The daily prompt word was “mentor“. As I pondered that word, contemplating what and who that word engendered for me, I realized that I was very, very tired.
I had just finished a full day of singing. The second retreat for this concert series had begun at 9:30a.m. It finished at around 4p.m. It’s a 30-45 minute drive each way. My brain was mush and my voice was trashed.
Yet people and place kept popping into my head. People who are a part of me. People who helped me make me.
I thought of my great-grandmother. ( It is pronounced like peace only with a soft C.) Somewhere I have a picture of her at her 100th birthday. She is sitting regally in her easy chair in the Strathmore Veteran’s Hall surrounded by friends that went back 80 some years.
She taught me to add and subtract. She taught me those skills by teaching me Cribbage and Canasta. She was a suffragette. She was excommunicated from the Catholic Church for stating her views on the church policies involving women. She was stern and demanding and tough. She transferred her outspokenness to me.
There was (and still is) Orrie Feitsma.
He taught my Freshman English class. He sang in my church choir. To this day I can hear his clear, high tenor singing “Listen to the Lambs”. He taught me understanding, acceptance, the art of a great sentence, and showed me the immense wonder of the world.
Although I, and others who had the privilege of his tutelage, have told him how he changed our lives, I hope he reads these words and knows how deeply he changed mine.
(I grant you that none of those sentences were artistic. But they are true.)
Bill and Dan
I thought of my brothers. Bill and Dan.
They taught me football and baseball and wrestling and tree climbing. They taught me to take a good teasing. They taught me to stand my ground. They taught me to persist. They taught me what it feels like to have someone believe in you. Daniel is gone now. He lives on in my heart.
The light that is my refuge came to me through my father. My music. The thing that keeps me sane. The story has it that he switched from the Lutheran Church to the Presbyterian Church because it had a better choir and better choir director.Her name is Virginia Hanigan.
For nine years she really tried to teach me to play the piano. While I could read the music and I loved the sound, my brain would not transfer what was on the sheet to my fingers. So I sang with her a bit and longed for the day that I could join her choir.
Virginia taught me music. Its movement, its lilt. She taught me its soul. She taught me to find my soul in the sounds and rhythms.
She is still teaching me music! Now she comes to every Vocal Arts concert.
Dad Mueller (my father-in-law) taught me golf. He also taught me how to cook bacon. Mostly he taught me what a real hero looks like.
I could write for days about this man. He would not have appreciated such efforts.
He rarely, if ever, spoke of his military career. He was rifted as a full colonel because he voiced opposition to the VietNam war. Mind you, he flew helicopters in that war. He would have sacrificed himself for his country regardless of his personal feelings. He still had the courage to state his opinion and take the consequences. Because he believed it to be the right thing to do. He believed it was his duty.
He taught me courage. (and how to shape the golf shot!)
I miss him terribly.
ARTHUR E. WALLACE
While there are far more mentors that entered my musings, I could not leave out the man that helped me grow as a lawyer.
The Honorable Judge Arthur E. Wallace.
A man with a mind like a steel trap.
You came into his courtroom PREPARED. (I learned that the hard way!)
If you knew your case and you had learned enough skills to succinctly plead your case, he would listen.
He was the one judge that I could count on to be as fair and honest as a human could be. He was the one judge that knew the law, its precepts and precedents, better than any other judge that I know.
The remarkable thing about the man was that he would teach. He was a mentor from the bench. And in chambers, he was not only a teacher, he was a friend.
He taught me how to be a professional. He taught me that I was as good (or better) than the boys. He helped me find my own confidence.
May he rest in peace. Or at least be where he can argue with the angels.
I thank them all.