Wednesday, August 27, 2008

David Obey

Dave Obey is a son of Wisconsin. Most people don't realize he was actually born in Oklahoma; he's so ingrained in Wisconsin soil, so much a part of Wisconsin's story.

Most people also don't realize that Obey was originally a Republican. He's so ingrained in Democratic soil, so much a part of Democratic history.

Central Wisconsin has claimed Dave as its own for over fifty years, a former realtor who decided to run for office to see if he could do some good in the greater community. From 1963 to 1969, he served admirably in the Wisconsin State Assembly.

In 1969, he was elected to Congress to fill the seat vacated when Melvin Laird was tapped to be Richard Nixon's Secretary of Defense. Only thirty years old at the time, he was the youngest member of Congress then serving. Since then, he has been re-elected eighteen times, and is the longest serving member of either branch of Congress in Wisconsin's history.

David R. Obey.

David R. Obey is, and has been all these years, the face of Wisconsin's 7th District in the United States House of Representatives, a well respected, hard working, straight talking, passionate member of Congress, and current chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. He is also the author of "Raising Hell for Justice: The Washington Battles of a Wisconsin Progressive."

When not busy doing good in Washington, he's playing the harmonica. With the Capitol Offenses.

He has been a friend to many in our community for many years, and as a member of the Riordan family, I share in support of his efforts on behalf of those he's lifted throughout the years and express appreciation for the same.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

King Fahd

I've long said that Rochester is the great leveler.

When people come to Mayo Clinic in the cornfields of Minnesota for treatment, they come from all corners of the world and all walks of life, kings and presidents, priests and paupers. I recall being in town many years ago when then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Rochester to meet with Jordan's late King Hussein, who was undergoing treatment for cancer at Mayo Clinic at the time. There were banners across the main downtown street, Broadway, welcoming both men to town.

Around that same time, several years ago, my husband and I were in town for routine medical care and staying in a hotel which was hosting several members of the Saudi Royal Family on its top floors, including King Fahd. As only Rochester can do, it brought us face to face, in a way that would not have been likely, or even possible, in most of the rest of the world. My husband and I went into the Concierge Lounge that morning for breakfast, prior to our planned checkout later that morning, and there were only two other diners in the room--King Fahd, and a male attendant. The all too young manager of the hotel was standing over the pair fussing to try to discern what it was that was required. Two female employees from the concierge staff also busily stood at the ready. But no one could understand what it was that His Majesty wanted, and there was clear and present frustration.

I stood up, begged pardon and asked if I might be of assistance, then explained to the hotel manager what it was that His Majesty wanted.

"Sweet milk," I explained.

King Fahd nodded at me in appreciation as I explained to the hotel staff what this was. His companion thanked me most graciously.

Anywhere else, that act of assistance, that encounter, might never have taken place, but in Rochester, we were all children of the Almighty at the mercy of our quest for competent and compassionate medical care, in the cornfields of Minnesota.

King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz al Saud.

I felt a special sadness later when I read of his death. Our paths had crossed, if only briefly, in this life in a simple act of compassion for a fellow traveller on the journey.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Martin Capp

I was visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Logan, Utah, several years ago when he was showing us family pictures of his childhood.

"And this was the Capp home we built and lived in," he said, pointing to a picture of his family home.

It was phenomenal to me to actually meet someone who'd lived in a Capp pre-built home. Because Marty Capp was a friend of ours.

Flashback to days just after World War II.

Martin Capp was a young man from Wabasha, Minnesota, who decided to build homes. He needed windows for those homes, and contacted a window company in Wausau, Wisconsin, to see if he could get them. The person he ended up talking to initially at the time was my husband's father, Thomas Riordan, of Chicago.

His first request to get windows was unsuccessful.

Some time later, my husband placed a call to Marty Capp. Montgomery Wards had refused a shipment of a carload of windows--did he want them?

Many years later, at Marty Capp's 80th birthday party, eighty people were flown in for a week of festivities in Las Vegas,and at the black tie gala night I heard Marty Capp tell this story, right after comedian Red Buttons entertained us. It was the finest tribute I'd ever heard anyone give my husband. At Marty's high school graduation, he said, he'd been in charge of getting the entertainment, and hired a palm reader. That palm reader apparently told his fortune, and everything that person told him has subsequently come true. Including, as he told it, that an angel would come into his life and change his life forever. "That angel was Larry Riordan."

That transaction started a business relationship that co-existed as a deep and powerful friendship lasting well over fifty years. Marty was my husband's best customer, and my husband helped Marty when he was first getting his start in the construction business. It is a mutual admiration society that runs silent and deep.

Marty became one of the most successful builders of pre-built homes, Capp Homes, and later Martin Homes, and went on to build a number of office buildings and hotels in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. Several years ago, he bought a winter home in Las Vegas, where he also continues to do business as a builder and developer, well into his nineties.

He owns two hotels in Minneapolis currently, including The Millennium Hotel on Nicolet, the former Capp Towers Hotel. Their philanthropic efforts in Minnesota and elsewhere are well known and have benefited many.

Marty Capp.

I've had some great times with Marty and his lovely wife Esther. Some of them I can't repeat (something about Jaguars heading for the Mexican border, and professional women in Vegas tapping the wrong man's shoulder comes to mind, but it's a blur). Whether we've seen them in the Twin Cities, or in Vegas, at weddings, bar mitzvahs, or in their kitchen, we've had enormous fun, and their friendship is treasured. They were among those most faithful, most salt of the earth, during our protracted ordeal at Mayo Clinic, and I will forever be indebted to them for that.

So if you pass a building in the Twin Cities that was built by Marty Capp, raise a glass to him for me. And remember, that behind every successful man, there is a woman as incredible as Esther Capp.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bettye Olson

It seems appropriate to continue a Scandinavian theme, which leads me to Bettye Olson, Swedish-German by heritage, Norwegian by marriage, and very much a Minnesotan.

Bettye and Howard Olson have been friends with my husband for decades, and I was fortunate to inherit them when we married. No truer friends exist anywhere. Howard was best man at our wedding. They were steadfast in support of us during Larry's long and difficult hospitalization at Mayo Clinic, and made the journey down from St. Paul to Rochester on numerous occasions to be present personally.

I am fortunate to know Bettye, one of Minnesota's, and indeed the United States', premier watercolorists.

Bettye Olson is a Minnesota treasure. Her vision is singular and translates with seeming effortlessness to canvas. Part Emily Carr, part Georgia O'Keefe, Bettye sees the world, whether it's running water, a meadow, mountains, flowers, or rocks, and puts her own inimitable flourish of color on it for our enjoyment. In her career spanning over six decades, she has travelled the world, from Santa Fe to Sitka, Norway to New Mexico, bringing that vision to others.

I am blessed to have a number of Bettye Olson's paintings on the walls of my homes, some of which were already there when I married my husband, and others I've acquired since. But Bettye's paintings grace far greater venues, including major corporations in Minnesota and throughout the Midwest, and a number of universities.

Bettye Olson.

Bettye has had numerous shows and exhibitions worldwide and been active as both an artist and an educator, including as Director of the College of the Third Age at Augsburg, a position she held recently for several years. In late 2006 St. Catherine's College hung her show, "Persistence of Vision: Bettye Olson's Work in Retrospect."

Mark Sandberg

I think of Mark Sandberg in soundbites.

What did Theodora's father do for a living?

Twit twit twit
Jug jug jug jug jug jug
So rudely forc'd

O do not ask "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

When I met him, Mark Sandberg was a mild-mannered prodigy freshman at BYU who'd come in with off-the-charts test scores. We both haunted the fifth floor of the library and shared a common major at the time, Humanities, and had several classes together. He'd come from St. Paul, Minnesota, one of the three children then at BYU of well known educator, scholar and author Karl Sandberg of St. Paul's Macalester College. Together we were part of a motley assemblage of ragtag braniacs and liberals known as the "Fifth Floor Study Group," a core part of which came from the Twin Cities. I frequently had lunch with Mark, his brother Dave, and other Minnesotans at the Cougareat, and listened to them argue which was side of the river was superior, Minneapolis or Saint Paul, and whether or not Hardees truly had the best hamburgers. Together we studied existentialism, and art history, and pondered the great mysteries of the universe.

Like what Theodora's father did for a living.

Those were great times, with a million embedded memories. Kant and Hegel and Sartre and Camus and Art Bassett and James Faulconer and International Cinema and Cougareat.

I think I got pulled over once coming back from seeing Young Frankenstein at a drive-in movie theater in Springville, with Mark and his sister Stephanie in the car. We'd been laughing hard, and the car was weaving and bobbing in the pouring rain. What had I been drinking? the officer asked when he pulled me over to the side of the road and asked me to walk a straight line.

"Milk," I replied.

Mark Bennion Sandberg.

Mark went off to Norway on a mission and wrote back interesting tales of the midnight sun, and townspeople coming out after a long dark winter to chant, "Sola, sola."

Mark is now professor of Scandianavian Studies at the University of California at Berkeley and acknowledged expert in Scandinavian film studies. He is the author of Living Pictures, Missing Persons: Mannequins, Museums and Modernity, published by Princeton Press in 2003.

Judy Collins

Judy Collins saved my life in high school. Of course, she didn't learn that until many years later.

When I finally met Judy Collins face-to-face, she looked a lot like this, with lots of miles both behind her and ahead, and wearing the bloom of a newlywed bride.

In high school, I survived by playing her albums, endlessly. Colors of the Day, Whales and Nightingales, The Best of, Judith. Sure, I listened to Joni Mitchell, too. And Carly Simon. But I was immersed in the life and music and words and wildflowers and mountains and dreams of Judy Collins, whether singing Leonard Cohen's lyrical magic or her own original semi-autobiographical folksongs. I can still sit down to a piano and play "My Father" from memory.

Carol Crockett and I used to sing "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye" as a duet in high school, on long hours sitting in the back of a bus on school trips, or in the band room during choir practice. We always vowed we'd sing it at each other's weddings, wearing long gauzy dresses blowing in the breeze and flowers tucked in long flowing hair. We didn't.

But many years later, I was sitting in a hotel ballroom in central Wisconsin sharing wedding pictures with Judy Collins. And I presented her with my very well worn copy of her Judy Collins Songbook, dogeared and well travelled and practically memorized, still with wildflowers and notes falling out of the pages, for her to sign. She was visibly moved that I'd hung onto it all those years, and that it had meant that much to me. She'd come as the guest of Dave Obey, our local congressman who's a family friend, to speak about political issues. She signed my book.

I told her Carol Crockett had signed the back of her high school picture to me, "Judy Forever."

She understood.

Never did I imagine that when we'd finally meet, it would be like a couple of schoolgirls sharing wedding pictures.

But it was.

Judy Collins.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Joyce McKinney

Joyce McKinney's name is rarely associated with anything tasteful anymore, barely uttered and difficult to find on Internet searches without turning up sordid tales of infamy, but when I first met her in 1973 I was a freshman in college, and she hung out with my roommate at the time.

Both of them were Osmond groupies. My roommate Karen was younger of the two, by four or five years, and would hang around Joyce, a former beauty queen with a southern accent and bleach-blonde hair, like an older sister. Both would hoof several hours to Vegas most weekends just to see the Osmond Brothers perform.

Joyce had a thing for the oldest of the performing Osmond Brothers, Alan, and then subsequently his younger brother, Wayne, which became relatively well known and teetered on stalking. My roommate Karen, from southern California, was self confessed as someone who'd converted to the LDS Church predominantly because of her devotion to the Osmonds (a well documented byproduct of the Osmond mania of the early seventies). She played their albums incessantly in our dorm room and regaled us with details of her trips to Vegas and encounters with the Osmond clan.

There was something more of fanatacism than fan in both of them, but Joyce particularly, and possibly even at least one screw, if not more, somewhat loose. But never would we have dreamt that sometime later, Joyce would become a household name in the tabloid press, when she kidnapped an LDS missionary in England and forced him into sexual bondage.

I remember well when the story surfaced in the late 1970's in Provo, although a continent away. I was administrative assistant to Dr. Marion J. Bentley at the time, and he remembered casting her in performances in the Theater Department. We all shook a collective head and clucked a collective cluck. Cluck.

Joyce McKinney.

Joyce McKinney went from beauty queen to Osmond chaser to missionary chaser to sleaze queen. Rarely is mention found of her anymore without a reference to something entirely distasteful in obscure press, and rarely can a picture be found of her anymore worth reposting.

When I knew her she was slightly more interesting. Never did we dream she'd be infamous.

Just this past week, a news story hit the media about cloned puppies, and their owner, Bernann McKinney.

As it happens, "Bernann" and "Joyce" are one and the same.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sam Houston Allred

My path crossed Houston Allred's on the high seas, in a much entangled tale of transatlantic crossings, tea concerts, and fateful encounters with destiny.

Somewhere between New York and London I first heard him perform Jerome Kern songs to a room full of mostly wide eyed fading ingenues, older women on board in search of adventure and romance, or any combination of the above, and perfectly content to take it served up in piano keys and cabaret crooning. Not long after, the ship's entertainer was joining our dinner table as the guest of my travelling companion, and our eight-day passage read like a well cliched script of a 70's TV show.

I left my past on one shore and met my future on another. But in between there was caviar and champagne, laughter and dancing. There was even a birthday party, my 36th. Houston Allred was there.

We docked in Southampton. I went off to Surrey with friends. My travelling companion went off to London to meet my future husband. Houston Allred later came to our little community back home to perform a series of dinner concerts at the local social club.

Sam Houston Allred.

Named for the first president of the Texas Republic, the person born as Sam Houston Allred in 1937 began auspiciously enough, born in the Sam Houston bedroom of the Executive Mansion in Austin, Texas, where his father was serving his second term as governor. His first magazine spread was at the age of three days, gazing up at First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt from the arms of his mother on the pages of Life.

After a lifelong career as an entertainer, with featured roles on Broadway, in clubs and cabarets, and on cruise ships around the world, Houston can now be found most of the time in the sparkling city by the bay, where he is a popular entertainer in San Francisco nightclubs and cabarets.

Bobby Shew

The Bobby Shew I knew in the 1970's looked a lot more like this, young, trim, vibrant, and a very talented horn player who went around the country doing workshops for student musicians. I first met him in Rock Springs, Wyoming, the year after I graduated from high school when I accompanied a group from my alma mater to meet him and learn from him.

I was mostly impressed by his lifestyle choices at the time, choosing to give up sugar and red meat, well ahead of the curve on both.

As talented as he was as a musician, he was an effervescent dinner companion, a fascinating student and observer of life and human nature.

We corresponded for a time, then some years later I found myself in a late-night beachfront nightclub in Malibu, California, with a friend, where Bobby Shew and some other musicians were performing. I had the waiter send him a drink, with a note I'd written on a cocktail napkin: "Kathy Lawrence is sitting in the audience and is sending you this drink."

He interrupted his set with a spontaneous, "Kathy, where the hell ARE you???" and crossed the smoke-and-jazz filled room to join our table for conversation.

Bobby Shew.

It was the last time I saw him in person, but I've followed his career, and his music, and been appreciative than our paths crossed. I still think of him every time I contemplate giving up sugar or going vegetarian, or whenever I reflect on "The Hindu Yogi Science of Breath."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Marilyn Syra

Marilyn will laugh that I am including her in a blog on famous people, but she seems to have made her mark.

I remember, as though it were yesterday, growing up with Marilyn. From elementary school through high school graduation, she was a classmate and good friend. I especially remember convincing her to take up playing the flute, something I began in fifth grade with only moderate success. I wanted a friend of mine to also play, so I talked her into learning the instrument, never knowing how well she'd do with it, or how far she'd go in music.

Marilyn thrived on the flute. Literally. She went straight to first chair, while I languished in mediocrity, and then moved on to bassoon my sophomore year of high school, and later tympani. We were together in concert band, stage band, marching band, and choir, all the way through high school graduation. Marilyn did well in solo flute competition and was in the Wyoming All State Band.

I remember early junior high days when we'd listen to whatever latest Monkees album over and over, memorizing all the songs. Some weekends I'd sleep over at the trailer in the oil company subdivision where she lived with her parents. We had some great times.

I lost track of Marilyn for an extended period after high school. We went off in different directions, both of us to college. She declared a major in music, and I studied design and philosophy. Fortunately, she took the musical experiences we had growing up in Big Piney and made a difference in the lives of others with that.

Marilyn Syra.

Marilyn is now the band director at Tooele High School in Tooele, Utah, a position she has held for sixteen years, leading the concert, jazz and marching bands. She is beloved by her students and I have no doubt is an outstanding educator and mentor to them.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Tim Flaherty

Tim Flaherty is a grandfather to four of my grandchildren, and the namesake to one of them, Timothy Thomas Flaherty. He and his wife have raised a family in Neenah, Wisconsin, while he has been engaged in a successful practice as a radiologist in the Fox Valley area for several decades. In the summertime they enjoy time at their cottage on the lake in northern Wisconsin.

But Tim is better known nationally as a former trustee, and recent Board Chair, of the American Medical Association (AMA) from 2001-2002.

Timothy Thomas Flaherty.

Matthew Tueller

The first time I ever heard the name "Matthew Tueller," his sister, my college roommate at the time, and I were at the local post office to mail some books to him in Spain, where he was then serving as an LDS missionary. The conversation as I recall it was along the lines of "Where have all the good men gone?" and Anna mentioned that her brother was really something extraordinary.

I had the great pleasure of meeting and becoming acquainted with Matt Tueller (center, photo above) after he returned to resume his studies at BYU, along with several of his siblings (Jan, Anna, Marie and Diane particularly) from a sufficiently large family of ten children that had been raised around the globe, from Northern Africa to Europe to Latin America, as their father had served in the diplomatic service for the U.S. State Department. I really admired their mother. I'll never forget what she told me once, and I've repeated it often to others. She said that wherever she went with her family, even though she knew it was ultimately temporary, she put down roots and made a home. I know that served all of them well.

Matt had some Arabic from living in Morocco, accompanied by good tales and clever folding leather coin purses. He also possessed a good heart and a very human soul, along with the keen intelligence and joie d'vivre shared with his siblings. He was absolutely as his sister had described him, "one of the good ones." There was no doubt he had a big life ahead of him.

The last time I clearly remember seeing Matt we were sitting in a car in the rain in a parking lot in Provo, Utah.

Matthew Tueller.

Matthew Tueller finished his degree in International Relations at Brigham Young University and went on to Harvard, and subsequently followed his father's footsteps into the U.S. State Department, where he has in recent years had a number of postings in the Middle East, including Political Counselor for the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia and Charge d'Affaires/Deputy Chief of Mission for the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait, Political Counselor for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, and Deputy Chief of Mission, Cairo.

He is currently U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait, a position he has held since September 2011.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke

I did not know the rural Wisconsin farm boy, youngest of six children, who entered the seminary, went off to Rome, and was ordained a priest by the late Pope John Paul II.

I met the priest who'd been in Rome as a canon lawyer and became a bishop, only to return to serve the people of his rural homeland in Wisconsin, the descendants of European immigrants in the American heartland along the banks of the Mississippi.

My husband had known Bishop Burke's three predecessors well, Bishops Treacy, Frekking and Paul. We had been given a special blessing by Bishop Paul shortly after our marriage prior to departing on our honeymoon. And my husband had known "Father Burke" prior to his departure to Rome as a member of the Diocese of La Crosse.

But I came to know him shortly after our marriage, meeting him for the first time when we attended an anniversary celebration for Marriage Encounter in Marathon, Wisconsin. I was struck then by his intelligence and the strength of his spirit, and came to know over the subsequent years the great depths of his holiness. Whether vacationing on the beach in Sanibel Island or ministering to his flock in central Wisconsin, he was always that rarest of things, a truly holy man.

It was always clear that God had great things in mind for this servant shepherd. And the Mother of God entrusted him with the great task of building a shrine to bring the faithful to her Son.

Divine providence took him in 2004 from the banks of the Mississippi in Wisconsin to the the banks of the Mississippi in Missouri, when he became Archbishop of Saint Louis, and now takes him again back to Rome, as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the chief judge of the highest canonical court of the Roman Catholic Church and Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Louis.

On November 20, 2010, he was elevated to the position of cardinal in the Holy Roman Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke.

He will always be to us a treasured friend, someone tapped on the shoulder by the divine, servant of God and His people, devoted son to a loving mother, a leader, a visionary, an example.

Secundum cor tuum.