daughter Lynne and son-in-law Barry have a flag room in their home. It's a great room!

When I was a kid, I also loved sparklers and those black pill-like things that you lit on fire and watched them grow into long worms. My uncles took turns setting off the big show-pieces, out in the back forty, as it was called no matter whose house hosted the festivities. We sang patriotic songs and when everyone was stuffed way too full, the grownups would play poker while the kids played "kick the can" and "hide and go seek" all over the neighborhood. We loved playing the best when the day was gone and it was pitch black dark! I wonder if kids today ever experience the thrill of running like the wind on a moonless night at the sound of "Olly, olly oxen, free, free, free."

On July 4, 1970, there was an amazing celebration on the mall in Washington, DC. Half a million people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial. It was called Honor America Day. Newsweek called it "A middle America Woodstock." J. Willard Marriott, Bob Hope and Dr. Billy Graham were the co-chairmen.

President Nixon's White House Advance Office put it together and built the crowds. Disney's top producer, Bob Jani staged the day-long show. Red Skelton's interpretation of the pledge of allegiance was an emotional highlight. Entertainers included Dinah Shore, Pat Boone, Glenn Campbell, The New Christy Minstrels, and Kate Smith, singing "God Bless America". Fred Waring led the combined Les Brown and the Navy Bands in the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

I was delighted to discover I could watch it again on You Tube. I encourage you to watch it and share it with others to celebrate this holiday.
Go to You Tube and search for "Honor America Day, July 4, 1970. You can also search for Red Skelton and watch his wonderful interpretation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Dwight Chapin called Ron several weeks out and told him he should meet with J. Willard Marriott, Sr. Dwight had told Mr. Marriott that "Ron's got these thirty-some guys, they're sensational, they're our advance men, they know how to build crowds and organize things. The President wants Honor America Day to be the biggest happening on a Fourth of July ever in Washington, DC. Let's let them have it."

Ron took all thirty of the guys that lived in the east coast area and turned them loose. They did crowd raising, handbills, leaflets, telephone boiler room operations, and they basically set up a mini presidential advance, without using the president's name. For Honor America Day, they didn't have anything going at that point, except for the idea of Honoring America on the Fourth of July. They had to be innovative, they had to be imaginative, and they had to have alot of guts. It's great to be able to go out and say, The President and Mrs. Nixon will be arriving on a specific day at a specific time. That's clout. It's instant excitement. But, they couldn't do that yet.

They got Bob Hope on board when he agreed to coordinate the entertainment and give up a commitment to play golf in a benefit tournament in Scotland. Dr. Graham agreed to organize the religious ceremonies in the morning. They were off and running. Those advance men did one hell of a job. It would never have happened if it hadn't been for them. They set up regional offices. They had one in downtown Washington, two or three out in Maryland, some out in Virginia. They had offices in New York and Philadelphia.

They had trains that came from New York, down through Philadelphia. Huge trains full of people. That's when they first met Peter Brennan who became Secretary of Labor. He brought a whole train of hard hats down from Philadelphia. Ross Perot from Texas rented two airplanes and flew people in.

Ron credits Honor America Day with putting the Nixon White House Advance Office on the map. Honor America Day was a real plus, a happening, a gigantic celebration.
After the success of the event, the Advance Office became the "go to" place for all matter of information. From that day forward, if people wanted an answer, they contacted the Advance Office.

Ron remembers going out on the the ellipse early in the morning on the 4th and could hardly believe what he was seeing. Hundreds of people were arriving with picnic lunches. They kept coming all day long, for the religious program in the morning and the celebration in the evening.

Organization of Honor America Day took about six weeks. That it could be accomplished in such a short time was a tribute to its creators and the spirit that moved them. And spirit was the reality behind Honor America Day. They ignored the obstacles in the way and were dedicated to honoring our nation. Dr. Graham gave a moving plea for unity, courage and faith during the time of chaos that was prevalent in the seventies.

Presidents loved it: "This is the living spirit . . . that created a free and strong and prosperous nation," Richard M. Nixon.

"We pay homage to the things that have made our nation great," Lyndon B. Johnson.

"This is a great idea. It's time somebody did something like this for America," Harry Truman.

Author, Robert J. Serling, said of the event, "Honor America Day was an emotional experience for all who heard and/or saw it. Those involved not only tried, they succeeded in faithfully recreating great success, from the opening bars of the Star Spangled Banner to the thud of fireworks cascading against the backdrop of the Washington Monument. And as that mighty structure towered over the capital of democracy, so did the spirit of Honor America Day dwarf the problems and pains of a troubled but still hopeful nation."

It was supported by more than 400,000 Americans who experienced it in person. Millions more watched it on television or heard it on the radio. Ordinary Americans - black and white, rich and poor, Republicans and Democrats, Jews and Christians. What a momentous and memorable day!

Ron says we should do it again next Fourth of July, 2013, during President Nixon's Centennial and to celebrate Mitt Romney's leadership for our nation. Let us hear from you who agree and are ready to volunteer.

There's an interesting full page letter in today's, USA Today, from Starbuck's CEO, Howard Schultz, in which he urges all of us to celebrate the promise of America. Read it, and let's all join the conversation with #INDIVISIBLE. "It is time, whatever our differences, for us to strive and succeed as one nation-indivisible."

Happy Birthday, America, and God Bless you. God Bless Old Glory, too, and don't forget to let her fly proudly, wherever you are!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Remembering Jon Foust

Jon Foust was a wonderful friend to Ron and me, and our girls, since the two men met at the Allstate Insurance Company in the mid-1960's. Many of the men that Ron met and worked with at Allstate, continued to work together in the years that followed. Doug Blaser, John Pitchess and Jon Foust to name just a few. Doug said that during their time at Allstate, they "covered for one another while they were out interviewing for anything that would get them out of Allstate." That is so true.

Jon became one of the original founding members of the White House Advance Office. President Nixon asked Ron to establish a White House Advance Office soon after the 1969 Inaugural. Previously, advance men were hidden away in various government departments. President Nixon viewed it as an important function of the White House and wanted it legitimized.

The founding advance men were Jon Foust, Mike Schrauth, Dewey Clower, Bill Henkel and Mike DuVal. They, under Ron's leadership, set the standard and wrote the manual for all Presidential events and travel that would follow. Red Cavaney referred to them as "The Fab Five."

Ron fondly referred to Jon as his "junk yard dog" because he could give him the toughest assignments and the hardest advances. He was the guy who went over to the Committee to Re-elect the President for the 1972 campaign. It didn't get much harder than that!

"When President Nixon appointed Ron to be the 8th Director of the National Park Service, Jon and Doug went with him. Jon was the man who would deal with the concessionaires and Doug was Chief of Staff.

Jon and Nancy kept our three little girls, countless times, when we traveled. They never complained and they never said no to having three additional children to feed, get to school or anywhere else they needed to go. Stevie, Scott and Holly Foust were our children, too. The six kids were amazing in their friendship. They always had fun together. I honestly don't remember them ever fighting or not getting along. I remember once when the adults were enjoying a cocktail in the living room, and all six kids were watching TV in the family room, I had to go in and ask them to be quiet. I returned to see Jon, Nancy and Ron laughing hysterically, because the only one who got yelled at was our dog, Scoshi. He was the disruptor of the group, not any of the kids. The five older ones figured out that they could walk through the woods from our house to the Foust house in Potomac. That was great fun for them and they built forts, climbed trees, and collected all kinds of treasures. Looking back, they were a lucky bunch of kids, because today parents are scared to death to have their kids play in the woods all alone.

Jon was Santa Claus every Christmas. He was really good at it, too. We'd get the girls up and tell them to go to the top of the stairs and quietly take a peek at what was happening in the living room. Jon would be filling their stockings by the soft light of the Christmas Tree. Then he'd do a few "Ho Ho Ho's, and disappear. Marja went so far as to challenge someone who told her there really wasn't a Santa Claus. "But, I saw him, and heard him," she argued.

Jon and Nancy's marriage did not last and we have lost track of her. That makes me very sad because she was a cherished friend that I miss. If this blog somehow catches up with her, I'd love to have her get in touch.

We are so happy that we got to know Carolyn Foust at Ron's surprise 70th Birthday party in Jackson Hole. Jon was walking with the help of a cane then, and tired easily, but we were honored that he came so far to make the surprise such a special happening. They also came to the 20th Anniversary celebration at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda. Jon was also on hand for the "Managing the President's Time" Legacy series panel that was really a tribute to Bob Haldeman and his leadership. Ron was so pleased to be able to introduce Jon as one of President Nixon's advance men.

What can you say when you lose a dear friend? Especially one who was a part of our lives for such a long time. In Jon's case, I can't help but think of all the many ways he was always ready to help. It didn't matter what the task at hand might be. He'd roll up his sleeves and "get 'er done!" He had a self-confidence that was contagious, and he usually had a hearty, "How the Hell are ya?" greeting to offer.

Jon, thanks for everything, but mostly your friendship. You were always there for us and what more can be asked of a true friend? You were a very special one to us and to many others. You were loved, you will be missed.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Happy Easter 2012

Here's a point to ponder for all you folks out in blogger-world:

What would happen if you woke up tomorrow morning and everything you DID NOT thank God for last night when you said your prayers, was gone?

Enjoy this Holy season, help those who are less fortunate, remember our fighting men and women, pray that our country chooses wise leaders, hug those you love, do not take anything for granted, count your many blessings and thank God for each and every one!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pulmonary Embolism

Listen up everyone.

Even though we know better, we sat for five and a half hours recently on a crammed full Southwest Airlines flight. Ron, Marja and I tried the new non-stopper from Baltimore back to Tucson after a busy week in Washington, DC. Our reasoning was that it would be better to take one long flight, instead of changing planes on a connector. WRONG! At least changing planes is a form of exercise, that we now know we desperately needed. We were repeatedly told to not wait in the aisles for the restrooms, and the fasten seat belt signs were illuminated more than they were off. The result of turbulence, we were told, but it seemed as if one or two teeny bumps were a good excuse to turn on the sign. We were captive, so we stuck our noses in our books and our ears in our head sets and resolved to endure. Even after we finally landed in Tucson, the gate wasn't ready, so we sat still some more.

Two mornings later, Ron was awakened with extreme pain in his chest. He knew it was unlike anything he'd ever experienced, so we went to the ER to check it out. A blood clot in his lung was the culprit. SCARY stuff.

Then came an overnight stay in the hospital with blood thinners to bust the clot, IV's, needles and constant poking and prodding. The good news is that now he's home, with a passel of new meds, instruction sheets, needles for the stomach and needles for the finger, but with a blessed feeling of relief.

So . . . . don't forget, as we did, to move around on long flights. Flex your ankles while you are sitting, make circles with your feet, ala Tai Chi, nine times to the right and then nine times to the left. Last year, in my Tai Chi class, I asked why nine was the magic number and received the very Chinese-y answer of something about the ying and the yang. So, don't ask, just do it. Then thank us every time you DON'T get a blood clot on a long flight.

UPDATE on my last blog, "On Hold:" Our inquisitive, super, smart, always ready to check things out, son-in-law, Barry McNees did some research and discovered that every American spends an average of sixty (60) HOURS A YEAR ON HOLD. An astounding waste of time, not to mention the frustration it causes!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

On Hold

Clint Eastwood got it wrong. It isn't Halftime in America. Not even close. America is ON HOLD.

"Your call is very important to us." "Press 1 for Directory Assistance." "Due to heavier than usual call volume . . . " "This call may be recorded for quality assurance." That last one is a crock of woo if there ever was one. If calls were actually being recorded to improve quality, why doesn't the quality ever improve?

No living person ever answers a telephone these days, only robots with pre-recorded voices and no ears.

Recently my AOL account was hacked and it has not been a good experience. In fact, I was really hacked off by the whole thing and remain that way. The results that are known so far, is that they made two computers terminally ill, used a credit card and compromised my Wells Fargo account. We used to have a great independent little bank in Jackson Hole that I loved, but unfortunately, it got crushed by a run away stage coach. I was heartsick. The original bankers were our friends and they always answered their phones in person, and they even invited us to their homes. Then my five digit account number became twice as long, and the level of customer service practically disappeared.

My recent stage coach calamity was caused by the big hat drivers letting some crooks and imposters order checks from my account and have them shipped to a different address, in a different state and they even changed the telephone number. How does that happen without notification to the account holder? Next, shady characters tried to cash the bogus checks in California and Virginia, but the person they were asking to cash the check got suspicious. Thank heavens! Then just try to talk to somebody at the bank about it. Every time you actually get a real person, after waiting forever in a holding pattern, it is not the right office/department/location, etc. When your ear gets really hot, and you are tired of listening to elevator music, or something worse, or when you can't wait any longer to run to the bathroom, you give up and then hang up. Now, that is no doubt what they were hoping you would eventually do. And you are forced to choose that option because their menu options have drastically changed.

And it isn't just Wells, I must point out to be perfectly fair. It is every place you try to contact by phone these days. The doctors office gives you numeric choices for the reason you are calling, so does the drug store, your cable provider, the local library, and the neighborhood pizza joint, just to name a few.

Here's a novel idea to create jobs, reduce America's stress level and improve productivity and customer service. Hire people to answer telephones all across the U S of A. Just like in the good old days. Train those folks to properly direct incoming calls and answer questions relative to the business where they are working. Just think, if every office in every town in every state chose this way to run their business . . . . oh but that's way too drastic a move. That would be way more change than we should hope for. Silly me!