Saturday, November 15, 2014

One Man's Paint is another Man's Ink

Ron and I spent the weekend before the mid-term elections in Kentucky.  The fall colors and warm, sunny days were delightful. We went to visit our daughter Lynne and her husband, Barry McNees. Near where they live, there is a special place with an interesting history. It's the place where bourbon was born in 1865, in Lexington, close to the University of Kentucky (UK) campus.  Barry is a graduate of UK.

I am very proud of Barry and think he is a remarkable man of vision.  He's also a master craftsman. He can restore beauty to relics and turn sorry looking structures into award winning show-places.  I think that is an amazing gift.

For years, Barry eyed the old, dilapidated, crime ridden, rusting remains of distilleries past that had endured decades of neglect.  He saw potential all around, potential with historic stories to tell.  He envisioned music venues, restaurants, shops, museums, and people hanging out and sipping world-class bourbon again.  He started calling it, "The Lexington Distillery District."  He even persuaded a few investors to join in the fun.

Sometime around 2005, Ron and I got involved as investors. Progress was excruciatingly slow. Partners came and went, some were nice and some not so much. Tenants came and went, some paid their rent on time, some had to be hunted down on the first of every month, and some didn't pay at all. One of the issues even wound up in front of a Judge to be decided.  Barry came out the winner on that one and we all cheered.  One homeless group, camped in the woods, booby trapped their illegal fort with fishhooks festooned in the trees.  In an attempt to reason with them, Barry got a fishhook in his eye.  Over time he has cleaned out more dark and scary places than most people can even imagine. Sometimes he even finds historic, old treasures hidden in corners under piles of debris.  He found the original recipe and process for James E. Pepper* bourbon in a rusted-out file cabinet beneath the old distillery yeast room.

Lexington is a city that embraces and encourages public art.  Just recently, an amazing thing happened.  PRHBTN held their annual street art festival.  Last year, PRHBTN commissioned the popular mural of President Abraham Lincoln on the back of the Kentucky Theatre.  This year they brought in a French graffiti, muralist and artist named MTO.  He painted Lexington's largest mural on the side of the Pepper Distillery Warehouse.  His painting is of a street artist, behind bars, but still spraying, and there is red police tape running across that says, "Caution: Do Not Feed."  His hands are reaching out through the jail cell bars to sign the letters MTO, his initials.  He has used this signature on many of his other works all over the world.  But folks in Lexington thought it looked like he was forming gang symbols and they didn't like it.  Not everybody, of course, but everybody sees art differently.

The Lexington Herald Leader ran front page stories.  Television news crews filmed it.  Everybody was talking about it.  The day I took this picture, other people were on the street taking pictures too. See what I mean about one man's paint being another man's ink?  We watched as MTO, way up high on a cherry picker, made a gigantic thumb and thumb nail take shape and come to life with photographic quality. (You can barely see the artist working way up high in the second panel from the left.) The vision of his being able to do this, while being right on top of his work area, fascinated me.  It's true that I wouldn't have chosen the same subject matter as the artist did, but then my choice probably would not have generated as much free publicity for the Distillery District either.

From the Barrel House Distilling Company, here's the first barrel of bourbon that's about to be ready to drink.  Gosh it smelled good.

Around the corner, we found Tony Davis, the owner and master mind behind Studio 300.  He was busy crafting cutting boards and other wood products from reclaimed Kentucky Bourbon barrels.  His signature pieces are beautiful cutting boards and wood products that he described as "Bringing Bourbon Barrels back to life by handcrafting them to be functional pieces". He named his studio in honor of his 300 fellow marines who were aboard his naval vessel in the 1990's that took them to the Persian Gulf. Another innovative thing he does is scrape the charcoal out of the old barrels, bag it up, and they are going to be sold in red and green bags at "Liquor Barn" as coal for Christmas gifts.  He told us to throw some of the charcoal on our barbecue for a taste of bourbon on our steaks or chops. If you are lucky enough to have a Liquor Barn nearby, you might want to try this!

Ron Walker and Tony Davis in KENTUCKY KNOWS BOURBON, Studio 300 where Tony proudly displays his Marine Uniform, complete with all his medals and an American flag.  The two veterans enjoyed meeting each other.

Amid the Art Gallery and other businesses, an Ice Cream store is taking shape, and down by the Town Branch, a restaurant is about to open. Bourbon and beers will be on tap, with burgers, tacos, and burgoo available via rotating food trucks, and diners will enjoy sitting outside by the river. They even decorated all their fall pumpkins with MTO's.  It seems like a sure bet that all of these places of business will benefit by all the ink that MTO's paint has created.

                               The "Break Room" on the Town Branch will soon be serving.

And since we are talking about Kentucky, here's a political aside.  The weekend we were in Lexington, both The Louisville Courier Journal and The Lexington Herald Leader endorsed Senator Mitch McConnell's opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes.  Why in the world, we asked each other, would Kentucky rather have a freshman junior senator than the Majority Leader?  Turns out the newspapers wanted that, but the voters did not.  Since winning, Senator McConnell has said the Senate is going back to work and their first goal will be to see if they can find things that they and President Obama can agree on.  They better.  I think we are all sick of such a lack of leadership from all of our leaders, democrat and republican alike.  Get to work!  All of y'all, as they say in the south.

*Colonel James Edward Pepper designed the distillery and the layout of equipment.  He was a colorful, flamboyant character who traveled in his private railroad car.  Colonel Pepper began distilling "Old Pepper Whiskey" using his grandfather's proprietary formula, developed in 1780.  Colonel Pepper invented the "Old Fashioned" cocktail: two ounces of Old Pepper bourbon, a splash of sugar syrup, bitters and soda water.  He also originated "Bourbon and Branch" for a bourbon and water.  The "Branch" was the water taken out of the distilleries nearby water supply, the Town Branch of the Elkhorn Creek near Lexington, Kentucky.  Both of these cocktail became famous in New York City, and throughout the eastern States.

Pepper was one of the few distillers allowed to produce whiskey during prohibition for "medicinal purposes."  A doctor could write out a prescription and the "patient" could take it to be "filled."

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Remembering Dewey Clower

W. Dewey Clower died on October 31, 2014 after being hospitalized from a fall.  

Dewey was one of the five original White House advancemen in President Richard Nixon's administration.

    From left to right:  Bill Henkel, Mike DuVal, Jon Foust,  Ron Walker, Mike Schrauth and Dewey.

A memorial service will be held on Sunday, November 9th at 2:00 pm at Hope Presbyterian Church, 11121 Leavells Road, Fredericksburg, VA 22407.

In November of 2010, I posted a blog about The February Group.  Dewey Clower started the February Group and many of you remember how important the gatherings were to all of us over the years.  Us Nixonites needed each other, and The February Group became the place where we could get together for fellowship and commiseration.

Not everyone could get a group of people together on a continuing basis for more than thirty years, and yet Dewey Clower did exactly that.  I asked him to tell me the history of how The February Group came about.

Here is W. Dewey Clower's story:

It was January of 1975 when he submitted his letter of resignation as Assistant Director of the Domestic Council in the Gerald R. Ford White House.  It had been because of President Nixon that Dewey had the opportunity to work in the White House and he decided he wanted to see the former President and thank him for the honor of working for him as a senior advance man and member of the domestic council staff.

Dewey called Jack Brennan, the president's aide, in San Clemente and asked for an appointment to see the President.  When the appointment was confirmed, Dewey flew out to La Casa Pacifica, that had been known as the Western White House when President Nixon was in office.  The President greeted him warmly and they spent forty-five minutes together, talking about the Ford administration, world events and the 1976 presidential election.  But, Dewey said the President was most interested in what his former staff people were doing.  Dewey remembered that they talked about Ron Walker, Steve Bull, Bill Henkel and others on his advance and travel staff.  The President said he wished there was some way a network could be established so he could stay in touch with the members of his White House team.  He asked Dewey if he could establish such a network.  Dewey said he had not really thought about such a group, but promised the President he would look into it.

When he returned to Washington, every one he talked to liked the idea.  Dewey decided to host a luncheon on February 10, 1975 in the China Room at the Mayflower Hotel.  The people who attended were: General Larry Adams, Pat Buchanan, Steve Bull, Henry Cashen, Red Cavaney, James Clausen, Michael Raoul-Duval, Michael Farrell, Dave Forward, Gerald Gilbert, John Gartland, Dave Gergen, Ashton Hardy, Bill Henkel, David Hoopes, Tod Hullin, Noel Koch, Tom Korologos, Anne Morgan, Pat O'Donnell, Terry O'Donnell, Dave Parker, Jack Pettit, Bill Rhatican, Howard Roycroft, Geoff Shepard, Bill Timmons and of course, Dewey.

President Nixon sent a telegram saying how glad he was they were getting together, and loved the symbolism of the group being in the China Room.  Dewey told me that those listed above in red are the FEBRUARY GROUP CHARTER MEMBERS.

More gatherings were held and the group got bigger with each event.  People suggested other people that they wanted to invite to join the group.  At first it was mostly limited to those who served in the Nixon administration, and then to those who had remained in the Ford White House.  Dewey would send out a notice saying, . . . . "The next gathering of the February 10th Luncheon Group will be . . "
After a while, they went to cash bars and Dewey could usually talk the hotel into serving some food.

After about a year, they decided to ask for donations to cover mailings and they needed a treasure to keep track of it all.  And, they needed a proper name for the group.  The February Group was what everyone had come to call it, and that was the name they wanted to keep.  The purpose of the Group, as Dewey understood it, would be to provide a forum for the like-minded, former Nixon Administration members to be able to keep in touch with each other, through social events and written communication.  They held at least two events each year and established The February Group News.

The February Group met regularly from 1975 to 2003.  Jack D'Arcy, at the time working for a bank, volunteered to be the treasurer and he, along with Steve Bull and John Gartland, asked for volunteer contributions and the membership was very supportive.  The group grew rapidly, especially during the Carter years, and soon it was no longer made up of just former Nixon staff members.  It had become much bigger than that.

Dewey and Melinda Maury Thompsen managed the mailing list and the newsletters.  The newsletters always included news and updates about the members, because that's what President Nixon wanted to hear about.

The February Group reached a peak of more than 400 members just prior to Ronald Reagan's first campaign in 1980.  It was about this time that Jack Anderson, a liberal political writer for the Washington Post wrote an article that labeled the February Group, a "government in exile."  That caused a lot of former Nixon/Ford folks to want to join the group and the result was that the membership list became a valuable document for Republican candidates.  Dewey was constantly being asked to provide the mailing lists to various campaigns, but he always insisted that members "vetted" the request before he released the information.  In June of 1981, the newsletter announced that 47 February Group members had joined the Reagan administration and nine more were listed in the next edition.

In September of 1986, it was noted that group members had raised $132,000 toward the goal of $200,000 for the Nixon Library and Birthplace.  Dewey led a large group of February Group Members to the opening of the Library.  Now, with the help of Steve Bull, the February Group members have become a valuable list of "Nixon Alumni" that is now housed at the Richard Nixon Foundation.

Dewey  worked for several associations over the years and in 2003 he was named President Emeritus of NATSO where he served as President and CEO for 15 years.  He had been an officer in the United States Air Force.

Dewey retired in 2002 and he and Shirley moved out near Fredericksburg, Virginia.  Shirley has battled cancer for a long time and Dewey was such a solid rock and source of strength by her side .
I can't imagine what the impact of his death must be having on Shirley and her family.  Dewey and Shirley's children are Candice Clower Scala, Mike Clower and Cathy Clower Shirey.

Ron and I send our deepest sympathy, prayers,  and much love to all of Dewey's family.  We thank you, Dewey, for giving so much to your family, your friends, your country, and your President.  You are a great American.  You will be missed.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations in Dewey's name be made to either Hope Presbyterian Church or to Young Life of Greater Fredericksburg, 1210 Princess Anne Street., Fredericksburg, VA 22402.  Dewey was very active in both of these organizations  and his son Mike said they were both very dear to him.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ode to the Old Goat

Ron and I are blessed to have an Old Goat for a dear friend.  He was the first to call himself by that name, so I'm not being unkind at all.  He sent a gigantic box to our Jackson Hole cowboy cabin years ago. (Many of you know how little our tiny cabin really is!)  Inside the box was a life-sized, stuffed, mountain goat.  The kind you would see climbing around on the cliffs near the "Going to the Sun" road in Glacier National Park.  The gift card attached said simply, "From one old goat to another." 

There wasn't any floor space big enough to hold the stuffed version of the Old Goat, so he claimed a place of honor on TOP of the credenza that holds the television set and all sorts of treasures that live in the drawers below.  He spends every day looking  longingly at the Grand Tetons and must dream of all the beautiful rocks and crevices he'd like to explore if only he could get out there.

Our friend, the Old Goat, has had more than his share of heartbreak and loss in his life, but he never complains.  He jokes about being served too many cupcakes, but that is the extent of his grumbling.  At dinner recently, he caused us to embarress ourselves by laughing so hard at his account of a hilarious hair story.  Getting ready for an important dinner meeting with a famous lawyer, he inquired about the "in place" to get a hair cut.  When he showed up for his appointment, the hair person-in-charge asked him if he wanted "the works."  Sure, he replied, having absolutely no clue what that included.

Then for the next very long time, his head was dunked, rubbed, covered, dunked some more and then covered once again.  Then his hair was painstakingly snipped and fluffed.  When finally, his chair was spun around and he caught sight of himself, he wasn't quite sure if the image looking back was really of himself.  He'd gone from all gray to wavy, fluffed up chestnut brown.  Picture Wink Martindale.

Ron and I were laughing so hard, everyone in the tiny restaurant was looking at us.  He went on to tell us about the countless times he washed his hair at home and how the brown refused to budge.  Finally, in desperation, he inquired about what to do and he was referred to a first class spa-type establishment for a bleach job and then a gray re-do.  Other than having a bit of a funky haircut, he looked pretty much like he always looked, I thought.

He said he had pictures, but we've never seen them.  I resisted the urge to ask how much all this cost. 

Thanks, you Old Goat, for being our friend and bringing joy and laughter along with you.  We can't wait for our next get together..

Friday, May 16, 2014

Lynne Cheney Reconsiders Madison

Dolly and James Madison must be Virginia-reeling all over the rainbows and clouds these days.  Power couples are all the rage.  The Cheney's today and the Madison's from a long time ago. 

I went to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, DC on Monday night to hear Lynne and the former Vice President talk about her new book, "James Madison: A Life Reconsidered."  The overflow crowd was enthusiastic during the evening that The Washington Post called "Fun with Dick & Lynne."  It WAS fun.  But it was much more than just fun. It was very informative.  The Cheney's will be talking about the book at both the Nixon and Reagan Presidential Libraries next week.  Anybody who can join them, we'll enjoy the experience.

Lynne worked hard on this book for six years.  It shows. She knows her chosen subject, and believes that Madison has not been appreciated for the contributions he made to the framing of the constitution and Bill of Rights.  His major role in the founding of our country has been largely ignored by historians.  Lynne is changing that.  The New York Times book review said, "She clearly brings to life the character and personality of Madison."

The Vice President asked her questions, kind of a reverse of what we all saw on the campaign trail and his book tour, when either Lynne or daughter, Liz, would interview him.  The story of the Red Dress is still there, but without the Red Dress.  It's now about the fact that if Dick's grandfather had chosen to settle in Montana instead of Wyoming, he would never have met Lynne, she would have married someone else, and HE would have been vice president.  The audience loved it.

The Vice President said, "When I write my books, she is sort of an in-house editor.  When she writes her books, I get to read it when she is finished."

I didn't wait in line to buy a book, or have it signed.  Bobbie Kilberg said to me, "Why are you going to stand in line, when you are neighbors in Jackson Hole?"  Good thinking, Bobbie.  I'll catch up with Dick and Lynne this summer. By then I will have read the book, and may have a few questions of my own. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Blue Ribbon

I didn't grow up in a "4-H Environment" like Ron did.  I didn't really enjoy county fairs that much.  They always seemed too crowded, too hot, too dusty, too smelly and I really hated the scary rides.  "Fair Food" like corny dogs weren't my favorite, but the cotton candy wasn't too bad.  You couldn't pay me enough money to get on a Ferris Wheel, except the one at the Fun Zone in Balboa of course.  I was used to that one and it was small, friendly, and had the best view ever! The bay was a hub-bub of summer fun; sailboats, paddle boats, row boats, swimmers, fishers, and sunbathers all along the sand. I loved to look down on the Balboa Ferry as it crossed back and forth from the peninsula to Balboa Island.  I loved that place.  Still do.

Now guess what?  I just won a Blue Ribbon at the Pima County fair here in Tucson, Arizona.  WOW!  How fun is that?

I entered one of my hand stitched quilts.  It's an American Flag.  Well, it's more like an "Americana" quilt.  It has a different fabric for each stripe and the stars are sewn-on-white-buttons.  I was pleased with the finished product and I guess the judges were too. 

Being a county fair, means the exhibit itself leaves a little something to be desired.  But, hey, you can't have everything!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Remembering Helen Fannie Bartlett Hudson Lovaas

Helen died this January.  She was the sister I never had, along with Anita, of course.  Anita Louise Merryman Bowers is my longest known friend, we met on the very first day of kindergarten.  Helen came into our lives a few years later.

There have been others who have blessed me with their sister-hood: Barbara, Nancy, Susie, Marcia, JoAnne, Marty, Ginny, to name just a few, but I digress.

Anita, Helen and I were an inseparable three-some all during our school years. We loved being together and called each other Fartlett, Merryhairy, and Frizzy Lucille.  We thought we were very clever and funny.

In the 1950's, Temple City, California, was a blue collar, predominately lily white community.  I lived right around the corner from the school, so Helen and Anita were almost always at my house.  My mother, a stay at home mom, loved my friends, but she feared that their blue collar upbringing was not preparing them in certain areas, like table manners, the use of good grammar, and just the normal every day things that proper young ladies should know and practice.  I, of course was mortified when my mother lectured and corrected my friends, but it didn't cause them to stay away from my house.  In fact, I noticed, they often sought out my mother and had long talks with her.

Then Helen and I went away to college together.  We went by overnight train to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona.  We arrived wearing dresses, hats and gloves.  The year was 1956.

Helen had lots of family in Tucson.  I arrived knowing nothing and nobody, except that my dear Cousin Carol Anne Fitch Juliani had loved her time at the UofA and her recommendation was all I needed.

Helen and I had decided not to room together.  We didn't want to appear cliquish and unfriendly.  In hindsight, that was our first mistake.  Helen's roommate was a student in the College of Agriculture.  The first thing she did every morning was light up a Lucky Strike.  The last thing she did every night was bring her saddle into the room, so no one would steal it.  Helen complained all the time about the smell of smoke and horse sweat that she had to live with.

My room-mate was a mousy, wimpy little thing, desperately homesick for the farm back in Iowa.  She left before the end of our first semester.  Helen moved into my room in the freshman only, women only, dorm; Yavapai.  Life was perfect.

We found total hilarity and a little less compatibility, in the personality of each other.  Helen just moved and talked slower than me.  I was always early and she was always late.  I had pledged Delta Gama and Helen became a Gamma Phi.  She made her grades and was initiated with my mother's pin.  I didn't make my grades . . . for three semesters.

In those days, the dorm big shots conducted random room checks.  If your beds (they were bunks, me on top, Helen on the lower) were not neatly made, three times, you were campused on a Friday night.  No one wanted to miss all the TGIF festivities.  Helen and I were always campused.  The rules were strict.  No visitors allowed.

We spent our campused evenings playing, "Ah Hell." (Never studying, which was probably the intended purpose of the whole thing.)  It was a double solitaire-type card game that we played with two decks of cards, sitting on the floor, with an overturned cardboard box as our card table.  The one who got the most cards on the middle stacks when an ace was played, was the winner.  We slapped each others hands so hard and so often trying to get our card played first, that our hands became beet red in the process.  We yelled and screamed and laughed so loud that the dorm Pooh-bah would bang on our door and demand to know who all was in our room?  We'd open the door, after a "drive-her-crazy planned wait" and greet her with, "TA DUM."  We knew she hated us, but it was what she deserved for campusing us all the time.  We didn't have time to make our beds, for heavens sake!

I was blessed to be welcomed into Helen's family.  They were all so good to me.  We would check out of the dorm and spend weekends with her Aunt Susie Bollin.  Her son Rex and his partner Bob, lived there too.  We must have been such an annoyance to them, except we didn't realize it at the time.  If I answered Aunt Susie's phone when one of them called from work, I would always hear insulting comments like, "Are you there cookie snatching, again?" or  "I need to talk to the only person in the house that has a lick of good sense."  I'm sure they probably said even worse things to Helen, but secretly we loved to be teased by them and they always made us laugh.

Helen's Aunt Wilmarine Atkinson came and rescued me from the infirmary on campus once when I got really sick.  She insisted on taking me home and nursing me back to health.  She had four children.  How blessed I was by her kindness and caring, and all because I was Helen's friend.

Helen and I took a folk dancing class together.  We were really good at the polka.  In fact, we were the very best polka-ing couple in the class and our fancy footwork was the envy of all our class mates. 

Helen thought it was hysterical to use my toothbrush to style her eyebrows.  I retaliated by sticking a few hundred pin holes in he tube of toothpaste.  I know there are countless other things we constantly did to each other, but they are just too numerous to list.

We graduated, got married, and moved away from each other.  Helen married Alan Hudson, a class-mate of ours and became the hard working brains behind the Hudson Oxygen Therapy Company,   Eventually becoming the CEO.  She spent 38 years at Hudson.  She was really good at it, too.

By the time Alan Hudson died, he and Helen were divorced and she was married to Dr. Lee Lovaas.  Alan left the business to her and she turned right around and made a generous donation, in his name, to the Sarver Heart Board at the University of Arizona.  She and Lee were active board members at Sarver for many years.

One day, while talking on the phone, I told Helen that I had an appointment to see a cardiologist at Sarver.  She wanted to know who it was and when I told her, she said, "Oh No.  You need to see Dr. Gordon Ewy."  I argued that he was famous, had invented compression CPR, and was not taking new patients."  She told me we'd have to see about that.  Two days later, Dr. Ewy called me to tell me I had an appointment to see him.  He said that Helen told him to see me and he always did everything Helen told him to do.

In 2008, Dr. Ewy oversaw my aortic valve replacement surgery.  The care I received could not have been better.  Ron and I were blessed to become friends and patients of Dr. Ewy and we now serve on the Sarver Heart Center Board.  All of this happened because of my friend, Helen.

Years later, Anita, Helen and I were reminiscing about our girlhood years, and I attempted to apologize for my mother's lectures to them.  Oh no, they both assured me, and they expressed their deep gratitude for the opportunity to learn so many important life lessons from her.  They felt it was very dear of her to care and want to improve their lives.  Anita felt that her mother either didn't know enough or didn't really care about such things.  Helen went even further.  She said she never would have been a Gamma Phi without my mother's influence, and she would not have been a proper bride for the only son of a very prominent family.  Hers was a huge, heartfelt, admission that not many people would have been willing to articulate.

Helen said  it to Anita and me with deep conviction and a great deal of gratitude.  I made me so proud of both my friend and my mother.  I know they are having the best Gamma Phi reunion in heaven that two sisters could ever enjoy.  But I miss them both.

                                          Helen, me and Anita in 1997.

A memorial service was held for Helen on January 25, 2014.  My daughter Lisa and I drove over to Southern California from Tucson.  The large "campus" of The Emmanuel Faith community church was filled with Helen's family and friends.  Many gave testimony to her generosity and friendship. 

"She was not only my boss at Hudson, she was my dear friend," was something we heard over and over.  As the Hudson Company grew,  under her leadership, she hired people to do yet another job that she had been doing.  She knew how to do everything.  When the computer age arrived, she went to "programming school" so she'd know how to do that, too. 

I always thought Helen was quite amazing, but at her memorial service I learned that she was even more incredible than I had known.  Well done, dear friend.  You will be missed by so many.