How the Hubs and I became acquainted with these 3 fellas was kind of a fluke. Tom, Tileo, and John sat in the pew behind us during church. Tom had been widowed for years, and was in the middle of writing a book about the history of our church. Tileo sat with them was because his wife was in the choir singing every Sunday. John’s wife was having some health issues and rarely made it to the church service anymore.
|Where the conversations were held-before and during the service…|
All 3 sat conversing before the service started each week. Sometimes including us, sometimes about us. Kidding. Tom and Tileo didn’t have much to say for a couple of reasons. Both were rather soft-spoken and quiet gents. John did most of the talking on Sunday mornings. Didn’t really matter if the service had started or not. If he had something to say, it just got said. He wasn’t inappropriate in his comments and was sharp as a tack. He just didn’t have too much. Tact that is. I guess he figured his time was as valuable as the preacher’s. Each of them vying for a listening audience.
I was very fond of Tom. I purposefully stopped a couple times to visit him though he was not on my parish visitor list. He was about 80, still driving, going out to eat, visiting family near and far. Tom had just returned from a 6 week trip to Europe. When I remarked the following Sunday that I had been a little bit worried because he missed so many Sundays in a row, he grabbed my hand and told me how much he appreciated knowing someone noticed his absence. He was just finishing up a book about the church he had been working on for a couple years. Tom was honored at a church dinner shortly after it was published. Wasn’t a couple months later he suffered a massive stroke and passed away.
|Author, friend Tom in 2000…|
Tileo I never would know very well. He was quite frail, and spent most of his time with his wife Martha, and their musically talented family until his death a year or so later. Soon it was just John sitting behind us on Sunday mornings. Accompanied by his running conversations. Before and during the service.
John and his wife Marcella lived a few blocks from me in North Muskegon. Since I had never met her, I stopped at their house one afternoon to remedy that little wrong. John ushered me in and introduced me. He didn’t stop talking for 30 minutes straight. Finally Marcella looked at him squarely, and strongly suggested he go out for a cup of coffee. See if he could meet up with some of his retired realtor buddies he used to work with. He kindly took her not so subtle hint.
|John and Marcella, about 2000…|
Now was the time for Marcella and I to get acquainted. She was a retired elementary teacher from North Muskegon Schools. Said she taught the choir director at our church when he was in third grade. She was the same age as my Mom who had passed away just months before. Born in 1926, she shared the same birthday as the Queen Elizabeth.
|John and Marcella were so proud of their Navy son…|
A routine doctor’s visit revealed a spot on Marcella’s leg that needed attention. Although the procedure wasn’t new, I had never heard of it before. It’s called Mohs Surgery. I think it’s used for certain skin cancers. Usually done in a specialist’s office, her dermatologist practiced in Holland, about 40 miles away. Once the affected area is numb, the cancer was removed. The surgeon keeps searching for cancer cells around the area, removing a little bit more at a time. Then waiting until a pathologist looks at the latest specimen. If any cells are suspicious, they keep going deeper or out farther. Removing, sending the cells to be diagnosed, waiting to hear if this section is completely clear of cancer before closing. Fascinating really. Sometimes skins grafts are needed if the incision or surrounding tissue damage is extensive, but Marcella’s incision healed up just fine. Unfortunately, this was not her only or most serious health issue. But for the time being, she was fine.
One day I was parking my car in front just as they were backing their Caddie out of the driveway. I waved as they slowed down to see who was in the strange car. John rolled down his window, and hollered, “Denise, come get in the car and go for a ride with us. There’s a new housing development started out near Lake Michigan and I want to check it out.” (Forever the realtor). “Marcella’s been stuck in the house for a few days. We’d love it if you would ride along and keep us company.” (Explanation: listen to some of my stories). Marcella and I did have a great time hearing John’s opinion on whether this housing addition would be a smashing success or not.
|The USS Nimitz. All 1092 feet of her-WOW…|
John and Marcella had 2 children. Their daughter I believe lives in Kentucky. Their son Robert was a career Navy man. He had just been (I don’t know the correct term. Promoted, commissioned, invited, forced) as the CO (Commanding Officer) of the USS Nimitz. One of the Navy’s biggest, most prestigious super aircraft carriers. A very big deal. The local paper had numerous write-ups about the local boy and his huge success story. Because Robert was stationed in Hawaii for a time, John and Marcella decided to vacation and visit him there. Didn’t take too much persuading I don’t think.
They had a wonderful time and brought back a gift for me. Several of Hawaii’s local artists work on the beach and hand paint T-shirts. Marcella had bought several T-shirts from this gal when they had vacationed in Hawaii before. The artist signed and dated my shirt. One of the best gifts I’ve ever received. Every time I get that summer T-shirt out, my mind immediately drifts back to 2006. Visiting Marcella after her fabulous Hawaiian trip. She was still feeling good. A wonderful memory to reflect back on before she got so sick.
Not long after getting back from their wonderful vacation, Marcella’s health would take a turn. I can’t remember exactly what it was called but a very serious blood disorder. Quite the opposite of what my Dad had. His white count hovered around 100,000 and should have been 12,000. While something in Marcella’s blood that should have numbered in the thousands sat near zero. She went into Hospice care and passed away shortly thereafter. A unique, quiet, inspiring teacher, wife, mother and grandmother. And I was lucky enough to call her my friend.
|Gift from Marcella from Hawaii, 2006…|
Robert retired from the Navy and his family and moved to California. By this time, John was in his upper-80’s. Bob and his sister thought it was a good idea for him to move closer to one of them. John decided on sunny California. He lived there for several years, first independently, then with some assistance. If he ever made it back to Michigan after his move to California, I did not get to visit with him. He just passed away recently, and a memorial was held in our church. No more Sunday mornings with John. Listening to him chat before, during and after the service…
|CO Robert throwing out first pitch in San Diego…|