Reunited at last

Friday, May 22, 2009

Here's how I came to know Jerome Westrich.

Over the past several years I've joined a couple of colleagues here at the newspaper for an eye-opening cup of coffee at Brenda's Place on Morgan Oak Street. We're not the earliest customers, but we have watched a lot of sunrises at Brenda's.

Another early group often sits a couple of tables away. They are men who go to the early Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral, a place of Holy Communion, and then gather at Brenda's for a communion of memories, tall tales and any joke for which the teller can remember the punchline.

Even though we sit at separate tables, Brenda's tends to be a communal gathering. Anyone at any table is likely to cut into your conversation, if you're talking that loud. And my friends and I have often exchanged a few good-natured words with the men from St. Mary's.

One of those men for all those years has been Jerome Westrich. He died last Friday at the grand age of 90.

One of the things most everyone learned, at one time or another, about Jerome was that his mother died when he was born. He had reflected on that more than once. Can you imagine never knowing the feel of a mother's touch, what her voice sounded like, how she laughed?

Last Monday morning's coffee was virtually a memorial service at Brenda's for Jerome. Everyone who came in mentioned his passing, all paying proper respect to a man who lived a long and full life.

According to Brenda herself, Jerome spent some of his last hours at home with his family. When he returned to the Lutheran Home, he said he was ready to go see his mother. He died peacefully in his sleep a short time later.

Thanks, Jerome, for all the memories of life in the old days. And give your mother a hug from all the boys at Brenda's.

It appears the mayor of Toledo took to heart one of my recent columns suggesting that those who enjoy the municipal band concerts in Capaha Park might want to bring their lawnmowers to help our financially struggling city.

In any case, National Public Radio reported this week that Toledo, like Cape Girardeau and so many other cities, is in a financial bind. Revenue streams are drying up.

So, according to NPR, the mayor of Toledo has officially requested that city residents help mow the city's parks. The mayor himself did a bit of lawn work just to set a good example.

Talk about the power of the press. I had no idea the mayor of Toledo got his best ideas from Cape Girardeau.

Brad Hollerbach, information technology director here at the Southeast Missourian, recently blogged about the attempt to bolster the image of Providence, R.I., with a big P. Now the mayor of Providence wants to prop up the city's finances by taxing university students.

That's right. The good mayor would extract $150 a semester from each student at prestigious Brown University and three other private universities in town.

I don't know what they put in the coffee in Providence, but the mayor should avoid his morning brew for a while.

Providence, like Cape Girardeau, is gosh-darn lucky to have four universities, the students, the faculty, the staff and everything else a university brings to your town.

Has the mayor of Providence ever calculated what his city would lose if those four universities didn't open next fall? And he wants to thank them by taxing students?

I hope there are saner heads in Providence city government. It won't take that many giant P's and goofy tax proposals before that city dries up and blows away. ;

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