To The Point 4-4-13

440

IT’S BEEN AWHILE SINCE  I’ve written a column, but there are really good reasons why I wanted to take some space this week.

First of all, all of us at Vevay Newspapers and myself personally are mourning the loss of Mary Goode Wallis. She has been the matriarch of our newspaper family, and when she passed away over the weekend at age 101, we lost a truly wonderful woman.

Mrs. Wallis was the daughter of Michael Garber, longtime owner and publisher of The Madison Courier; and her husband, Don R. Wallis, Sr., served in that same capacity under he passed away in 1989. His tenure and legacy is filled by their daughter, Jane Wallis Jacobs; and her two sons, Curt and Will, are also important parts of the Madison newspaper family.

It was Don R. Wallis, Sr. who purchased the Vevay Newspapers here in 1959, and this newspaper was always the love of the Wallis’s son, Don Wallis, Jr., who served as the editor here in the 1970s when this newspaper was judged as the state’s best weekly paper; and continued to serve as our publisher until he passed away unexpectedly in January of last year.

The linchpin of this entire newspaper legacy, however, has been Mary Goode Wallis, who although she didn’t take a hand in day to day operations, her fingerprints were certainly all over everything that we did and we do.

When I think of the nearly 30 years I have known Mrs. Wallis, the one phrase that describes her wonderfully is that she was a true lady. She had a flair of elegance without making you feel overwhelmed; and she was the type of person who never felt that anything someone did was less important than other things that people accomplished.

We’ve been blessed here at Vevay Newspapers with many state awards, and over the years Mrs. Wallis never failed to send a note of congratulations on a job well done. Each Christmas we would send a fruit basket to the Wallis house, and shortly after the holidays, a handwritten note would show up thanking us for our thoughtful gift, and wishing us a happy holiday.

Every note always included a few sentences thanking us for all of the hard work we put in on behalf of the newspaper. She always appreciated the work we did, and she always took the time to share her thanks with us.

Each year, my wife celebrates the 100th day of school with her students at Jeff-Craig Elementary. Two years ago, I wondered if her class would like a visit from a 100-year old lady on the 100th day of school. When the answer was yes; I called Jane Jacobs to see if her mom would be interested in making the trip to Vevay.

Very shortly after my request, I got a call telling me that Mrs. Wallis would love to come and spend some time with the children; and arrangements were made for her to visit a room filled with first graders.

When the day came, it was very cold and snowy, and I wondered if someone her age should be out in the weather, but soon Jane’s van pulled up with her mom smiling broadly in the front passenger seat. Entering the classroom, I’m not sure who had the best time, the children who were enthralled and learning about Mrs. Wallis’s childhood; or Mrs. Wallis herself, who very patiently and kindly listened to each child’s question and giving them answers.

One I remember was a child asked her what it was like when she was in the first grade, and she said, “Well, that was 94 years ago, so I don’t remember to many specifics.”

“Wow,” I remember thinking. “94 years had passed since she was a six-year old. Think of all of the things that have come and gone during her lifetime.”

William Howard Taft, the 27th President, was President of the U.S. when Mrs. Wallis was born; so she’s seen 17 different men serve in the nation’s top office. When she was born, we were still four years away from the start of World War I when she was born; and the Wright Brothers first flight was less than a decade old.

You get the idea – Mary Goode Wallis lived through a lot of history.

We will miss her dearly at the newspaper; and I will always cherish the relationship that she and her family and I have shared through the years. Her legacy and her love of family will carry on with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

We have all lost a grand lady.

*

Throughout history our ancestors and others have used certain “terminology” to describe people, either individuals or groups.

Many times – more often than not unfortunately – we realize that those terms are not as descriptive as they are defamatory. People use them without much thought as to how offensive those terms might be to those represented by those terms.

It’s time to permanently eliminate one of those terms.

It’s the “R” word.

You know the word. Many people have used it for many years to describe someone who has some form of a disability, either physical or mental or emotional. The “R” word was thrown around in a general way; but it was also used to target people individually.

The problem is, the term is offensive.

So it’s time to replace the “R” word with one that is not nearly as offensive.

How about, instead, using the “P” word.

“Person”.

People are people. Some have different strengths and weaknesses. Some excel while others are challenged; but at the end of the day, people are just people.

Let’s begin to see the human quality in each and every person, and stop throwing around terms that are hurtful to others.

So join me in making an “April Resolution” – the use of the “R” word stops and it stops now. Used generally or specifically, it’s offensive and hurtful and needs to go away.

*

Switzerland County High School students will have their Junior-Senior Prom this Saturday night; a time when the kids can enjoy the closing of another school year.

But it’s not the dance that I want to highlight today, but instead it’s what happens after the dance.

Many years ago, a group of adults, concerned about the possibility of some students making bad choices after the prom was over, began to formulate a large party that would not only provide entertainment for the students, but would also keep them safe.

And the After Prom was born.

It begins at midnight in the high school gym and runs until about 4 a.m.; and while it’s going on there are games and prizes, some pretty nice prizes, that those in attendance can win. There’s music and more food than can possibly be eaten; and there’s also some pretty great entertainment.

When the kids come in, they aren’t allowed to leave until the event is over, so parents can rest knowing that their child is safe. In fact, even juniors and seniors who choose not to attend the prom can still attend the after prom. It’s open to everyone who is eligible to go to the prom itself.

An even better part? It’s all free for the kids.

There was some concern in the past weeks that donations from individuals and groups that cover all of the expenses associated with the prom weren’t coming in as in past years, and there was some discussion about having to seriously cut back on the after prom, if it was to continue at all.

Thanks to some hard work by a great team of adult volunteers, the after prom will continue; and I can assure you that there may not be a more important event that we make available to our teens than this. The organizing committee will be joined by more adult volunteers on Saturday night, serving food and leading games and working the ‘store’ until dawn on Sunday. My wife and I will again be a part of that, even though it makes for a pretty tired pastor on Sunday morning.

We do it because it’s important, and if you’ve never thought about helping before, I encourage you to volunteer and help out this year. You’ll be tired on Sunday, but you’ll also feel good about the memorable event you helped pull off.

Have a business and would like to make a donation of a gift or gift certificate, get a hold of a member of the organizing committee and make your donation. I know it will be appreciated.

If you have a child who’s going to this year’s prom, make sure you ask if they’ve signed up to attend the after prom. If they haven’t, make sure that they do. They’ll come home with some wonderful memories and some great prizes.

And – quite honestly – you can feel good that they will get home.