Thursday, January 29, 2009

Car Wash

As a newly single person, I noticed that the car was dirty. In fact, it was dirty enough to obscure its color along with the number on the license plate. It really needed attention.

The last time I washed a car, our children who are now over forty were preschoolers, and seventy-five cents paid for a self service car wash in Green Bay. It was before 1970.

I thought about this problem for several days this week before deciding that I had to take care of it, since I could not hand the job off to a husband who was no longer in residence. I could go to the car wash where people actually wash the car, or I could try the self service operation at the gas station. I had no idea how it would work in either place. I wondered what kind of fool I would make of myself at the car wash when I had to do what most guys do on a regular basis.

The occasion presented itself while I was driving along on Park Street. I saw the familiar Octopus sign, so I drove in and said, “Here I am. Now tell me what to do next.” The man told me the list of services and gave me a little ticket. I drove into the steam, where six men suddenly opened the doors and quickly started to clean the interior and exterior, while I looked at them with some amazement. It hadn’t occurred to me that a bunch of guys would move in so fast. I bailed out, went down the hall, paid, and awaited my car.

The job was done well and quickly, and I didn’t have to do anything. What a deal. Except for the part when I couldn’t release the hand brake because the guy who set it was very strong. He had to get back in and release it so that I could get my car out of their shop. I left with some appreciation for the speed of the job. I also decided that the octopus logo is really a description of what happens when the car gets washed. Six guys are sort of like the arms of the octopus.

I hope the car stays clean for a while. It looks very good.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Another Rick Whitt column

Here is a column about Rick, written by Pete Devlin, published in the Jan. 7, 2009, issue of the Door County Advocate. It is a great tribute, although a few facts are inaccurate. In particular, he married me before coming to Sturgeon Bay. We met in a speech class at UW-Madison in 1959. The rest became history. Pete Devlin and Rick were co-workers and friends in Green Bay. He writes columns for the Advocate.

Those of you who have grown up on the Door Peninsula or who have lived here for more than 40 years might remember a fellow named Rick Whitt.

I first met him when I came to work at WNFL Radio in Green Bay back in 1975. He towered several inches over my 6-foot height, and he used to walk down the halls singing, "Black socks that never get dirty, the longer I wear them, the blacker they get ..." at the top of his lungs. He once tried to control the direction of fall of a tree he was cutting down in the back yard of his home, by wrapping a rope around the tree trunk — with the other end secured to the back bumper of his old Ford van. The massive trunk fell where it wanted anyway, damaging the back of the house and pulling the van bumper out of shape. He coined the phrase "Neenah-Man-Apple-Kosh" to describe the Fox Cities that were growing into one metropolitan area 35 years ago. We in the WNFL newsroom had a flat aluminum strip about a foot long by three inches wide that we used to evenly tear apart news stories that were dispatched across the Associated Press teletype. He referred to it as "the news wrench."

He had worked Armed Forces Radio in Tripoli, Libya, in the late 1950s. Then he married the boss' daughter, a Door County girl, whom he met while working at WDOR Radio. They had five children. I remember sitting at their dinner table one time for a meal where the mashed potatoes were made with nothing but water. One child had a dairy allergy, so the whole family — and guests — ate potatoes made with water. The table topic among the half-grown children that day somehow turned toward sex. It was the first time I witnessed an open, honest dialog on the subject between parent and child. I was impressed.

He was a political liberal with a capital "L" and argued passionately on his daily talk show for helping the poor and less fortunate in our communities. Off the air, he was president of the now defunct Green Bay Welfare Commission. Mornings after commission meetings, he was generally in a sour mood after having knocked heads with fellow members over giving a homeless person a voucher for a night of lodging and a meal. The recipients needed to state their case before the whole commission, a humiliating gauntlet he believed those who were truly needy should not have to endure.

He quit WNFL, he said, because commercial radio was "becoming too political," taking a job instead managing the then student-run radio station on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay campus. When he left that job a year later, he confessed he had no idea what politics really were until he worked in the university system. From then on, he found contentment and a paycheck behind the wheel of city buses in Green Bay, Fond du Lac and Madison, as he followed his wife's career path.

The last time I saw him was perhaps five years back at a WNFL reunion. He didn't look well. He was thin in a way that bespoke illness. He left fairly early, and we shook hands. He passed away following that long illness on Jan. 7. Ironic that I received a copy of his obituary from the Green Bay paper via e-mail from another WNFL alum — who never worked with Rick — who now lives in northern Thailand.

The paper said a memorial service was held in Madison. I didn't get there. However, he was such a memorable person, such a decent person, that I had to share my memories of him with you. And perhaps, because he still has family locally, they might find this simple column > comforting in some way.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cold Weather Comments

Eeek! It’s midwinter. It’s cold. This is our second day of sub-zero temperatures and lower wind chills, with double digit below zero nighttime temperatures. People are complaining. Wind chill advisories have closed area schools. News sources are reporting the things that happen when cold weather happens.

Remember, winter and cold weather come every year. It’s colder and snowier this January than usual. Some bloggers have reported in the news media that this somehow puts a new twist on global warming. Maybe climate change has some climate extremes that people don’t want to think about.

My advice is to get over it. Or, try these time honored ways to cope:
1. Don’t go to work. Stay under the covers all day. Maybe it will all go away. It worked for Rip Van Winkle who slept for twenty years and didn’t freeze to death.
2. Go to work and complain all day. Then your co-workers will be miserable, too.
3. Call Dr. Phil and get on his show. He will straighten out all the weather problems, especially the ones that are in your head.
4. Go to Fairbanks, AK, where it was reported to be -45 today. That will make it seem warmer here.
5. Go skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, ice skating, or another outdoor activity. When it’s this cold, you will end up in the hospital with frostbite or hypothermia. Is it really worth it?
6. Be glad you weren’t in the airplane that landed in the Hudson River yesterday, where it was only 20 degrees. They have it worse than you do.

When you thaw out, tell people you love them and enjoy our winter. It’s supposed to be above zero tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sermon Delivered at Rick's Funeral

Delivered by John Whitt, Saturday, January 10, 2009

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is John Whitt, and Rick Whitt is my father. On behalf of my mother and all our family, thank you all for being here today. Thank you especially to the people of St. Dunstan’s, Good Shepherd in Sun Prairie, and everyone who visited Dad at hospice. Thank you also to all the priests and deacons who brought communion to Dad and anointed him; my father certainly did not lack for spiritual graces in final days. He had so many clergy attending him, you’d have thought he was the pope.

If you are wondering if something is missing here, Dad has chosen to donate his body to the UW Medical School, so the body is not here.

Just a few thoughts to share with you on this occasion…

My father was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the Christian faith as an adult, early in his life as a husband and father. Dad discovered one of the great truths of our faith, a truth which St. Augustine famously expressed so many centuries ago when he prayed, “My heart shall find no rest until they rest in Thee.” The great emptiness in Dad’s life which he had been trying to fill with food, drink, women, and little red British sports cars, was finally being filled – with God. My father learned that we are made for God, and nothing else will satisfy us.

If you know my father, you know that he did not become an ascetic, when he became a Christian, but that’s OK. We just heard the prophet Isaiah’s great vision of the celestial banquet, with rich food and well-aged wine [Isaiah 25:6]. If there ever was an image of heaven that was meant for Dad, this is it. And the pleasures of this life are good, if we use them in accordance with God’s holy will, for purposes for which he gave them to us. But if we put them in the place of God, if we place our hope in anything of this world – in food, drink, men, women, wealth, power, politics, even friends or family, if we place our ultimate hope in any of these, we hope in vain. They are false gods; they cannot save us. Our hope is in Jesus Christ. If we try to fill ourselves with anything else, we will still be empty.

So if we want to do something that would make Dad happy, enjoy the good things of life, but seek after Christ, with all our, heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength. This is how my father tried to live his life. Dad was always ministering, whether on the radio, driving the bus, or as a deacon. He genuinely loved people and naturally reached out to anyone who needed it. Did he stumble along the way? Of course he did; we all do. But when he did, he got up, turned his face back toward God, and kept going. We just heard St. Paul assuring the church in Rome, that nothing can separate us from the love of God [Romans 8:38-39]. There is no sin that we can commit, that God cannot forgive when we repent of it. When we fail, God picks us up, accepts our repentance, puts us back on our feet, and kindly admonishes us to better. My father did this for me many times. Jesus Christ does it for us all.

In Jesus Christ, we have God who knows the trials and temptations of human life. We have God who experienced more humiliation and suffering than most of us will ever know. In Jesus Christ, we have God who endured one of the most torturous deaths that human ingenuity has ever devised. And he did it all for us – and not us in a vague general way, but for each and every one of else individually and personally. Christ on the cross knew my father’s pain and suffering, and made it his own. And through his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension, Christ has opened the way through death for Dad and for all of us who will but follow him.

In St. John’s gospel which we just heard, our Lord Jesus Christ tells us that any who come to him will not be driven away, that Christ will loose no one whom the Father has given him, and that he shall raise us up [John 6:37-40]. My father is dead, but he is only dead to us here in this world, and this world is nothing but the vestibule to eternity. That is not to say that this world doesn’t matter. What we do in this life matters tremendously, but it is not the be-all and end-all of our existence.

We have come here today to remember Dad and to share our grief, but we must also pray for him. For he has departed to the God of perfect justice and boundless mercy. He is entering into the true life for which he and all of are made, the endless life of love in God, the life for which his life here was just a pail shadow. So pray for Dad. For him, the real living has just begun.

Praise be to Jesus Christ.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Remembering Rick in Green Bay

The Green Bay Press-Gazette featured Rick today in an article by Warren Gerds. It gives memories from days gone by. the url is

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Rick Obituary

Richard D. “Rick” Whitt of Madison, died January 7 after a long illness. He was born September 30, 1935, in Spring Green to Orval and Ruth Whitt of Arena, Wisconsin. He grew up in Arena. He graduated from Arena High School in 1953 and received a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1962. He served in the US Air Force. He was a radio/television announcer in Madison, Sturgeon Bay and Green Bay, and city bus driver in Green Bay, Janesville and Oshkosh, and was retired. In 1998 he was ordained Deacon in the Episcopal Church, and served in churches in Appleton and Sun Prairie.

He married Kathleen Allen, June 23, 1962. She survives along with five children: Dolores Becker, Batavia IL; John (Sherry) Whitt, Madison; Mary (Gareth) Dirlam, Havre de Grace MD; Elizabeth Whitt, Minneapolis; Sarah Whitt, Madison; four grandchildren, and cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents and one granddaughter.

A memorial service will be held at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, 6205 University Ave., Madison, Saturday, January 10, the Rt. Rev. Steven Miller officiating. In lieu of flowers, donations will be received for Second Harvest Food Bank.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Still Living

“To have a friend who knows you by name gives you a sense that you are not alone in the world.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

Eleanor Roosevelt wrote this anecdote about school children, but it applies elsewhere, including in church.

Rick will be remembered for remembering people by name, especially those shut-ins whom he visited during his time as Deacon at the church in Sun Prairie. People there still remember him by name. He made people feel less alone.

He continues to live, at Hospice Care. He improved a bit today. He slept less and responded when spoken to. He still is waiting for God to call him by name. It might take a while.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Death by Inches

Death isn’t always fast and pleasant. Rick has been waiting for a week since his decision to stop having kidney dialysis. Each day he sleeps more, is more uncomfortable, finds doing anything, including speaking, difficult, and asks why it is taking so long. He continues to have visitors and is glad to have them. He has received communion and anointing many times from caring clergy.

We live in an impatient world, but death comes in its own time.