Christmas stories
Clover Park Rotarians gathered on Zoom Dec. 23, brimming full of pre-Christmas cheer.  There was no official judging of who might have had the ugliest Christmas sweater.  Fred Willis offered up a statement of gratitude to the creator. Tom McClellan led us in the pledge to the flag. And Joyce Loveday helped us all recite the Rotary 4-Way Test. 
 
There was no sunshine to report, but Tom McClellan noted that former member Charlie Maxwell had reached out and said that he wished that he could have joined us for this meeting.  He sends wishes of Merry Christmas to all, although he did not specifically wish us a good night.  It should be noted that no one has actually seen Charlie in the same room as Santa Claus at the same time, although this might not necessarily mean anything.
 
There were several notable guests in attendance, including our District Governor Greg Horn, from the Lakewood Rotary Club.   Taryn Wallace brought her newborn son Aidan (who resulted in Taryn cutting off video in order to feed him).  And Andrea Krook was in attendance, representing Children Of The Nations (COTN). 
 
Andrea had joined us to express her gratitude for our club’s donation of $500 toward their purchase of new desks for the COTN school site in Sierra Leone, coming out of our club’s International Projects budget.  That instructional site had some old steel desks, which were wearing out the schoolhouse floor and tearing the students’ uniforms with their jagged edges.  That is a big problem in a place where the children only have 2 uniforms each.  Our donation was part of a $4000 total project cost, purchasing 132 desks, each of which seats 2 students per desk.  Several of the program’s past students are already moving on to study in overseas schools, including in the U.S., to bring knowledge and expertise back to their home country.
 
Announcements:
 
Club secretary Tom McClellan reported on a recent board action, naming Becky Newton as club vice president, filling the role vacated when David Hall left our club.  Becky will serve as VP for the remainder of this Rotary year (until June 30).  And Becky has been nominated by the Nominating Committee to ascend to President Elect for 2021-22.
 
On that subject, Tom also noted that our voting for the incoming slate of officers and directors has not exactly followed our bylaws.  That election was supposed to take place at the 3rd regular club meeting of November, but we never had a 3rd meeting, and the nominating committee process took longer than hoped for.  A slate was recommended to the board, and approved by the board at its Dec. 18 meeting.  That slate was sent to club members this week to vote on. 
 
[ed. note: A majority of club members have now responded to accept the slate as proposed.  So cease fire on any additional responses.]
 
Future Programs:
There will be no meeting next week, but President Teresa has autocratically and dictatorially decreed that it is time to get back to weekly meetings, because going two weeks in between seeing each other is just too long.  So starting in 2021 we’ll be back to meetings each week, still on Zoom for now, and hopefully back in person soon when we can all get inoculated.
 
Jan. 6              Michelle Douglas, CEO of Emergency Food Network
Jan. 13            Bob Zawilski, Lakewood Rotary’s “Little Free Pantries” ***
Jan. 20            Heather Hinds and James Venturini, Lakewood Playhouse
 
 
And given the stepped up pace of meetings, Tom McClellan requests everyone forward any and all suggestions for good programs and/or guest speakers.
 
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We skipped Fun and Fines this week, and moved straight to…
 
This Week’s Program, which was Rotarians sharing stories of important Christmas memories.  Your scribe tried to faithfully record the true spirit of the stories, but can assure you that the real stories as told by the real storytellers were much more authentic and entertaining.
 
Visiting Rotarian and District Governor Greg Horn started off by sharing a story of going out at age 4 with his parents to an area of Lakewood which was known then as “The Goose”.  It is now known as the Oakbrook neighborhood, but back then it was all just wilderness.  Greg does not know how it got the name of The Goose, that’s just what everyone called it then.
 
Fred Willis related how he and Ingrid just shared their 63rd wedding anniversary, having gotten married just before Christmas in Berlin in 1957.  A $100 check is on the way in honor of that occasion.
 
David Cotant told a story of being sent out at age 13 to the woods near his home to find a suitable Christmas tree.  Given that it was a timber growing area in southern Washington, and the tall trees shaded out the younger ones, the young Douglas fir trees would grow rather spindly compared to the nice bushy commercial trees we are used to seeing at the tree lots.  So the Douglas fir tree that Dave brought home was rather sparse in its foliage.  His mother responded by fixing it through the addition of boughs taken from several different other types of trees including spruce, hemlock, and cedar, wiring them onto Dave’s tree’s branches.  This became all the more humorous when a timber expert who came to the house for a party took a look at the tree, examining it closely, and eventually asked Dave’s mother about just what kind of Christmas tree species theirs was.
 
Ramona Hinton shared a story of she and her husband visiting their daughter and son-in-law, then in the Army and stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky with young kids.  It was part of their family tradition to not have any presents put under the tree until after all of the kids were in bed.  On Christmas morning, the 4-year old granddaughter came out and saw the presents under the tree, and declared, “I WAS good!”
 
Georgene Mellom shared a memory of traveling at age 5 to visit her mother’s family in Island Pond, Vermont for Christmas, and getting to go skating on a frozen pond.  At some point in the episode, the gathered assemblage was worried about the high temperatures melting the ice and endangering the enterprise, so the ice was evacuated.  Georgene ended up getting a little bit wet in the ensuing flight, but came away with a cherished memory.
 
Jeannie Hill shared a memory of Christmas in Silver City, New Mexico back in 1968.  There was a big snowstorm that year, dumping 4’ of snow.  Her stepfather was off at work at the mine, and her mother Alice Peeples (a deceased former member of our club) was leading the family in putting up the tree and other decorations.  One of their dogs had to go outside for important dog business, and was allowed out into the deep snow, but came back with something suspicious in its mouth.  Alice pried open the jaws of the beast to find a lower denture plate which the dog had brought back home as a prize.  After some brief sleuthing, Alice concluded that it must have belonged to the grandmother in the family who lived next door, since it was a pretty rural area and there was no one else nearby.  So Alice bundled up and trudged out through the snow to return the pilfered dental article to the neighbors, tendering it with apologies for the dog’s thievery.
 
Sydna Koontz shared a story about being stationed with husband and Army doctor Corky Koontz at Trippler Army Medical Center in Hawaii 49 years ago, just ahead of Christmas, and giving birth to a son who was born on Dec. 22.  In those days, mothers and babies were kept in the hospital for a standard 3 days before being allowed to go home.  Corky had his mother and grandmother fly in for the joyous event, in anticipation of the mother and child’s release from the hospital.  But Sydna’s obstetrician evidently had failed to leave orders for Sydna’s release in time for the anticipated family gathering.  Sydna truncated the next part of the story, about how she managed her escape from hospital confinement, summarizing it with the statement, “Don’t mess with a post-partum Mom!!!”
 
Tho Kraus shared a screenshot showing a picture of her mother doing a full-on American Christmas.  As refugees from Viet Nam, her family embraced all of the Christmas traditions, even having Tho appear in the Sioux Falls Lutheran Church’s children’s Christmas Pageant.  Tho’s mother died on Dec. 24, 2004, and so Christmas is a very emotional time for her, a time which her mother really loved.
 
Tom McClellan shared memories of his church’s youth group in the 1970s being hired to help decorate Rose Parade floats in Pasadena, CA over multiple Christmas vacations.  This involved taking flowers and other plant parts and gluing them onto the bodies of previously designed floats.  The young people worked in large barns located close to the parade route.  Various parade float sponsoring firms provided benefits to the float workers, including Dunkin’ Donuts providing a large ration of donuts every day, and Dr. Pepper providing a warmed Dr. Pepper soda fountain.  On cold December mornings, Tom discovered that warmed Dr. Pepper actually goes over better than it sounds. 
 
Past president and former member Dee Ebsen could not attend the meeting this week, but conveyed through Judi Maier that she would have loved to participate, but could not possibly identify just one single Christmas memory to share.
 
Judi Maier shared her own Christmas vignette, talking about growing up in upstate New York where a “white Christmas” was a regular occurrence.  When her parents followed her here out west, they missed the snow. So one year, Judi and her late husband took them on a train trip to Banff, Alberta.  They took a real sleigh ride around Lake Louise, watching the ice skaters on the lake, a truly magical experience.  
 
Sheri Hodson shared that when she was growing up, it was an important family tradition every Christmas to go to church.  This expanded into a larger entourage with children and grandchildren eventually expanding the group from filling just one church pew to filling 3.  And each year her parents took pictures by the nativity scene with their grandchildren.  It is hard this year to miss out on getting to carry on that tradition.
 
Joyce Loveday recalled growing up the daughter of a Baptist minister, caroling with the church youth group, and attending the Christmas eve church service with all of the children.  Her family’s tradition was to have a big special meal on Christmas Eve and to open gifts then.
 
Taryn Wallace related to the group vocally, off camera due to Aidan breastfeeding, that Taryn’s father was diagnosed with Covid and so she has not been able to be with him.  But her mother made Christmas special for all of the grandkids by recording a reading of The Polar Express on video.  Thankfully, Taryn’s father will be off quarantine soon enough to celebrate a real Christmas with everyone together.  
 
Becky Newton shared a special memory of Christmas when she was 8 years old, and she was really into Barbie dolls then.  Her aunt made it a special Christmas for her by bringing gifts of handmade Barbie clothes and dollhouse furniture.  And she also got the Barbie Country Camper toy.  It was special having an aunt who was close to her make such a special and personally (at that time) meaningful gift.
 
Hallie McCurdy shared a memory of how her family’s Christmas tree decorations are non-standardized, many handmade, and thus each one carries important memories. 
 
Jim Hairston shared his memories of serving several years in the Army, and each time having the unit be able to get home for Christmas.  They might be back in the field the day after Christmas, but honoring the holiday tradition was always a very important part of his Army experience.  After retirement, Jim went back to serve as an Army civilian contractor, but still managed to find his way home for Christmas.  One year, that meant transiting through Amsterdam, where bad weather had him laying over for 2 days, but still managing to get back by Christmas Eve. 
 
Mike Killen spoke about how it was his parents’ tradition to do all of the decorating on Christmas Eve, after the kids had gone to bed, to make it be a magical experience to wake up to see what Santa had done.  Several members noted that this must have been a whole lot of work, which Mike acknowledged the truth of.  Mike further noted that this is why he and his wife have not carried on that particular tradition.
 
President Teresa Nye closed out the story-telling by noting her family’s tradition of doing a “Misfit Christmas Party”, arising out of her husband’s Army service years ago, when soldiers away from home were Christmas orphans, left to gather together.  She and Chris turned this into an enduring tradition, still gathering with the original misfit orphans who still happen to be in the local area.  It started out with a formal prime rib dinner service, but eventually devolved into a less formal buffet type Christmas dinner.  This year they are hoping to get together with 11 of the standard party, a short segment of the normal 30+, but with others joining electronically if possible.
 
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To our Clover Park Rotary friends who may be scattered far and wide, please accept our wishes of a joyful Christmas with the ones most close to you, and feeling the warm embrace of our collegial affections from afar.  We look forward to joining with you again electronically, and eventually in person, in 2021.  Please look forward to joining with us, for all of the good we may do collectively.
 
And don’t take your dog for a run in this particular town, because it will be a short one: