Dear Mom and Dad

January 10, 2009 White House Retreat

Dear Mom and Dad,

I am sitting in my room at White House Retreat on this cold, windy and cloudy day. I have been thinking about both of you since my arrival Thursday night.

The purpose of this letter is to tell you that I love you. We don’t say “I love you” very often or ever in the Shasserre family even though our love is implied through our actions. But, I do love you. And, I want you to hear those words and I want you to feel my embrace, no handshakes.

Let me share some memories. One story that I treasure is when I was four or five. Mom found me lying on the floor peeking under the back door. We were living on Lotus Avenue in Wellston. Mom asked what I was doing. I replied, ‘I’m seeing if it bees’ summer times out there”.

Summer was always special. I remember whiffle ball games with Terry O’Rourke and others played in the backyard on Overland Drive, And, that led to my first little league team, the Lager Cubs, with games played at Legion Field. I remember my first hit was a triple. It would have been a homerun except I missed third base and had to go back to tag up.

I remember making a Missouri All-Star team and playing against the Illinois team at Busch Stadium one year. I got to bat once and was hit by a pitch. Our second base was located at the edge of a Major League pitching mound, so I must have been eight or nine years old.

I can remember so many summer baseball games and practices played at Legion Park, Iveland grade school, and of course ABC park.

But, do you know what I remember most? I remember Dad….you were my coach. And, Mom, you were always in the stands—watching–my one-person fan club.

Do you remember my broken nose? Ron Hunt (NY Mets) was a high school player umping our game played at Iveland field. I was playing second base, covering first because of a bunt. Jerry Wasser, our pitcher, fielded the bunt and threw the ball low to first. The ball bounced directly to my nose. Busted it in seven places. Dad took me to the hospital and then went home to sleep. But, Mom came back to spend the night at my bedside to give me pre-surgery courage.

One of my favorite ABC park stories goes back to when Dad would take me to a field in St. Ann’s to survey the grounds before ABC park was built. It was he, Mel Schaeffer, Gene Lager, Jack Clark, Bill O’Connell and a handful of other men who were responsible for the Athletic Boys and Girls Club. They volunteered their time on weekends and then, after long difficult hours at work during the week they worked to design the fields, build concrete dugouts, put up lighting poles, fencing and concession stands.

And, one of my proudest childhood memories was seeing my Dad, selected to climb the fire engine ladder to install the light bulbs on the first ABC fields to offer night time baseball.

Dad, did anyone ever thank you for volunteering so many hours of your spare time, and working so hard to help build that stadium so that we kids could play ball? I want to thank you now for all of those efforts so that Tom, Randy, Tim and I could play ball. And, Judi could enjoy her role as bat-girl for your Wrangler teams.

Mom, I want to thank you for washing my uniforms, fixing my meals, and driving me wherever I needed to go so I could play baseball. A game I still love today.

I have another childhood memory that may surprise you. I remember, the two of you, Ted and Betty Shasserre, mapped out bus route for All Souls grade school. It was the two of you who started the bus system for all the kids at All Souls. You also managed the communications process, took all of the phone calls, and handled all of the complaints.

Probably you were never adequately thanked for this generosity. After working long hours as a carpenter, Dad found time, and you with three or four kids underfoot in those days, found time to make this bus system a priority. Thank you.

As I look back on the past, from grade school to high school, from college days to my time in the Army, and from my early days as an adult until now I will always recall you were at my side. Just as you are now there for your grandchildren’s and great-grandchildren’s sporting events and rodeo’s, you were there for all of your children when they needed you most.

I remember summer vacations to Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods, and Seven Falls in Colorado. I remember the trip to Des Moines, Iowa climbing the Capital staircase to the top. And, I remember the Wisconsin Dells and Bagnell Dam trips. I won’t forget Trout fishing at Bennett Springs. I think all of your six kids have fond memories of those times. I don’t know if any of us said “thank you” so I’ll do it now, knowing that each of us loved to be with you at moments like these.

So, Mom and Dad, now that you have reached the golden years I hope that you can look at your life with a sense of satisfaction and gratitude. In your lifetime together as husband and wife you have accomplished some amazing things. You have provided food and clothing, a comfortable home, a Catholic education, and a lifetime of caring, nurturing, and teaching for your children. You have passed along your values of honesty and generosity to your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Please take some joy and satisfaction in knowing that you are great parents – your life matters. Your legacy will live beyond you. You will never be forgotten. You are loved today and will always be loved. Thanks for every good memory.

Love, Dan


Post Script: Mom, Betty, died January 17, 2010. Dad died October 5, 2018. They never received this letter. It has remained in my handwritten journal until today.

My hope, now, is that my Shasserre siblings and all of the grandchildren and great grandchildren that bare our name will never forget to embrace each other with loving hugs and we will tell our children and grandchildren that we love them.


5 1/2 Months–Week 15

At 2:30pm, May 20, Miss Sienna Breckenridge, our granddaughter,
preformed before a crowd of friends and family two of her favorite
selections. Her piano performance was magnificent. Bravo, Sienna, Bravo!

Early that morning Sandy and I began preparations for the drive back to civilization. We were leaving Mazama by 9:30am to make certain we would be back to Mount Vernon in time for the piano concert. We drove highway 20 westward through the Cascade Mountains, witnessing, once again, the splendid beauty God created for mankind to enjoy. This winding drive took us out of the valley to snow covered heights at 7000 feet. The roads were cleared of snow but their was plenty of snow to see at driving elevations and mountain tops far above. Along the way I continued to think, we should stop to take some pictures. But, unfortunately, we didn’t stop at all of these higher elevations.

IMG_3862 We finally pulled over at the Diablo Lake overlook to take one quick picture before jumping back in the car to continue traveling on time.  It’s a beautiful place but I believe we passed far more beautiful picture opportunities at less staged places earlier in the trip.

Monday afternoon we picked up Rumi and Teo from school at 3:30pm to go shopping for Teo’s birthday present and to use the gift certificate that Rumi received from Aunt Judy. This is why Sandy wanted to come to the Northwest for a few months. This is what real grandma’s do. Buying present’s for Teo’s birthday and watching his enthusiasm is far better than ordering via Amazon and getting a Skype thank you call.

In fact, this whole week is filled with such opportunities. Sunday was Sienna’s piano concert. Monday was the Rumi and Teo shopping trip. Tuesday and Thursday were Ravens games with our favorite players, i.e.; Teo and Sebastian. Wednesday was a school play where Sienna had a major role. Friday night was Teo’s birthday party with Pizza, cake and ice cream. And, we have been with Amaya several days this week.

IMG_4302Sienna is the lead actor in a school play called the “The Golden Apple Thief.” She delivered her multiple lines loudly and distinctly. She showed poise and confidence and lots of animation in her performance. She was terrific! Awesome job Sienna, you deserved the standing “O.”

When we returned to Guemes Island tonight I had time to weed-wack around the house and yard at the cabin where we are staying. It looks much better if I do say so myself. Then we had dinner and still enough time for an outdoor hot-tub, The hot-tub sets on a deck facing west looking across the sound to Cypress Island. The view is spectacular. The sun is setting. Far to the south I can see a large car/passenger Ferry headed through the San Juan Islands presumably headed for Canada. Once again, this quiet time provides moments of reflection. We are counting are blessings and thinking about our friends who live in all parts of the country and our loved ones back home.  We miss you all. You are in our thoughts and prayers. I’m glad to report that while we miss you, we are still having FUN in La La Land.

Thursday was golf day at Avalon followed by another Ravens game. I joined three great guys–Tim, Jerry, and Michael for an enjoyable 18-hole round on a tough course. Despite hitting sand traps, two balls out of bounds with penalty strokes, lousy drives most of the day, shooting a nine on one hole and an eight on another, my over all score was 97. Which means I had some very good holes as well as the bad. The highlight of the day was my third shot on a par five from 160 yards out. It ended up 12 inches from the cup. I tapped in for a birdie. Best shot of my golf year! And, I won some money on that shot too.

The Ravens played one of our best games of the year. We had more hits and made more good plays in the field than our opponent. We scored three while they scored zero. But, who’s keeping score? This is a non-score training league.

Friday night is Teo’s birthday party and pizza party. Its also Fisher’s 14th birthday. He is celebrating with his mom in Portland, Oregon.

Our friends, Scott and Emily with their children, Colson and Teddy, are coming up from Seattle for the Memorial Day weekend. We are looking forward to spending time with them. So, I will save all of those pictures and stories from the birthday party’s and their visit for next week’s blog. Week #15 was full of great activities….that’s a rap for now.





5 1/2 Months- Week Two



Week Two: Celebrating Tim’s 60th Birthday at Guido’s with Tim & Deb, Judi, Tom & Kathy and Sandy. We spent the night at Tim and Deb’s home in Illinois. Talk about a great B&B! We had a beautiful bedroom, brand new bath and shower. Tim prepared an awesome breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash-browns, blueberries, strawberries, English muffins,orange juice and coffee. We topped it off with Deb’s home made banana cream birthday cake. If you add the view over their pool and Lake Lorraine plus the good laughs with Tim and Deb all for the awesome price of $0.00 you end up with quite the bargain.

Sandy, Tim and I went to the Veterans Home to visit my 93 year-old father. He was in rare form. He can’t hear well and usually refuses to wear his hearing-aids. His eye-sight is poor and getting worse. He gets around FOR NOW in a motorized wheelchair. When he is headed to the cafeteria you better get out of his way. He has a reputation, and it’s not good. We had a good visit. All his body parts are failing but he still has his sarcastic sense of humor. He is ready for God to take him. God is thinking it over. We all wonder if Mom is holding up a NOT ALLOWED YET sign at the entrance to heaven.

We returned to Springfield via Jacksonville where we found the downtown square, a Ferris Wheel at the edge of a nice park and the Elma Mae Leonhard Wildlife Sanctuary. That pretty much covers every square inch of Jacksonville, Illinois with nothing more to report.

Monday night Nicole prepared a fantastic homemade Italian meatball pasta dinner with chocolate covered strawberries for desert. The rest of the week in Springfield is pretty much the same each day. After our morning coffee we head to Panther Creek CC for a one-hour workout and steam room sauna. Then, its lunch, read a book, write, and watch the Olympics after dinner. This is some life-style for two homeless gypsy’s in their seventies.

Today is the day—-we have been married for 50 years. We enjoyed celebrating with Sandy’s brother’s and sisters and the spouses. Thanks to Sally and Tom, Mimi and Tom, Jack and CeCe, Mary, Nancy and Judi for sharing the night with us at Schneithorst’s. As always, when we get together conversations and laughter exceed the sound barrier most other patrons scatter for a quieter place in the restaurant.

Saturday night the celebration continued with dinner at Favassa’s. Thanks to our friends Gerry and Sue, Jim and Eileen, Tom and Elsie, Mike and Karen for sharing the love. We will miss all of you as our travels get under way. Tuesday morning we will be traveling to Blue Hill, Maine. I;m looking forward to lots of good stories to share then.


Today We Begin a 5 ½ Month Journey, February 8, 2018

As most of the world knows by now, February 23, Sandy and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.  I say “most of the world” because this morning Sandy told the grocery clerk in Springfield, Illinois all about our five and half month trip plans. This women, plus over 200 people at the Dorchester, all of our friends and relatives are aware of our anniversary date and plans through July. If each person will tell just one other, well, you know, word travels fast.

We have been considering a variety of travel options for most of the past year. At first, we were planning a trip to Italy and then a Viking Cruise through Germany ending in Amsterdam. Sounds awesome. Maybe next year.

Sandy came up with the idea of subleasing our apartment for a few months so that we could travel the US and then end up in the NW. We could then spend more time with our children and grandchildren who live north of Seattle.  She was tired of being a “Skype Grandma” and wanted to live near the kids for a few months to experience what it’s like to be a real grandma, not one who visits for a few weeks each year and one you can only see via Skype. Of course, that plan would allow me to be a real grandpa too. I’m all in.

Things have worked out well. We have sub-leased for four months through mid-July. We have planned a big SASH BASH 50th Anniversary party for July in Breckenridge, CO. All six kids, wives, husbands, significant others and all ten grandchildren will be there. So, from this day through the return to ST. Louis mid-July, I plan to write a daily blog highlighting some of the adventure.

We will be gone five and half months, 165 days, I believe. And, today is…

Wk1/Day 1: We arrived at Randy and Chris’ summer home in Springfield, Illinois, unloaded our things for a two week stay and relaxed before bed via a Netflix original. The next morning we enjoyed coffee with a spectacular view of Lake Springfield, ten deer passed through the open yard beyond the swimming pool, and at least 100 ducks and geese swam by in the lake. What a wonderful way to begin this journey.

Late morning, we enjoyed breakfast at Charlie Parker’s (must go to place), dinner with Craig at Boone’s Saloon, and on to watch Evan and SHG win a high school basketball game 62-56.

Wk1/continued: Thanks to the generosity of Randy and Chris this beautiful home on Lake Springfield will be home for the next two weeks. Saturday night I broiled steaks and vegetarian k-bobs on the outdoor bar-b-q pit even though it was 20 degrees with an ice storm just beginning. Craig, Nicole, Evan, Ella, Todd and Scarlet enjoyed a meal  and some laughs around the kitchen table set up to serve sixteen (that’s one long table). Todd and Scarlet braved the hot tub as the ice snow pelted down.

Sunday morning Todd and Scarlet left for St. Louis. The rest of the week was a bummer. Sandy had the flu from Sunday-Thursday. We laid low. Watched a lot of television. Good thing we had Winter Olympics and Netflix Originals to watch.

By Friday we had cabin fever. So, we acted like a Springfield, Illinois tourist. We started with a freezing walk along the lake at Lincoln Memorial Gardens—had the whole place to ourselves. No other visitors on a cold day like this. We got in two miles then headed to the Lincoln Museum. If you haven’t been there we recommend it. This is the best Civil War time period exhibit we have ever seen. After a light lunch at Wm. Van’s coffee shop we walked around the Lincoln family home neighborhood. And then, we wrapped up the day at the Adams Wildlife Sanctuary. How’s that for acting like tourist.

Tomorrow we are headed back to St. Louis to meet family for dinner on the Hill as we celebrate my brother Tim’s 60th birthday. That will end week one.




15 States, 3 Provinces, 4750 miles in 23 days

Last year we traveled for 8 weeks, 56 straight days, more than 7,500 miles by car, and more miles by train, plane, bus and van. I documented the trip day by day. I didn’t think I would ever do that again. But, here I am. This time it’s a shorter trip, 23 days, all by car, but so interesting and wonderful that we have to record it for our memories. If I don’t, I will forget it all, or least significant parts, by next Monday. That’s the way the minds works these days.

August 7- 9am, we are on the road anxious to arrive at our Indiannapolis destination. I invited ourselves to visit our  friends Ted and Julie Bates. They were gracious hosts allowing us to spend the night on their beautiful new downsized home, 5000+ square feet,  located on a man-made lake. Julie prepared a scrumptious meal, salmon, asparagus  and mashed potatoes. Yummy!  In the evening we attended a Beatles consert at a local park. There must of been 10,000 people on the hillside in lawn chairs, blankets, carting baskets of wine and food. We had all the best, prepared by Julie, of course. The look like and sound like Beatles band provided nostalgic entertainment . Great night with good friends. Thanks Ted and Julie. Hey, Ted, how are you doing in our weight loss challenge?

August 8- this was an adventurous day with a slight mis-hap. We were traveling at 70 miles per hour following a semi-trailer truck when all of sudden a huge truck tire shows up in the middle of the road. We drive straight over it, shredding the tire to pieces and the car didn’t flinch. My Subaru Legacy was so steady that I kept driving despite Sandy’s suggestion that we pull over to check for damage. A few miles more, 40 minutes later, I stop for gas and then make a car damage assessment. More damage than expected. I call my insurance company to file a claim. I also call my nephew, Mark Politte. He owns Stanley Subaru in Ellsworth Maine. This is where I bought the car. I tell Mark I’m coming up to Ellsworth needing more than a free oil change.

August 9- we ended our day yesterday, in Grantsville, Maryland. This is a small mountainside village community. Nice clean lodging accommodations and a buffet dinner at some Mennonite/German restuarant. Our destination today is Willmington, Delaware. We have a picnic style lunch at a neat little park outside of the main town square. Delaware was on my buckit list. This is my 50th State visited! Mission accomplished. Without much fanfare we spend the next few hours driving on to the Jersey Shore. We visit Long Beach, Ship Bottom and Beach Haven before deciding we can’t afford to stay on the beach. $279 per night is beyond our comfort level. The Holiday Inn – few miles from shore is just fine.

August 10- we show up at the door steps of the Sobecki’s new home at Little Egg Harbor. John and Ginny have retired in this very nice community. The home is a perfect size for two people who will occasionally get a daughter with grandchild for a visit. After John shows us around town we end up at Panini Bay for a delightful meal and a great view. John and Ginny seem to be super satisfied in retirement. We are so happy that we stopped to see them. It was definitely worth doing. Good people , good friends.

By 1:30pm we were on the highway battling traffic through NJ, NY and then Connecticutt. Finally, we arrive at our destination, Sturbridge, Massachusetts. We get lucky, as we often do by exiting randomly and locating a Public House. What a great place to stay. The quaint restuarant had a marvelous setting and the food was sensational. Best of all Sandy discovered she was caring a discount coupon book with a $59.99 offer from Public House. Sandy was as happy as a kid in a candy store. I didn’t care about the discount but I was more than happy with the great meal and ambiance.

August 11-16 we arrived in Blue Hill, Maine by 3pm to do some grocery shopping before showing up at Mary’s house in time for Evan’s birthday party. Evan is a 5’11” fifteen year old grandchild. His sister’s Olivia and Ella and my son and daughter-in-law, Craig and Nicole are visitng the Politte family for a one week vacation. We show up, as a surprise to Evan, but I dont think he was surprised at all.

On Wednesday my car goes to Stanley Subaru for evaluation. The underbelly looks like I drove over a huge truck tire. Black marks everywhere! The accident cracked the catalytic converter (whatever that is) and tore up the front and back fender gards. Fortunately, Mark was able to get me on the priority list at the local body shop. They had everthing fixed up by Saturday morning so we could continue the trip.

We had a great time with Craig’s family and Mark, Samantha, Madison, Ben and Chloe. Too many great dinners and laughs to document here. Sandy’s sister Mary owns a beautiful home in Blue Hill on the ocean bay. We shared the home with Craig, Niclole and the kids, making this the most affordable part of our trip. Thanks to Mary.

Saturday we had a day trip to Acadia National Park with lunch in Bar Harbor. We’ve been there before but these places are defintely worth a second visit. With better plannng and more time we could have done a few hikes in Acadia.

August 16- we leave Maine with Canada on our minds. We were driving through a small town of Amherst when Sandy spots a B&B. It so happens, this place has been open for two weeks! We find it. It was fantastic. If you’re ever in Amherst, Nova Sotia look up the Apothic Inn. We recommend it.

August 17- we are headed to Halifax to spend the day and night. We ended up spending two hours on the waterfront and changed our minds, pushed on to Lunenberg. But first, we stop at Malone Bay for a brief walk and lunch at Mug Anchor pub, 17 beers on tap, and great seafood chowder. That night we discover the Boscawin Inn B&B. This was another great place to stay. Originally the place was a private home built by the govenor in 1875. Today it is a fantastic B&B over-seeing this quintessential little town of Lunenberg. If you are headed to Nova Scotia we recommend the Boscawin Inn and Salt Shaker Deli for lunch or dinner.

August 18- another random act, we decide to go to Prince Edward Island. Its only a few hours away. We cross an enormous bridge and then tour the central part of PEI before finding our B&B. This place was off the beaten track, in the middle of farm land with a distant view of the ocean. We were two-hundred yards away from the ocean but we did take a short walk to enjoy the sight, the smell and the gentle breeze of the ocean. By the way, breakfast was scruptious!

August 19- after paying $45.50 bridge fee to get off the Island we have a long drive day through New Brunswick to River DuLoop, just outside Quebec.

August 20 After an uneventful day we end up in Quebec City for brunch at an outside resturant. Then, we walked this beautiful french speaking European-like city. In the afternoon we drive on toard Montreal. Our plan was to have dinner at Saint Gabriel, my favorite resturant, discovered when I was marketing director for the St. Louis Blues.The NHL held annual meeting there following each season. So, I was in Montreal every June from 1978-83. This plan never materialized because we ended up in a huge traffic jam caused by a burning car stuck in the tunnel leading to downtown Montreal. We got off the highway spendng the night in Bouschville, Quebec, Province.

August 21- beautiful weather for a walk up and down the cobble stone steeets in Old Montreal. We found Saint Gabriel’s despite the resturant change of names. It;s now called Bergi on Saint Gabriel street. The ambiance looks the same. The restuarant wasn’t open at 10am when we were there but the owner allowed us in for a nostaligic visit. We went to a French speaking 12:30pm mass at the Notre Dame Cathedral before lunch and more sight seeing.

August 22 – we are approaching the United States border and we have $32 Canadian and $1.50 American money in our pockets. We spend most of the Canadian money on gas at the last city in Canada before crossing. I figure I can get cash at an ATM in Port Huron. As we are getting our Passports ready for the crossing we notice that first we have to pay a $3.50 toll. As we are approaching the toll gate we frantically search for change. This so funny but I can’t capture it properly. Just imagine Sandy and I holding up traffic trying to explain that we have NO MONEY. We dont have $3.50 even if we combine all left over change Canadian and American. Finally, the frustrated gate keeper takes what we have and waves us through to the United States. We keep re-telling that very funny story. i showed the guy my empty wallet. Sandy says, “I found two pennies, will that help?” The gate keepers expression on his face was priceless.

August 23- after spending the night in a very forgettable,Travelodge, we decided to drive to our location in Douglas, Michigan. The plan was to meet some of Sandy”s family at a rental house from the 24th-31st. We arrive Sunday night in a rain storm and found the keys to the house. The accomodations are good. We have rented a 4 bedroom house with a great view of Lake Michigan.

August 24-30 – we had a great time hanging out with Tom and Sallee, Nancy, Mary, Jack and CeCe, Katie and Mimi-Mimi. I think we saw all you can see in Saugatuck, Douglas, South Haven and Holland, Michigan. Sunsets were cool or non-existent because of clouds. Good restuarants all over. Tom and I had our favorite, M&M’s. We had three breakfasts and one dinner at a place most people would drive by. The outside looks like a place to avoid. The food and the service was outstanding.

August 30 – on we go to Springfield, Illinois to have dinner with Craig and Nicole and visit with our grankids. These are the same family members that we just saw in Blue Hill, Maine. This time we are in thier comfortable home and dinner at a wonderful Italian restuarant….best bartender and hostess/waitress I have ever seen at any restuarant.

August 31- we are back  home, watching a Cardinal game. Enjoying our15th floor view- over-looking Forest Park. Back to the routine we enjoy and the friends that we look forward to seeing soon. Safely home and very grateful.

Carpe Diem!





Freedom Riders: from Alabama to Africa

“How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment to start improving the world” Anne Frank

What an emotional week this has been. I have been inspired and motivated by storytelling so compelling that it brought on personal feelings of disbelief, astonishment, anger, compassion, and admiration. Tuesday night, I had an opportunity to meet Stanley Nelson the producer of “Freedom Riders.” Stanley had come to Saint Louis, at the request of Nine Network, for a private screening of his extraordinary documentary movie about the 1961 civil rights movement that eventually led to the 1964 Civil Rights Act designed to abolish segregation throughout America. The movie is so well done. It is a powerful reminder of the shameful acts of violence and hatred carried out against non-violent African-Americans and white supporters in Montgomery, Alabama and throughout the south. But it is far more than that. It is story of “heroism” of mammoth proportion. The film clips that we viewed left me with a sense of awe and admiration for the young people of that time. They sacrificed everything for what they believed was absolutely necessary as they faced almost certain injury or even death. Freedom Riders will be shown on PBS stations throughout the country on May 16, 2011.

I believe you will soon be hearing more about the movie Freedom Riders because Oprah Winfrey will feature Stanley Nelson and his movie. She has also invited all 150 living original Freedom Riders to her studios for one of her last televised shows. Of the 436 originals activists who rode on more than 60 bus rides only 150 riders are living today.

Then, early Wednesday morning I departed for Chicago to attend a three-day Advisors in Philanthropy conference. I was attending at the invitation of a friend, Chris Jacob, who owns a company called Cadeau. Chris is a wealth advisor and many of his clients are high net-worth individuals. My expectations of long days, boring meetings listening to financial advisors who would speak of sophisticated ways for wealthy people to avoid taxation via legal clever methods was totally unfounded. Instead, I found to my surprise, none of the speakers talked about such tactics. Instead, they spoke about their desires to benefit the people they serve. The entire two days was focused on the potential of philanthropy to benefit communities around the world. The two days of key-note speeches and multiple seminars addressed lofty topics like, how to teach our children and grandchildren to be philanthropist. For those interested in teaching children why giving is important I recommend I suggest that you search the website for stories told by children who want to help homeless people in the United States or those who lack water in Africa and throughout the world.

Another fascinating topic covered in these seminars is the art of storytelling. A fantastic “storyteller” himself, Scott Farnsworth, President of Sunbridge Financial Advisors, told us how an old letter from his deceased mother was a pivotal moment in his life leading to the creation of “precious moments.” Farnsworth teaches financial advisors and estate planners how to touch hearts, change lives, and connect families using elegant practical tools and systems for legacy building story sharing and deeper relationships. I had dinner with Scott and his two business partners. This year they are working with only three customers…each of these families have a net worth between $25million- $125million. The major challenge in every case is not how to protect the financial assets against unnecessary taxation. That’s the easy part according to the advisors. The hard part is getting the family to talk about family values, issues of importance to each person, distribution of wealth to benefit these issues of importance, structures to promote organizational accountability and family member participation. This theme was consistent from speaker to speaker and workshop to workshop. This was truly an inspirational opportunity to examine my own gift giving process and procedure. As a professional fund-raiser this workshop has challenged my skills and my strategies as I seek to demonstrate the potential impact that public media can play in collaboration with other organizations to benefit people in my community and beyond.   

“There is a wonderful mythical law of nature that the three things we crave most in life–happiness, freedom, and peace of mind–are always attained by giving them to someone else.” Peyton Conway

One of the interesting findings that I discovered in one workshop was research that indicated that 65% of high net-worth families questioned in the study say their greatest fear is that inheriting wealth will harm their children. And, there is ample evidence to indicate this is a legitimate concern. According to the study 70% of intergenerational wealth transfers fail by the end of the successor generation. The primary reasons for this failure are poor family communication and inadequate preparation.

Another interesting finding was learned from author Stephen Post, the director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Stony Brook University. In his latest book, The Hidden Gifts of Helping he extols the health benefits of altruism not just for the receiver, but for the giver as well. Giving, claims Post, extends life span, relieves stress, improves mental health, and helps the heart.

And so my take away from this past exhausting week is that the greatest human need is the feeling that our lives have significance. And one certain path to gaining significance is to be a “giver.”   

“You must be the change you wish in the world.” –Mahatma Gandhi

The Day After Thanksgiving

For those of you who know us, and that would be just about everyone reading this post, Sandy and I have six children and six grandchildren. I am the oldest of six in my family and Sandy is one of seven in her family. So, family holidays are a very big deal. There is nothing more important than family. To top it off, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Thanksgiving is a time for kick-back relaxation, turkey dinners (at least two per day) and lots of pie….all kinds–pumpkin, apple, cherry, custard, lemon marangue….yea, those are the ones that I ate yesterday.

With all of our six children and six grandchildren living out-of-town, this Thanksgiving will be a very special family occasion with new family traditions and new family memories. Some of the kids will come to visit us in St. Louis. This year Kelly arrives with her daughter, Rumi Kai, on the Thursday before Thanksgiving. They will stay for eight days. Her husband, Mark, is headed to Florida to be with his family.  Kelly and Mark live on Guemes Island, Washington, so we see them usually only once or twice per year.

Our son, Todd, and his wife, Jessica,  just moved to San Diego. Todd came to Saint Louis for business reasons the week before Thanksgiving. He arrived Thursday night the same day that Kelly arrived. On Friday, that same week, our grandkids from Springfield arrived. Their parents, Craig and Nicole, were in Florida. So we had Olivia, Evan, Ella, Todd, Kelly and Rumi spending the weekend with us. Then, to add to the fun, Saturday night, Kerry, Kristin and Sienna arrived direct from Seattle (they live in Mount Vernon, WA). If you are still with me, I believe that makes six adults and five little people spending the night Saturday night. Four double beds and two air mattresses were filled. This is what we call family fun, right?

My recall of that weekend (just five days ago) is kind of foggy. Kerry, who is pregnant (forgot to mention that), spent the first night, and most of the weekend, throwing-up. Saturday night, she crawled into bed with us so she could stay close to the toilet. Now, I don’t mind if my little girl comes into our bedroom. Privacy is something that big families are not accustomed to anyway. But she’s twenty-seven years old and about to have her second child. Somehow it seemed a little weird having her in our bed. She was pretty sick so Sandy decided we should give up our bedroom for the rest of the week so Kerry could be more comfortable. We would spend the rest of the week sleeping on a futon located on the third floor, and, of course, there are no bathrooms on the third floor. Not that people my age need bathrooms in the middle of the night, mind you. The third floor? Sure, I was in total agreement.

Saturday morning our grandson, Evan, woke us up at 6:00 am because he wasn’t sleepy any more. Since he doesn’t get to see his out-of-town cousins very often he thought it would be a good idea if they all woke before their parents. Because he and Rumi and Sienna were awake he figured he may as well wake up those two sisters of his. They may have slept a few more hours but, hey, if Evan is up, why not everybody else. Ella and Olivia didn’t seem too happy about the early wake-up call.

By 10:00am Kelly, Todd and I were headed to pick-up their grandpa. My dad is eight-six years old. The kids don’t get to see him often. Mom died last January, so this is the first Thanksgiving without Mom. My kids wanted to take grandpa to lunch. Sandy, the brave one, took four kids (Sienna didn’t arrive until 7:00pm) to the Zoo. By 1:30pm I connected with Sandy to transfer kids to my car. Olivia, Evan, Ella and I headed to the Magic House. Sandy, Kelly and Rumi headed home for a nap.

Fortunately, Todd met me at the Magic House to help me entertain the kids. It was huge fun. I lost my grandkids (or maybe they lost me) many times over the next three hours…fortunately they are old enough to manage the Magic House, it’s three floors and many activities with ease. Forty bucks lighter and three hours later it was time to head for home and then off to the airport to pick-up the arriving visitors from Washington.

Sunday, Craig and Nicole arrived to join us for dinner before they headed for home in Springfield Illinois. When I went to sleep Sunday night I could have slept in the middle of an airline runway. I was tired. Sandy was tired. I think Kerry, Kris and Kelly were tired. I’m not sure if Rumi and Sienna were tired. They were still going strong at 9:00 when I headed upstairs to my futon.

The rest of the week is a blur…I recall some of the highlights….lost socks, broken glasses, spilled milk, cold pizza, ice cream treats, lots of food crumbs all over every room, and, did I mention Kerry had to go to the hospital one day? She had a scare with false labor pains. It turns out she was dehydrated from so much vomiting. I don’t like to write about vomiting so I’ll just end that story here.

That brings me to Thanksgiving Day…..that wonderful holiday that I so look forward to…that day of kick-back relaxation. It all began with coffee in bed. A good start. Then, a nice shower. Then, I’m told, Rumi was running too fast being chased by Sienna when she crashes into a living room light and gashes her chin. Moments later Kelly and Rumi and I are headed to Cardinal Glennon emergency room for stitches. After a three-hour hospital visit with some very nice doctors and nurses at Cardinal Glennon, we headed to my sister’s house for Turkey dinner and lots of pies. Rumi has her chin repaired and one more story for our memory book.

Finally, it’s the day after Thanksgiving. I was up at 4:00am today for my first trip to the airport. Kerry, Kris and Sienna are off to San Diego to see Todd and Jessica as they continue their holiday. At 8:00am I’m on my way back to the airport with Kelly and Rumi. They are headed to Denver to spend a few days before they head home. Another of my sons, Brent, who recently moved to Denver, will pick them up at the airport.  So, they are enjoying time together, as I write.

We miss all of the kids who are out-of-town. Brian, Jenn and Fisher are in Portland, Oregon. Brent is single and finding a new beginning in Colorado. Todd and Jessica are starting a new opportunity in California. Mark, Kelly and Rumi will settle back into their groove on Guemes Island. Kris, Kerry and Sienna return to their life in Mount Vernon, WA. And Craig, Nicole, Olivia, Evan and Ella are busy again with weekend soccer games in Springfield.

Sandy and I are home alone, in our quiet, clean and uncluttered house. And, of course, we are looking forward to next holiday weekend with the kids and grandkids. We are counting the days in anticipation.  We can’t wait! No really, I’m serious. We are really look forward to it. Honest injun. We can’t wait. Well, maybe we can wait.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. We hope you enjoyed your holiday as much as we did.

“We sanctify all we are grateful for.”
– Anthony DeMello SJ