“Bill” Nichols drew his first breath when men still gave their last in the trenches of Flanders Field, “Over There”. “In Flanders fields the poppies grow between the crosses, row on row…”.

He was one of seven children raised by Al and Kitty Nichols on their farm in rural St. Johns Michigan. He was not quite a teen when the ravages of the Great Depression descended upon America, but the deprivation and want experienced by those in its cities was largely ignored by those born into the austerity of rural America. For Bill and his family if you wanted eggs you gathered them. Milk, cream, butter… the cow waited the daily touch of his experienced hands upon her engorged udders. Fresh produce? It was found outside in carefully cultivated rows next to the barn. Canned goods? They had been put up by Mother in the Fall and were found in the cellar with the root vegetables… food to sustain the family through the arctic cold that would annually descend upon the region. “Organic”, a term unknown to those of the day, aptly described life for those of the Nichols family where everything qualified as “organic”. 

Early in his youth one could see something very special emerging within Bill. He was a standout in local and State 4-H competitions. His keen intellect was ever devising solutions to commonly encountered problems on the farm. Bill developed the attitude that once he decided upon a course of action the “how” merely awaited discovery. He epitomized the axiom, “Where there is a will there is a way”, perhaps better stated in his case, “Where there is Bill, he will create the way!”

As sharp minded children often are, Bill was willful. Fearing the disapproval from their parents, he and his love (first and only), Doris, eloped. They were 18 years old and for the next 74 years that they shared they would laugh about the 42 days during which Doris was older than Bill. Doris was 93 when she passed, however Bill had long ago decided that he would live to be 100, often declaring, “I’m going to live to be 100 and then Lord come take me!!!” …But I am getting ahead of myself.

Bill and Doris went on to begin their family and complete their educations, he in agricultural and food sciences and her in education. As with so many other young couples of their generation the orderly progression of life was interrupted by the strife of World War 2. Bill’s entry into service was initially deferred to allow him to complete work on the development of the powdered egg. While that mission lacked the glamor of the Manhattan Project, it did touch the lives (and dinner plates) of virtually every American soldier in the war. His “mission” successfully completed, Bill was enlisted into the Army’s Quartermaster Corps. He attained the rank of sergeant and was among the very first American troops to enter Hiroshima on the heels of its destruction and Japan’s surrender in 1945. Bill does not often speak of the devastation that he witnessed firsthand, but he laughingly attributes his longevity to the radiation he was no doubt exposed to, “I was atomically preserved and nuclear energized!”

Shortly after the war Bill and Doris moved to Kansas City, Missouri. The first 2 of the 5 children they brought into the world had been born before the war. 3 others followed post-war with a span of 25 years separating oldest to youngest. They would bury two of those children, one an Airman in the service of his country, and the other a daughter, victim of cancer in adulthood.

In Kansas City Bill and Doris started their own business, the W. A. Nichols Company, where he developed and manufactured poultry processing equipment while Doris managed the office. He was awarded patents for his innovations, valued by the poultry industry. Those inventions were largely unknown to the general public, however most of the ubiquitous metal wires that secured the legs of America’s Thanksgiving turkeys had been shipped from their small warehouse.

I met Bill in the Summer of 1974. I had moved to Kansas City out of college in pursuit of my career and shortly after arriving met his daughter, Christine. She would become my wife in 1977. In those early years my relationship with Bill Nichols was not always “easy”. Such may be expected when larger personalities vie to occupy space in a relationship with one whom they both love. Whatever stresses existed between us were resolved by the mutual respect that developed for the abilities and accomplishments of the other. 

In 1978 Bill created an opportunity from the charred remains of a home that was located in an upscale neighborhood of Kansas City. The property was for sale at a discount because of the perceived cost and challenge of removing the remains of the burned structure. Bill designed a new home that would incorporate the foundation and some intact elements of the former structure thus saving a considerable amount in construction costs. My friend Greg and I were employed to demolish and remove the portions that could not be salvaged. We were second year law students with the time (and need of money) to accomplish the project. Armed only with crowbars, sledge hammers, and a chain saw, we filled nine semi-truck sized containers with the refuse that had been the original home.

Life for Bill and Doris continued in story book fashion. Their successful business was closed at retirement. Bill and Doris spent a significant amount of their time “on the road”, exploring North America in their motorhome and eventually settled full time in Florida. Doris passed in 2011 and Bill continued in pursuit of his quest to be 100. At 98 he was still occasionally driving his Mustang convertible and, taking nothing for granted, he renewed his driver license. Although he has now quit driving, he still proudly displays the license observing, “Its good until I’m 105”.

In August of 2017 Hurricane Irma, with its category 5 winds, took aim at the heart of Florida. Bills home was at the center of the hurricane’s track. Christine acted to arrange for Bill’s evacuation to our home in Kansas City. At 99 years old, Bill managed to fly unaccompanied to Kansas City, negotiating the busy airports in Florida and Atlanta without incident. His Florida home sustained only minor damage in the storm, but the handwriting was on the wall. At his advanced age and without family in Florida, he could not return there. His house and car were both sold. Christine has since found him a new home in an assisted living community near to us. From August of 2017 to the present she has near single handedly seen to the management of his care. There is now a softness in Bills eyes when he sees her, a smile comes to his lips and his arms extend to her for an embrace. No doubt the love was always there, but it never found expression as it does now… “I love you honey, very, very, much… always have and always will.” Bill has decided that he will stick around for his 101st birthday. I have no doubt that he will.

Peace Everyone.

PS: In writing this I have found renewed respect for the abilities, intellect and work ethic that have defined William A. Nichols over the course of his first 100 years. Moreover, I have been struck by the parallels that emerged in the life of his daughter who is my wife, Christine. She too was a willful child who left home at an early age. Christine pursued her undergraduate degree after first starting a family. She founded her own successful business, built a new home from the opportunity she saw in the destroyed remains of another, and in retirement she has pursued travel across North America with RV in tow. Of his 5 children she was the “stealth child”, least anticipated to achieve success but revealed to be recipient of the fullest measure of Bill’s talents. They each have much to be grateful for in the life and love that they share.

 

 

A number of friends have reached out and expressed concern for us due to my “silence”. I have been largely offline since our return from Canada at the end of September. First of all, we are well. Secondly, we have not been idle. Indeed, we have been busy enough that there is fodder for a number of posts if I just make the time to commit our activity to paper.

Our life in Kansas City is different from our life on the road. Traveling I enjoy the stimulation of new sights and experiences that unfold on a near daily basis. For me travel is heady and intoxicating. I feel compelled to share it with you. Along with the experiences come the thoughts that are generated within me. Add to this the compression of time I enjoy with Christine, quite literally at each other’s side 24/7. Fortunately, we don’t seem to tire of the closeness. Eye contact invariably brings a smile to both of us. The cup of friendship is a priceless chalice when it holds the elixir of love.

Being home creates different experiences for each of us. We tend to find our together time relegated to the mornings and the evenings. I spend a couple of hours during most days at the gym. There is some yardwork, tinkering, the occasional lunch with a friend, and the countless small details of life that cause one day to follow another in a succession that mimics the turning of the pages of a not so interesting book. For Christine the focus of her day is upon our children, grandchildren, and her centenarian father. She flourishes in her connection to family. I happily take a step back and allow her to define my role in the family. I shudder to think how soulless the celebrations of holidays, birthdays, and other milestones would become in her absence.

 

Mornings and evenings in Kansas City are the times that we imagine and put into words our “next things”. There are quite a few on the table right now, but I will save the telling for my next post. Until then… Peace Everyone.

 

In 1977, on my first day of law school in Kansas City, Missouri, (my first class no less), in walked Jeff Hiles. We had been high school classmates 500 miles away in far south suburban Chicago, graduating together in 1970. I’m not sure which of us was more shocked to see the other. Jeff went on to graduate and become a member of the Missouri Bar. He was a well-regarded and respected lawyer, known for his dedication to those in need, without regard to their socio-economic status, a man of solid ethics and deeply spiritual.
In looking through some old archive documents I came upon this piece written by Jeff that became a part of his memorial service. Jeff died March 24, 1998. -Pete Schloss

Simple Truths, by Jeffrey Hiles
My sister held my hand in the waiting room at the University of Kansas Medical Center. We sat silently as any attempt of reassuring conversation seemed stilted and artificial. The year was 1987. We both were afraid.
I was grateful for her presence which bolstered my not-too-resolute courage as I was about to confront a possible life-threatening diagnosis. A prolonged respiratory infection coupled with my gay sexual orientation had resulted in tests for both HIV status and AIDS-related pneumonia. I now awaited the results.
After a period of time which seemed like a small piece of eternity, we were ushered to a room to await the doctors. The infectious disease specialist entered accompanied by two interns who mimicked their mentor’s demeanor. I inhaled a large gasp of air. No, I didn’t have pneumonia. I had bronchitis. But I was HIV positive.
My mortality and the prospect of a painful demise were frightening and a constant vision during those initial few months. I felt betrayed by my own body and I was depressed. Those people and activities that had traditionally brought joy and meaning to my life now appeared unimportant, and I was mired in self-pity.
I knew I needed to find something that would lift me out of the “shadows” I found myself in. A transition from self-absorption to engagement in the world about me was mandated. I found solace in the scriptural reference, heard repeated throughout my childhood, that it is our calling to help those in need. Jesus said, “In as much ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” I believe this admonition teaches us that when we care for the most vulnerable in our world we move closer to God.
I heard of a new fledgling organization whose sole purpose was to help people with HIV/AIDS. I applied and was accepted to its Board of Directors. Its name – Good Samaritan Project. I experienced at Good Samaritan Project intense sorrow and rapturous joy. I remember the faces of dying individuals whose hands I held seeking both to give and receive solace. And saddest of all I remember desperate young men coming to Good Samaritan Project who were alone, abandoned by companions, friends and family, and who were sick and unable to work, without any means of help for financial resources for their physical needs and for their spiritual/emotional well- being.
It was painful as I felt great empathy for these people and as I could not help but wonder whether a painful future awaited me. Yet, I knew I was doing God’s work. Allowing myself to experience and attempting to help with the suffering of others, paradoxically, lead me from my sadness, and I began to experience, as if a child, the wonders of joy and love.
I felt rather like the young seminarian in the play Mass Appeal when he expresses the following: “I had a tank of tropical fish. Someone turned up the tank heater and they all boiled. I woke up on a Friday morning – went to feed them – and there they were – all of my beautiful fish floating on the top. Most of them split in two. Others with their eyes hanging out. It looked like violence, but it was such a quiet night. And I remember wishing I had the kind of ears that could hear fish screams because they looked as if they suffered and I wanted so badly to save them. That Sunday in church, I heard that Christ told his apostles to be fishers of men. From then on, I looked at all the people in the church as fish. I was young so I saw them as beautiful tropical fish and so I knew they were all quiet screamers. Church was so quiet. And I thought everyone was boiling. And I wanted the kind of ears that could hear what they were screaming about, because I wanted to save them. A few years later, the people in the church lost the stained glass look of tropical fish, and they were only catfish to me – overdressed scavengers. So, I drowned out whatever I might be able to hear. I made my world – my tank – so hot that I almost split. So now I’m back – listening – listening for the screams of angels.”
Too soon, complications from AIDS rendered me unable to engage in my profession of law. Other activities such as speaking on behalf of AIDS service organizations and tutoring at DeSalle [Education Center] became difficult if not impossible.
I experienced many hardships including AIDS related pneumonia triggering an acute asthmatic response, I experienced an inability to eat and hiccupping and belching lasting months caused by the opportunistic disease MAC (I was kept alive by first an 18 hour intravenous feeding of total protein nutriment, then a 12 hour drip.), and I experienced loss of vision caused by the CMV retinas.
Suddenly I was not the individual who I had been but rather a frail, needy shadow of my former self. Who was I now? It was a difficult time.
But, I remember the kindness and love given to me: Nancy Ditch who has caused and continues to cause me to exercise weekly by sharing stretching and yoga techniques; Merril Proudfoot who calls and visits despite his own battle with prostate cancer; my friend Larry who despite some reluctance due to a fear of hurting me gave me injections of pain medication when I suffered almost daily nausea; my older sister Barbara who, during a visit, allowed both of us to cry releasing much of our anguish; my sister Nancy who insisting in a kind firm way that the nursing assistants at St. Luke’s take better care of her older brother; My younger brother Tom who in an attempt to share his feelings called me “sweetheart” – an expression I never expected Tom to direct to me; my father who spent nights with me in the hospital so I would not have to be alone; my mother who long after fatigue had set in wiped my brow unceasingly and into the early morning hours to relieve my 104 degree temperature, and most of all my companion Bob, who always loved me and took care of me during long days of illness – hours spent preparing and giving me the intravenous food and medicine I needed to avoid death. All the time willing me to stay alive, supporting me, caring and loving me. And so many other acts of kindness – prayers, cards and letters, telephone calls, food and visits.
I would not choose to have AIDS, but it has taught me to try to be in the moment and to give to others. Medical ethicist at Kansas University Medical Center, William Bartolome who is dying of cancer states:
“I am . . . unwilling to allow my life to revert to the common pattern of living primarily in the future, and, to a lesser extent in the past. I had spent precious little of my life living in the present; living in the almost overwhelming intensity and richness of the world around us. This means not only doing things like “stopping to smell the roses,” but allowing oneself to be radically open to what is going on in the world. I find myself stopping over and over again to see or hear or feel something that before my illness would have been lost in the rush of experiences that seem to constitute our lives. I’ve grown increasingly intolerant of living on fast forward; of never having time for what makes life so precious and intensely satisfying; the incredible people who constitute our web of being.”
Jesus challenges us to feed and house the needy, clothe the naked, visit the sick and come unto those in prison if we are to inherit the kingdom of God. Jesus also tells us to love one another. As the poet E. E. Cumming articulates: “Unless you love someone, nothing else makes sense.” My life prior to AIDS was filled with work and play often forgetting these simple truths. I have learned what truly is important is the love received from and given to others. This is our calling; this is my challenge to you.
IN REMEMBRANCE
Jeffrey Paul Hiles died in March, 1998 at his home in Kansas City, Missouri. He preached the above sermon at Central Presbyterian Church in Kansas City in October of 1997. Hiles was a member of the Walnut Gardens, RLDS congregation in Independence, Missouri, and he authored the article, “Journey into the Light,” which addressed HIV/AIDS and homosexuality and appeared in the July, 1994 issue of the Saints Herald.
Jeff was a partner at the law firm of Ramsey & Ford, a member of the Clay County and Missouri Bar Associations, a Member Emeritus of the Board of Directors of the Good Samaritan Project (an HIV/AIDS service organization), and was the recipient of the Ribbon of Hope Community Service Award. He graduated from Graceland College in 1974, entered law school at the University of Missouri, Kansas City in 1977, and passed the Missouri Bar in 1980.

We are fresh off from spending 2 wonderful nights “camped” at the home of dear friends Liz and Frank near Squam Lake in New Hampshire. Our friendship has its roots in the Camino and we count friendships such as theirs as another unexpected gift of that pilgrimage. We look forward to extending hospitality to them at our home in the near future.

We never seemed to lack for conversation. The topics mirrored the stage of life we share, children, grandchildren, retirement… But most of all we embraced the joys of our good marriages, wonder at the seemingly insignificant moments in our lives that became life defining, and gratitude. Our time spent with good people like Liz and Frank, Tom and Nanci (earlier in this trip), and past times with many of you who are reading these words is spiritual to me. Friendship is a celebration of the best that people have to offer one another.

Barring the unforeseen, we will be heading into Pennsylvania for two nights shared with a dear friend from high school, Maxine and her husband Chip… then on to a couple of nights with my Mother in Illinois as the last stop on one of the best trips of the last 3 years.

Peace Everyone. Pete

It is 5 a.m. the morning of the 19th. For much of this trip this has been the default time for writing my “Thoughts”. Christine remains asleep a few feet from me while I am treated to the sight of night slowly yielding to day. I often go to sleep with no intention of writing, but I awake, sometimes long before 5, and find that my “Thoughts” have been composed somewhere in the recesses of my subconscious. I get up, pull out my iPad and begin to type. It works, but how?… it’s a mystery.

Yesterday, as we left Trois-Pistoles Quebec my eye was drawn to the steeple that commanded a view above the village. There is not much to see in Trois-Pistoles but Trip Adviser mentioned a Basque cultural center, a Basque cheese “Fromagerie”, a small micro-brewery, and the church. The micro-brewery was closed when we arrived late on the 17th as was the cultural center. We are watching our weight so no cheese. The church held the number one spot for recommended things to see and do in Trois-Pistoles.

As an aside, there is a lingering Basque influence in this area that predates the 16th Century arrival of Jacques Cartier. Basque whalers traveled seasonally to these waters in hunt for the leviathans.

As a second aside, “Trois-Pistoles” is the name of a remarkably strong and complex beer crafted by the Canadian brewer, Unibroue… but not in Trois-Pistoles. For you aficionados it is worth seeking out on the shelves of discerning liquor stores and taverns in the States.

Now, about that church. Église Notre-Dame-des-Neiges was completed in 1887. It is truly monumental, far out of scale for the small town in which it is situated. It appeared to be closed, but we checked the doors and found that one side-door was unlocked. In my youth churches were always unlocked as the needs of those seeking a place for prayer were not constrained to banking hours. Perhaps Trois-Pistoles lacks the usual small population of miscreants who, if given the opportunity, deface and steal from houses of worship. Perhaps we were the coincidental beneficiaries of someone’s inadvertent omission… but as a good man in Puerto Rico told us earlier this year, “In life there are no coincidences”.

Upon entering the church we were treated to the most spectacular old world interior of any church that we have seen in North America. The long rows of pews appeared each individually carved. They gleamed mirror-like with flawless varnished surfaces. The towering pillars were hand painted with a faux marble finish and supported the lofty ceiling vault and dome. Remarkable!

While the overall impression was breathtaking, I found my eye drawn to the details of the church… the statue of Christ crucified,

The ornate confessional booths,

The Baptismal Font that had no doubt greeted thousands into the “fold”, and the galleries and pipe organ,

The Alter and Canopy,

The spiral stairs to the lectern used in former days to deliver the Gospel and homily to the congregants,

And then there was the very curious small pew standing alone in the back of the church. My first impression was that it was reserved for sinners ostracized but not excommunicated for some spiritual failing. There was a sign written in French on the pew. With the aid of Google Translate we learned the truth:

This was the bench of the Vire-chien, or “dog-guard”. It was occupied by the Church Constable whose tasks consisted in maintaining order in the church, opening or closing the doors during events such as weddings and funerals, regulating the heat as needed, and preventing dogs from entering the church. Tradition held that dogs entering a church were the harbinger of misfortune in the village. The Vire-chien wore a tricorned hat with a gilded silver-colored ribbon. The hat matched his long frock coat, which was of black wool. The costume was abandoned in the twentieth century, but perhaps the position of Vire-chien remains to this day.

Finally, there were the ubiquitous votive candles, a standard feature in most Catholic churches. These were particularly beautiful and well executed under the sympathetic gaze of the Virgin Mary.

I like churches for what they say about the people of a community. My thoughts about organized religion have become “complicated” over the years and don’t warrant airing here. Nevertheless I was gifted as a child with traditions of contemplation that still resonate with me. One of those is the lighting of a candle. The solitary flame brings a somber focus to my thoughts. In the course of the last few months a number of friends have exited from this life. A few days ago I paid homage to a remarkable woman who died 25 years ago. I recall the memories of those dear to me, now long passed. My wife and I have the blessing of being together in good health, being companions in travel, friends and lovers in life. So much to put upon the shoulders of that single flame…

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. We crossed into the United States last night.

After overnight camping near Baie Comeau we returned to Godbout for our 11 a.m. ferry crossing to Matane on the south shore of the St. Lawrence.

This is at least the 12th time that we have transported our car and trailer aboard a ferry. Every time feels like a bit of an adventure as we slowly drive across noisy metal ramps, occasionally scraping the hitch, and descend steeply into the bowels of the vessel.

On this occasion the ferry was one of the huge ocean capable varieties. We were the first cargo on and the first cargo off. As we waited to load we watched a seemingly endless parade of vehicles that had originated on the south shore depart the ship. There were motorcycles, transports, RV’’s, and even a huge 40+ wheel semi bearing a construction crane.

The crossing took a little over 2 hours but the ship featured unexpected comforts that were more akin to those found on some cruise ships. There were luxurious recliners, a first rate cafeteria, and a topside promenade that was abandoned to the cold damp weather.

I spotted a couple of Minke Whales, and there was even a report of a huge Blue Whale sited about 2 miles ahead of the ship.

Once on shore we began making our way to our overnight destination, the municipal campground at Trois-Pistoles. Along the way we beheld a large lighthouse situated on the Pointe-au-Pere promontory and detoured to have a look. The unusual lighthouse was built in 1909 and at 108 feet tall it is the second tallest in Canada. It features a large 3rd order Fresnel beacon that is visible for 22 nautical miles. I would have taken the tour to the top but the lack of time and the dense approaching fog bank dissuaded me.

However, there was a submarine to tour!

The Oberon class submarine, Onondaga (S73) was launched in 1965, commissioned in 1967, and served in the Canadian Navy for 33 year. It was retired from service in 2000. It is the only sub open for tour in Canada.

The vessel is 295 feet long, displaces 2, 400 tons, and its 2 x 3,000 horsepower electric motors could propel her at a speed of 12 knots (14mph) on the surface and 17 knots (20mph) submerged. Her batteries allowed her to cruise submerged for 3 days at a time and only required 3 hours to be fully recharged by the two huge diesel generators. She was capable of safely diving to 1000 feet. In the course of her lengthy career she traveled over half a million miles.

With the crossing of the St. Lawrence the focus of our travel has shifted to a homeward journey.

Peace Everyone. Pete

I can’t say that all attorneys have cases that become a part of their life DNA, but I have had at least one such case. Recently a series of communications with Christina “Christy” reignited memories of events that centered upon her mother and family 25 years ago. The intervening years may have cast a haze upon my recollections but my emotions remain every bit as raw as they were a quarter of a century ago.

Paula Clouse had been trapped in an incredibly abusive marriage to Larry Clouse for over 20 years. The handwriting had been on the wall from the start when only weeks into the marriage the much older Larry smashed his fist into her jaw for failing to respond quickly enough with the beer he demanded. Paula’s jaw was wired shut in order for the bones to heal.

Paula dropped out of high school to marry Larry. Notwithstanding Larry’s serial abuse, she got her GED, worked to support the family, raised their first child (Chris) who was born early in the marriage, and persevered to complete her college education at CMSU. Two other children were born of the marriage, Derek was four and Christy turned one when Paula received her degree. Paula secured and held a full time position of responsibility with the Bendix Corporation of Kansas City and was the family’s sole wage earner. Larry was unemployed throughout the marriage, his temperament being incompatible with steady employment.

Paula first sought my help in 1992. Son Chris was out of the home and Paula hoped that divorcing Larry might protect the two younger children from further exposure to the emotionally toxic environment. I filed Paula’s Petition for Dissolution of the marriage and initiated the process to have papers served on Larry. Unfortunately, with threats and promises he coerced her into dismissing the Petition. I reluctantly complied with Paula’s decision.

The following year Paula returned to my office, accompanied by her 11 year old daughter Christy. Earlier in the week there had been another episode of violence in the home. Larry had struck Paula down, causing her to crash through a glass coffee table. He then sought to snatch the car keys from her purse and deny her an escape. Little Christy beat him to the purse and as he threatened to strike her she said, “Go ahead and hit me. Tomorrow I’m going to tell my teachers and everyone at school what you did.” With Paula on the floor behind her, the defiant child succeeded in getting Larry to back down. Paula and Christy left. Derek chose to remain with his father. Paula explained that her daughter’s courage convinced her to leave Larry for good. There would be no going back.

I dropped everything that day and prepared a new Petition. I also prepared a motion for emergency protective orders. The documents were filed and served upon Larry along with a notice of the scheduled hearing on the motion for protective orders.

Larry appeared for the hearing along with his attorney and 15 year old son Derek. The matter convened before Judge Jane Pansing Brown and proceeded as a vigorously contested matter. Larry denied the allegations of abuse, but the bruises on Paula’s face and arms told a different story. He sought custody of both Derek and Christy, requesting that Paula be denied access to the children. At the conclusion of the lengthy hearing Paula was granted a protective order and custody of their daughter. Larry was granted supervised visitation with Christy and custody of Derek at the 15 year old’s request. Paula was granted visits with Derek, the first to occur that evening, August 10, 1993.

After the Judge issued her ruling from the bench I spoke with an emotionally drained Paula in a small adjoining conference room. She embraced me and then said that she would be satisfied even if the only thing she accomplished was to free her daughter from the violence. These were to be Paula’s last words ever spoken to me.

That evening Paula took Derek to the Metro North Theater to see “Robin Hood, Men in Tights”. Popcorn in hand, they had just taken their seats to watch the previews of coming attractions. Derek stood, faced his mom, and pulled a handgun from his jeans. He leveled the barrel at Paula and methodically fired six bullets into her. She died at the scene.

Derek was taken into custody. The police investigation resulted in murder charges filed against both Derek and Larry. I was called to testify in Larry’s trial. The evidence established that Larry provided Derek with the firearm and ammunition. He had taken Derek to a remote location to practice killing his mother. Larry placed a target and instructed the 15 year old to shoot and pretend that it was Paula. Larry also told Derek that there would be insurance money from Paula’s death that would make them rich. They would escape to Canada and live in comfort.

Both Larry and Derek were convicted of murder and received life sentences. Larry died of heart failure in prison on December 27, 2016. Derek remains in prison, two applications for parole having been denied. His next eligibility for parole occurs in November 2019.

Christy was placed with caring foster parents. I participated in her later adoption by those folks. Christy went on to college, my wife and I traveled to attend her wedding, and she is the loving mother of a darling little boy. We remain in touch with each other to this day.

Until recently I never fully appreciated the impact that I had as an attorney on the life of that courageous 11 year old girl. Here is what she wrote to me shortly after the 25th anniversary of her mother’s death:

“Pete, as my mom would say about you, “he is a good man.” You truly are. In a time when things she confided in you were the types of things you’d only read about in a murder mystery novel or see in the movies, you believed her. You gave her a voice that she would’ve never had without you. Although she died, her legacy lives on and with it are stories of a silly attorney, full of jokes for a little girl, one who stared in a play (which btw the little girl went on to do theater), one with a PHOTOCOPY MACHINE, who let her photocopy her hand for the very first time! But also a stern attorney who put that little girl in her place a time, ok or maybe two. A hard nosed attorney who fought tooth and nail for that Mom and little girl. And a man that stayed present long after his client was gone, watching out for that little girl, through trials and court proceedings and even by showing up on her wedding day. A man that still today keeps in contact with that little girl. A man that really did hold both of their hands and changed their lives forever. You are always instrumental in this story. You, Pete, are a good man…a great man!”

Paula’s wish, expressed in her last words to me, was granted.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. There were other victims of the fallout from Larry’s abuse. Chief among them were Paula’s parents who were good people tortured by what they saw their daughter endure and helpless to intervene. May they also Rest In Peace.

Good fortune and fine weather allowed us a visit to the spectacular Monoliths on the Mingan Archipelago islands.

The fog of the previous day gave way to partly sunny skies and attracted additions to the 8 of us who had signed up for the 4 hour tour the previous day.

The Mingan Archipelago began forming millions of years ago where the 1 billion year old rock of the Canadian Shield met the 500 million year old limestone sediment of an ancient sea. Waters cascading off of the Shield created fissures and cracks in the limestone. 20,000 years ago marked the beginning of the last Ice Age. A crust of ice nearly 2 miles thick formed over this region, the weight of the ice pressed the land downward many hundreds of feet. 10,000 years ago as the ice melted away the land rapidly rebounded and was subjected to additional erosion from the glacial runoff. The land continues to rebound even today at the rate of 3 millimeters (about 1/10th of an inch) per year. Thus wind and water erosion continue the slow process of carving these unique Monoliths which once were under 250 feet of water.

The Archipelago consists of a group of 40 islands that are now a protected environment within the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve of Canada. The National Park Reserve itself extends over 125 miles along the north coast of the St. Lawrence and includes over 2,000 islands.

Our tour of two of the Mingan islands featured a National Park docent, unfortunately we soon learned that she “docent” speak English!! Christine and I were the only passengers who were not either Francophones or bilingual. We satisfied ourselves with proceeding solo along the well marked paths and boardwalks of the islands.

Rustic camping is allowed along with other recreational activities, but access is only by water and carefully regulated to protect the environment.

We were rewarded with the wonderful experience of viewing and examining these stunning natural wonders unencumbered by the presence of other milling spectators. We were soon joined by a Camille and Janice, a very nice couple from near Ottawa who could understand the (very lengthy) explanations of the naturalist, but preferred the solace we were enjoying.

Our return to Havre-Saint-Pierre included a sighting of a Minke Whale. Unfortunately I was not quick enough with the camera.

Tomorrow we drive 350 miles back to Godbout where we will overnight in the ferry parking lot to await our 11 am Monday departure for the south shore of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The passage will take about 2 1/2 hours and often features views of migrating whales.

Peace Everyone. Pete

We have arrived at Havre-Saint-Pierre which is the end of our road, but Canada 138 continues east for at least another 150 kilometers. The 250km (about 150 miles) we traveled yesterday was both beautiful and remote. With the exception of a few small seashore villages there were no signs of habitation. A sign warned us early on that there were no gas stations for 110km.

We enjoyed an opportunity for a brief hike to take in views of one of the many rivers cascading from down from the north on to the St. Lawrence.

The Municipality of Rivière-au-Tonnerre is comprised of the town itself and 3 small neighboring villages. The total population for the 244 square miles of this political subdivision is 307 people, down 21% from 10 years ago. There are no gas stations, no restaurants, no cell service, and we saw only one small convenience store. Folks are almost exclusively employed in fishing to supply crabs to a local processing factory. However, there is a remarkable church. Built in 1903, L’Eglise Saint-Hippolite is surprisingly large and constructed entirely of wood. It is like no church that we have ever seen before. We had the good fortune to be given a tour by its caretaker who only spoke French. Christine hung on linguistically for all she was worth as he gestured here and there about the church, speaking with obvious pride in rapid-fire French.

We have also entered a region where First Nation people predominated. Signs are now printed in both French and the local indigenous language. Political authority in many places is here vested with the local First Nation Tribe.

Ordinarily Havre-Saint-Pierre would be an oasis for tourism, however the season has ended. We arrived at the relatively large seaside municipal campground (86 sites) only to find that the electricity is off, the bathrooms are locked up, and all of the seasonal tenants are long gone. The gate has been left open for the few hearty souls like us who still wander this area. The camping is now free and fortunately the water is still on and the trailer sewage dump appears to still operate. We are the only camper visible in either direction.

The fog along the coast has been relentless. The inland air is clear as crystal, but on the shore it is as if the crystal has been frosted opaque. Moreover, the dampness really drives the cold inside of you. The temperature dropped to 40 degrees in the night and as we are now “boondocking” (only using our self contained propane and battery power) we embrace a heightened sense of adventure.

We came here in hopes of visiting the Mingo Archipelago National Reserve. It is renowned for its flora, fauna, and the remarkable stone monoliths that abound along its shores. Unfortunately, it can only be reached by water. Fortunately, the daily boat is still operating. Ordinarily the vessel would carry dozens of people to the reserve, but we will be joined tomorrow by only 6 other passengers. We are keeping our fingers crossed for clear skies and most of all, no fog.

Peace Everyone. Pete

The following appeared in my archive from two years ago today as we traveled New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. It is worth sharing once again.

September 14, 2016:

Most of the time my postings focus on the things that we see and the things that we do. Last night I received a heartfelt and personal email from a staff person at 5 Islands Provincial Park. I will only say that it was most touching for both Christine and me. It reminded me that there is the third dimension to our travels, the people whose lives we touch and who touch ours. These encounters do not often meaningfully lend themselves to pictures or description. However, in replying to her I offer a window into this third dimension of our experiences. I share my reply with you.

Dear ——. Our visit to your park has presented us with a series of memorably, and in some cases extraordinary experiences.

In the morning I took in the Red Head Trail, enjoying a brief interlude with a couple from Germany, taking advantage of a tart green apple that was just within my reach, and being overwhelmed by the scarlet expanse of the cliffs extending before my eyes.

Christine and I visited the Dutchman Cheese Farm where we stopped to watch 3 calves play like children in a schoolyard. After sampling an array of cheeses and chatting with the proprietor (who had just gotten off the phone with her mother in Holland), we left with a box of cheeses that may not make it back to Kansas City.

We lunched on fish and chips at Diane’s down the road, making the acquaintance of a most pleasant waitress.

In the afternoon we walked along the base of the towering red cliffs, leaving footprints on the sea floor that in a few short hours would be erased by 40 feet of incoming tide. There we met a couple from Quebec and their Great Dane who did not seem so taken with the magnificence we all appreciated.

From the elevation of our campsite we watched the return of the tide and the departure of the sun. With no campfire, we found our focus on the stars and a bright near-full moon. I casually remarked to Chris that it had been quite some time since we had seen a shooting star. Not two seconds later the sky was slashed before our eyes by the bright trail of a streaking meteor! First we laughed and then we marveled at the joke that Nature had played upon us.

Like I said, this was an extraordinary day… but little did I know that the best was yet to come. It arrived in the form of a kind and thoughtful message from you. Thank you so very much for sharing the joy of a moment when life paths briefly intersected, merged, and then proceeded over the horizon of each other’s experience.

In life may you always have fun, do good, and be safe for the sake of those who love you. Oh, and also Live Long and Prosper!

Peace. Pete and Christine.