Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wednesday, December 16th: The many hats of friendship

There is an old scripture I remember from my days in Sunday School which can be summarized by the statement "a prophet is unloved in his hometown".

Before I go any further, for the record, I wish to state that I am not intending to in any way designate myself as a "prophet" or be compared to the big JC (or "haysoose" as we say up here in Denver). I'm just using this to make a point. It's my blog, so I can do what I want.

OK, back on subject. My hometown (from age 3 through college)was the small community of Sparta, Ohio - population somewhere between 150-200 people. It's in Morrow County, about 35 miles north of Columbus. Yep, it's that small. Sparta's biggest claim to fame is a former Major League baseball pitcher, Tim Belcher, who had a great career including a World Series run with the Dodgers in the late 80's. He's a good man, by the way, who is living in the community and raising his family there. The other claims to fame of Sparta are the annual Methodist Strawberry Festival, Highland High School (550 kids - consolidated from surrounding towns) and the legendary Lundy Stillwell (Rest in peace) who owned & ran the General Store for years. A funny story - Lundy actually used to let me pick up beer and cigars for my dad when I was a kid and take it home on my bike. Dad had called in the order and Lundy only gave me as much as was approved.

Sparta was a great place to grow up. We lived in an old farmhouse on the edge of town, across from the local High School. No major drug problems there - a little weed and some whippets were about all the hard-living one could do, aside from the occasional beer party. In a nutshell the kids do one (or several) of the following: Drink Beer, Play Sports, or Fool Around.
Pretty Norman Rockwell-ish, huh?

I had a great experience there, and was able to make many friends and have kept in touch with quite a few of them over the years, despite my time in Muncie, Raleigh, Cincinnati, and here in Denver. Several of you know that through a strange set of professional circumstances I have been given the priviledge of leading the design efforts on the new High School to replace the one from which I graduated. My firm in Denver partnered with my old firm in Cincy to be the Architects on the project. It's been the best of both worlds - I've been able to continue working with my good friends from Cincy, while living in Denver, and getting to spend a lot of time over the past 2 years back in my home community. My wife has also worked on the project, and has really enjoyed getting to know many of the people who I've known for all my life.

In 2008 & early 2009 I had been back in the community every 2-3 weeks, and was able to get together many times with old friends Kate, Chris, Megan, Dave, Shannon, Craig, etc - many of which I really hadn't communicated with for close to a decade. You know you've got special people in your life when you can sit down and it's as if the years didn't pass at all - we've had a great time reconnecting and talking about our (gulp) 20th reunion coming up in 2010.

So, getting back to it - my cancer diagnosis happened about 2 weeks after our major work on the project had been completed here in Denver - perfect timing for the project, as my illness didn't affect any professional obligations, but it did cut me off from doing any real work on the job and traveling back to work and visit. However, the outpouring of cards, messages, and support from everyone back in little ole' Sparta was amazing. My good friend Craig (If its free take it!) even came out and spent a week with us during my treatments to help out. Heck, even my junior high study hall monitor got word of my illness and sent me a card. Thanks Mrs Fulton - you're cool, I apologize for the hell I put you through in the mid 80's.

So, Bill you say - that's great. You had cancer and got a lot of cards - why write about Sparta, Ohio in your blog? Because I recently got a surprise box in the mail from Ohio.

You know what happened? About 15 of my high school classmates from Sparta who still live in the Columbus area got together this fall and had "Billapalooza" - a gathering of support for little old me. They put a care package together with a donation, a bunch of video greetings, and most importantly - a TON of hats. Everything from a sombrero to a 'short bus' helmet was in there. Many of these friends I haven't seen in close to 10 years - a truly touching moment that made both Amanda and I smile really big.

Jesus may have been wrong on this one- you can be loved in your hometown. I sure as heck have felt that way. I don't mean to discredit him, as he is the Boss of my Methodist Team. But I think I've got him on this one. By the way, the first picture at the top is my modeling of one of the hats they sent me - a "Colorado Buffalo" with some Rocky Mountain scenery in the back.

Here's to you Sparta, home of the Highland Fighting Scots. These 1400 miles between Denver and Morrow County don't seem too far at all.

CANCER UPDATE - the first follow up with my radiation oncologist is this Friday. Nothing fancy, they get to look at the still bald portion of my 'inner hip'. Golden Rays of Sunshine and body hair on your 'inner hip' (code word for crotch) don't mesh well together, and the hair loses every time. Just call me "half lawn".
CANCER SOUNDTRACK - "Hard Sun" by Eddie Vedder from the Soundtrack of "Into the Wild". Sorry hard-core music fan friends, I know you may not like this one. But I like Pearl Jam - and so does our good friend Anne. This is for you Mrs. East. The movie is good, and about a guy who follows his dream out West - I can relate. Only my story doesn't end with me starving in an abandoned school bus- I'd like to think that my version has turned out to be pretty positive, don't you?

Carpe diem.



  1. One of the smartest things Dad and I ever did was to move to Sparta. One of my greatest memories was subbing in the schools and getting to know your friends. Some of my warmest memories were having your friends just drop in after school or practice or whatever. I wish everyone could have a Sparta/Highland in their memory banks.
    Love, Mom

  2. Hey Bill, I have to comment on the Lundy reference. My dad would take Rachael(my firstborn) to the store to get chocolate milk regularly (probably 6-7 times a day!, more exciting than mixing it at home, I guess) Anyway, Lundy took a liking to Rachael and would give her "gifts". Among these were a sqirrel feeder (why attract more?) and a mounted deer head. Yes, a deer head. Just what every 3 year old needs. Very sweet (and misunderstood) man!
    Merry Christmas to you and Amanda and the Baker-to-be-named-later!
    Amy Pridemore
    Amy Pridemore

  3. Thanks, Bill for the trip down memory lane! I hated to miss the Billapalooza...looked like a great time. Sending best wishes to you for a positive outcome at the dr's today, for peace to enjoy the holiday season and to keep that baby snug & warm until she's ready to make an appearance. Miss you bunches! Mickey

  4. Ham Salad, Hardware and Jelly Beans. Its amazing that a small town store ( Belchers & subsequently, Stillwell's) became a community catalist and gathering place. That building had served many roles within the community for over 100 years. (Including, Whore House, Hardware Store, Post Office and "General Store" & gas station.
    On Sunday Mornings Marge would make her famous "Ham Salad" which was a combination of the ends of all the Cold Cut meats used during the week, combined with Mayonaise & Relish. We later discovered that (From Lundy) all types of "Meat" went into the ham salad: including a small ammount of ham. We Never Asked. Marge always pre portioned a 1.5# tray of the stuff for our family. To continue ---------- later

  5. Small Towns RULE! It seemed the whole community of Coolville, Ohio came out for a benefit for me. A girl I went to High school with- but lost touch with for about 16 years- called me out of the blue about a week after diagnosis and asked if she could do a fundraiser for me. It snowballed into a poker run, hog roast, auction and concert.
    It's humbling.
    I don't think something like that would have happened in a big city. There is something to be said for growing up in a small town.
    As for your half lawn... hair is overrated. :)

  6. I love this post. Very inspiring. I feel a tear coming in my eye actually, from the love and support your friends give you.