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Flashback Friday

In the time I worked at MDH, we were not without staff tragedy.  Today, we revisit some of the people who helped me in my shifts and in some cases outside of work as well.  These people have  passed away and remain in my thoughts. 



There have been some people along the way who I worked with at the Mary Davis Home who I liked, and in some cases liked a whole lot.  In the "whole lot" area was this guy, Mike Johnson who possessed a keen wit, hearty laugh, was devilishly mischievous, and an all-around great, great guy.  He was a guy's guy - a best friend type who everyone likes and who makes you feel like the most important person in the room.  he helped me move once, helped me re-do a boxcar I lived in on Bateman Street in G-Burg, helped me drink some beer, and made my place his first stop on Friday's before going home.  We golfed, fished, sat around and told lies and jokes and made like we were the two greatest studs on earth.  His wife, Pat, is still one of my top buds around and I stay with her when I'm up North.  After Mike died we organized a golf tournament that went on for about 5 or six years and gave the proceeds to the American Heart Association.  The demands on Mike's heart was too much: too many friends, too many laughs, too many cigarettes and it gave out.  I have told the story a few times that we all went to a smoking cessation class at Cottage Hospital, and one of the first things we did was to walk up and throw our cigs in the trash can - a symbolic gesture but also one of emotionally letting go.  It was tough but Mike and I tossed ours and returned to our seats. After a half hour of talking by various professionals they gave us a brief break.  I went into the bathroom with Mike and I'll be damned if he didn't pull out a pack and light one up.  t was a lot easier letting go my cigs than letting go of Mike - I'm not sure I've done it yet, maybe I never will.      


Marilyn Tapper was a counselor at MDH and was married to Alan.  Alan worked on the railroad and they had a couple horses on a little ranchette out in the country near Wataga.  Alan passed away a few years ago.  Back in the early days of MDH we did a lot of partying together and in the quintessential way many refer to co-workers, we were family.   Marilyn was one of my favorites - an exceptional Counselor who had uncanny insight into kids and what was happening on any given shift.   


Jerry Carlton was a character.  An old Navy man, he had a restaurant in Knoxville for years and when it closed became a Counselor.  I never knew anyone who cared more about the kids, and I never knew a more stubborn co-worker.  I don't know how many time I had to haul him in my office for a mid-course correction or downright "come-to-Jesus" talk, but damned if he still wouldn't go out and do it his way again.   You could say Jerry did things his way, but you couldn't say he didn't care.  He went above and beyond on so many things that often he'd put all of us to shame for his hard work and willingness to put in extra time on anything.  I wouldn't have wanted 10 of him, but we were all the better for having one.  Rest well, Jerry, you've earned it.  


Robin McFadden came to MDH as a Counselor from the Macomb area.  Hard working and funny, she had a great way with the female clients.  She could make them feel like she was just another kid over chatting about stuff and this quality enabled her to make a real impact in their lives.  In one of those office-romance-type thingies, she married one of the original Counselors when I was hired, Jim Glasnovich and they eventually took off for Florida.  They had a couple kids, but Robin had some demons and got hooked on something she couldn't shake and passed away about 7 or 8 years ago.     


Terry was a transportation officer and part-timer who filled in here and there.  A thankless schedule but the above picture really embodies her humor and spirit.  Friend of most, she was a vital part of our staff and even in her long illness, she never lost her laugh or ability to switch the conversation from herself to others.  I never ever heard anyone say anything disparaging about her.  Damn neat lady.  


Judy Kelly worked nights when I started and was about the smallest little thing I'd ever seen.  She was real quiet to go along with that little body, but when she had to I've seen her lay into some kids with the ferocity and loudness of a professional wrestler.    I never knew anything ever bad happened on her shifts - she simply didn't allow it.  


Florence Billings was the cook when I first started.  She never measured anything but never ruined anything either.  She would get her work done and then retire to the Staff lounge to hold court. And I mean funny as Hell.  She'd get talking about people and things and have all of us rolling.  Most of us drove beaters but she always had a new Lincoln.  For awhile I'd go in extra early so I could get in on the Flo and Chuck Potter show.  I don't know if it was a friendly or unfriendly rivalry they had but it was there nonetheless and to see those two go at it was something to watch.  Chuck worked the night shift and they'd go back and forth, usually about how much money they both had.  Kind of like, "I wipe my ass with $20 dollar bills", sort of stuff.  Yeah, unprofessional, profane and unbecoming at times, but funny, yeah, sure was.  Kind of like having Phyllis Diller and Sam Kinneson doing their best Don Rickles.  Flo died around 2002 and I'm not sure about Chuck.  

Life keeps going.  People come in and out of your sphere, they move on to other things, quit and sometimes pass away.  The folks above passed away and for awhile were very much a part of my life.  I miss them and wish them well, and think of them from time to time as part of a kind of community, that made me part of something, the Mary Davis Home.  


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