It has been quite some time since I have published a blog entry. Rest assured, we are doing fine in the New Hampshire Manchester Mission. We continue our regular work with the Spanish speaking members of the Lowell First Ward and with all members of the ward regardless of their language. We continue assisting in the English classes and there is still a persistent group of attendees that number between 10 and 20 depending on the night of the week. In another testament of how small the church is, I met a member of the ward, Jeff Adams, who is from my home stake of Pleasanton, California. Jeff was a year behind me in high school and attended Amador High where as I went to Dublin High. Jeff's father was LaVere Adams, a legendary figure in the Pleasanton Stake, a master of teaching, and writer of drama including Roadshows. How interesting to run into his son here on our mission of all places.
In the hallway of the Lowell First Ward chapel there hangs a portrait of Walker Lewis. Walker Lewis was one of the first converts baptized in the Lowell, Massachusetts. He was a African American and was one of few that were ordained to the priesthood. Walker Lewis faced a great deal of prejudice in his day that is hard to reconcile today, but was unfortunately very common for the time he lived in. He was a respected businessman in the community and persevered through great personal and spiritual difficulty. He was buried in the Lowell Cemetery. It is fitting that his portrait hangs in the Lowell Chapel on Princeton Boulevard and is reflection of the diverse community that exists within the membership of the Lowell First Ward today.
The month of May stirs many feelings. I have my birthday, my mother's birthday, a grandson's birthday, my brother's birthday, and we have Memorial Day. This year was even more poignant when I lost one of my friends from my high school years, Michael James Payne. Mike Payne came into my life when I was about 16 years old. He was new in our church congregation in Dublin, California. Mike was very different from me even though we shared the same name. He was a year older and had definitely walked a different path from my upbringing. He became active in our faith, it turns out, because his stepfather saw he was headed in the wrong direction and decreed that he was grounded and needed to go to church, even though his stepfather did not belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And so, Mike began to attend. With Mike and our other friends, the Urry brothers, Gordon, Robbie, and Randy, I discovered the joys of backpacking, and the endless art of discussing Lord of the Rings while we were camping. Mike had the best looking set of wheels our of all of us. A rebuilt 57ish chevy pickup, red, with black vinyl padded upholstery on the side of bed. I am probably not describing that correctly. It was a sweet ride and one that I coveted as I did not have my own personal car.
One memorable experience was the time when he, myself, and Randy Urry decided to go on a triple date in San Francisco with some girls in our ward, Nadine Jacobs, Vickie Porter, and Diane Bywater. We could only get tickets for the 9 pm concert performance of John Denver, so we went and spent the day in the city and went out to eat and enjoyed the sites. Because of all the concert traffic near the Cow Palace, the 9 pm concert didn't start until almost 11 pm. This was before cell phones, so we couldn't easily inform out parents that we would be much later than we thought. My parents stipulation was that if I was going to the 9 pm session no matter how late I got home that Saturday night I had to be up bright and early to go to church on Sunday. With the late start the concert didn't get over until the wee hours of the morning we stopped for an early breakfast as well. By the time we rolled into Dublin and dropped off the first girl, Vickie, it was 5 AM. As Mike walked her to the door to say goodbye, the door opened and a mother's arm reached out and grabbed the daughter and pulled her inside. Apparently, she had "neglected" to tell her parents that we were going to the 9 pm concert! Her father was the bishop of our congregation, to say that it was a awkward is an understatement but one that he and I have spoken about fondly over the years.
Mike had a few rough edges compared to my tame upbringing, but these edges were worn smooth and when he turned 19 he wanted to serve a mission. I don't think that his stepfather ever imagined that by "grounding" Mike and forcing him to attend church, Mike would develop a desire to serve God as a missionary. One day Mike showed up at my house with a brand new silver Volkswagen Sirocco. He asked me if I wanted to go for a ride. Of course I did! Mike drove uncomfortably fast with me and I enjoyed every minute. Finally I asked, why the new car? He said that his stepfather had brought it home and said, "If you don't serve a mission this car is yours." I looked at Mike with incredulity because I knew that he wanted to serve a mission. He smiled at me and said, "Don't worry Zolly, I am serving a mission, but I am going to drive this car into the ground for the next 24 hours before I give it back to him and turn down his offer."
And that is what he did. He gave the car back, submitted his missionary application and was called to New York Rochester Mission. A year later following his example I was called to the Argentina Buenos Aires North Mission. After I returned home he introduced me to the girl he wanted to marry. Then he said to me, "Will you be a witness at our marriage sealing?" And I was. He served with distinction in the military culminating as and Army chief warrant officer helicopter pilot and served two tours in Iraq. Our contact was sporadic over the years until Lynn and I decided to serve a senior couple mission and we reconnected. He was in simple terms, a good man. We need more like him. May he rest in peace and is example he set inspire others.
Another zone conference has come and gone. This time we had a visit from Elder Kevin Hamilton of the Seventy and his wife. As usual these zone conferences are inspirational and uplifting. It is sometimes sad to realize that many of the young missionaries that were here when we arrived are now going home or have long been home from their missions and are moving on with life. We have been here more than 16 months now. That is both long and short depending on how you think of it
We've had a chance to do some traveling and see some sites over the past two months. On my birthday we were able to visit the National Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. Springfield is the birthplace of basketball. It is an impressive place to visit if you are fan of basketball. I bought a pennant of my favorite team, the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors promptly lost to the Lakers in the playoffs in the second round. This is proof that if you pay money to support your team they will lose. Some of my favorite exhibits were like the one below. You can compare how you measure up to the stars of the game.
A little more on the sports scene prompts me to post a picture that I took of a mural in Nashua, NH. Nashua used to be the home of a Brooklyn Dodger minor league team. There is a mural painted on the side of a building near the medical center that where we go for most of medical appointments of two dodger greats. Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella.
We took a tour recently in the Lowell Cemetery that gave information of the some of the more famous people buried there. We expected a crowd of about 10 to 20 people. We were surprised when there appeared to be close to two hundred people there. It was very interesting and informative. Whoever said that "dead men tell no tales" was badly misinformed.
Our mission district also decided to do some service the cemetery participating in the Billion Graves project and passing out cards that share how to use FamilySearch.org The young missionaries enjoyed the project.
We've done a little sight seeing over the past few months. Two Lights State Park in Maine is one of our favorite places to go. We also went to Ongunquit, Maine and walked a very nice path along the ocean with gorgeous views and also visited the Nubble Light House there. I highly recommend it if you come to visit.
We get a chance to treat missionaries from time to time. One such moment was on my birthday when we discovered that Hermana Kersavage and I share the same birthday! That called for dinner out at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Lowell, called El Potro. The food is always delicious!
One of the things we enjoy greatly is a morning walk along the Merrimack River in Lowell, MA. The river is beautiful. There is a lot of crewing on this river and wildlife.
We were able to have a Nashua Zone Preparation Day this past transfer. We had a BBQ and enjoyed some games. A good time was had by all.
For one of our recent district preparation days we went as a district on the Lowell National Historic Park canal tour. The park ranger gave a history of the canals and how they were used in the cotton mill industry in Lowell. Lowell was at the forefront of the industrial revolution in the USA.
During the past few months we also had the opportunity on a preparation day to take a boat tour of Lake Winnipsaukee, New Hampshire. This is the largest lake in the state. It is about 72 square miles and is a beautiful place to see. We enjoyed the three hour tour and the scenery.
And finally, this has been a much colder spring and summer than last year, with a great deal more rain. When it rains here, it comes down in sheets. We recently experienced a storm that flooded into the first floor of our apartment building. We live on the top floor (third story) so we were not threatened. The main road that runs in front of our building (our apartment faces the street) was under several inches of water, threatening to float the vehicles away that dared to operate during the flood. Here are a couple of pictures.