I have a collegue and friend who periodically shares his thoughts via email. I don’t know who is in his distribution list, I consider myself lucky to be one of its members. He truly understands the concept of ordinary legacy and puts forth his musings on a variety of subjects. Mostly he works to build his own legacy for his beautiful family through the memories and values his parents left for him. With his permission, his New Year’s message:
Happy 2011 !
When I was a kid my dad worked at B.F. Goodrich Plant 1 in Derby, CT. He worked on a Banbury Mill treating and pressing raw rubber that ultimately went into an extruded product that ultimately became the window and door moldings on thousands of American cars being produced in Detroit. During the height of America’s finest years in this business he would work 12 hour days, sometimes double shifts and he and my mom seemed really happy when the crew he was on got called in on Saturdays and sometimes even Sunday. That was triple-time. In the very best of years he made ten grand.
Most nights when he got out of work he stopped at the River Restaurant for a beer with his buddy, Johnny Duck. When they were done he would drive John to his house in Ansonia and then come home to us. I can always remember him sitting at the table reading the New Haven Register when he got home. We had a big kitchen table that was pink in the center with a black pattern around the entire edge. It had heavy ornate wrought-iron legs, and the chair legs matched the table but in a miniature size. The chairs were covered in pink naugahyde and there was a little picture window in the back of each chair with a small wrought iron ivy decoration in the center of each window. My Mom was always replacing the stick on rubber boots on the chairs so they wouldn’t tear up her kitchen floor. I often remember my Dad saying out loud that so-and-so had died and he seemed somewhat forelorned. I’d ask who was Ray Collins Dad? And he’d answer, “Oh he was a guy that played in Perry Mason”.
I’m not exactly sure when the first time was that it happened to me, but I do know that it was after my dad passed away, and there I was sitting at the kitchen table reading the New Haven Register and I said out loud, “Ahh gee, Fred Gwynne died”. I really don’t remember who the first one was, but Fred died in 1993, and would have definitely made my list. While he had countless successful roles, to me he would always be Herman Munster or the Judge in My Cousin Vinny. In any case, every time it happens I think of my dad and realize the reason he looked a little sad was because he was. He lost an old friend. Celebrities have that unique ability to entertain and often to make what can be an exhausting life just a little bit more bearable and enjoyable.
At the end of each year I’ve started to look at the list of entertainers, celebrities and noteworthy people that have passed from our lives. At first it was almost unintentional, but now I seem to make a point of it, and this year the list is a doosey. Something like 215 entries. I didn’t select them all, but here’s a bunch that would have probably got me to look up from the kitchen table. May they all rest in peace and I thank them for the memories –
Pernell Roberts 81
My family spent most Sunday nights with the Cartwrights, including Adam.
Fess Parker 85
So long Davey.
Art Linkletter 97
Sure he was on TV, but did you know he was Canadian and a major investor in the original Hoola Hoop?
Blake Edwards 88
Leslie Nielsen 84
And don’t call me Shirley!
Denise Borino-Quinn 46
Johnny Sack’s wife on the Sopranos
James MacArthur 72
the “Dano” in Book ‘em Dano!
James Wall 92
Mr. Baxter on Captain Kangaroo
Tom Bosley 83
Barbara Billingsley 94
Sorry about your Mom Beeve
Tony Curtis 85
If you’ve never seen Operation Petticoat with Tony, Cary Grant, Dina Merrill and Directed by Blake Edwards – rent it soon.
Eddie Fisher 82
Glenn Shadix 58
Interior Decorator in Beetlejuice
Rue McClanahan 76
Robert Culp 79
My 4th Grade Teacher, Mrs. Goldberg, was mortified that Eddie
Wolynec and I were allowed to stay up ‘til 11 PMon Wednesday nights
so we could absorb every detail of the I Spy duo Kelly Robinson (Culp)
and Alexander Scott (Cosby) on NBC.
Gary Coleman 42
What chu talkin’ about Willis?
Dennis Hopper 74
Lynn Redgrave 67
Dixie Carter 70
John Forsythe 92
Now he’s really with “Angels”
Peter Graves 83
Merlin Olsen 69
Doug Fieger 57
ma ma ma My Sharona lead singer
J.D. Salinger 91
His works are forced, and mostly wasted, on 17 year olds.
Jennifer Lyon 37
Finished 4th in the 2005 Survivor Palau. Reminder that breast cancer still takes beautiful young women.
Johnny Maestro 70
“Maybe it’s the best thing for you. But it’s the worst that could happen to me.”
Lena Horne 92
John Wooden 99
Passed before his “88” record was broken.
Jimmy Dean 81
Big Bad John was one of my first 45s. He made sausages much much later.
Manute Bol 47
7’ – 7”, played with Washington Bullets, Warriors, 76ers, and Miami Heat.
Edith Shain 91
The actual Nurse being kissed by the sailor in the Times Square V-J Day photo.
Erich Segal 72
Teddy Pendergass 59
To all those that can’t live without someone’s love….
Steve Landesburg 65
Don Meridith 72
Dallas Cowboys Quarterback and Monday Night Football Announcer. Known for his quotes, in 1970 on a Monday night game vs. the Jets the Cleveland Browns had a receiver with the unfortunate moniker of Fair Hooker. Really, that was the guy’s name. Dandy Don stated: “Fair Hooker, that’s a great name, isn’t it? But I haven’t met one yet”.
Jill Clayburgh 66
Do any of you remember Portnoy’s Complaint?
Sparky Andersen 76
Cincinnati Reds 2X World Series winning manager
Ernie Harwell 92
Voice of Tiger Baseball
Bob Shepperd 99
Voice of the NY Yankees. Called 13 World Series and his debut at the original “Stadium” was a 5 – 1 win over the Red Sox.
Bobby Thomson 86
New York Baseball Giants, launched the shot heard ‘round the world in 1951.
Ralph Houk 90
Succeeded Casey Stengel as the Manager of the Yankees 1961 – 1963. Also spent some time doing something up in Boston.
George Steinbrenner 80
And you think your Boss is tough.
Maurice Lucas 58
Played in the “ABA” and then Trail Blazers, Nets, Kincks, Suns, Lakers and SuperSonics.
Bob Guccione 79
I never bought his magazine for any “articles”.
Edwin Newman 91
Mitch Miller 99
Now we have no one to sing along with.
Art Clokey 88
If he never created Gumby where would Eddie Murphy be???
I’m sure there was a few on this list that seemed like old friends to you too. The pause to remember them is good for your soul and hopefully an inspiration to try and do something great yourself this year. The number of people that each of us affects is most likely less than most celebrities, but we do have an effect none-the-less and at a minimum I hope you find a way to make yourself smile a little bit more in the new year. Worse case is to always remember Pedenski’s 3 Rules of Life:
1. Try to Have Fun Every Day
2. Have Plenty of Life Insurance
3. Don’t work with A-Holes
Best Wishes in the New Year,
Paul A. Pedenski
Thank you Paul, looking forward to hearing more.