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Monthly Archives: January 2016

Florida memories

Billy Bridger at Snook Inn.

Billy Bridger at Snook Inn.

Ocean view from the condominium.

Ocean view from the condominium.

Phil and Sherry at Naples Botanical Garden next to a gardener made entirely of Legos.

Phil and Sherry at Naples Botanical Garden next to a gardener made entirely of Legos.

Mike and Cindy at Naples Botanical Garden.

Mike and Cindy at Naples Botanical Garden.

The garden was beautiful.

The garden was beautiful.

An eagle at the garden made entirely of Legos.

An eagle at the garden made entirely of Legos.

A praying mantis made entirely of Legos.

A praying mantis made entirely of Legos.

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The view from our motel room.

The view from our motel room.

And a little closer to the water.

And a little closer to the water.

It was a touching moment. We were in the gate area of the Orlando-Sanford (Florida) Airport on Thursday, Jan. 21, waiting to board a plane for a trip back to the Quad-Cities.

We had flown to Florida on Sunday the 17th to spend some time with my wife’s sister, Cindy, and her husband, Mike, at a condominium they had rented on Marco Island, near Naples on the southwest coast.

Two uniformed airport firefighters approached a young boy near us who was probably 8 or 9 years old and sitting in a wheelchair. I thought perhaps he was having medical problems, but that was not the case.

He was wearing a Make-A-Wish T-shirt and holding a cloth bag that also said Make-A-Wish. The firefighters talked and joked with him for a few minutes. Then, before leaving, they gave him a black, plastic firefighter helmet and a stick-on junior firefighter badge. As they walked away, everyone in the gate area applauded them.

Here are some other recollections from that visit to Florida:
* We flew to Florida and back with Allegiant. It’s a no-frills airline that offers only direct flights, which I think is a real plus. As flying goes, prices are reasonable. And all the Allegiant employees were very polite. Time in the air both ways was less than two and a half hours.

* Bad weather, including some rare January tornadoes, had hit Florida’s west coast hours before our arrival. One of the hard-hit areas was Siesta Key, where Cindy and Mike were staying when we visited them a year ago. On Marco Island, high water levels damaged the beach. And in nearby Naples, a private plane owned by TV’s Judge Judy also suffered storm damage.

* For the few days we were there, Floridians thought it was cold. For them I guess it was. Daytime high temperatures ranged between the upper 50s and lower 60s. But that felt pretty good to my wife and me because it’d been minus 5 degrees and minus 25 degrees wind chill when we’d flown out of Moline.

* We’re used to seeing deer crossing signs in Iowa. But we were surprised to see signs in the Naples Florida area that read, “Panther Traffic.” Signs around ponds and canals also warned of alligators. And I know some parts of Florida also have bears to deal with.

* Although we did not see (thank goodness!) any, southern Florida is being overrun by Burmese python snakes, which are native to southeast Asia. According to the Internet, researchers say there could be from 30,000 to 300,000 of them in Florida. Burmese pythons are frequently found in or near the water, although they are also capable of climbing. Most Burmese pythons in Florida are between 6 and 10 feet long and are larger than almost all native snakes. A government-organized python round-up was taking place while we were in Florida.

* The vegetation in the Sunshine State is lush. The four of us — Cindy, Mike, Sherry and myself — visited the 170-acre Naples Botanical Garden. It was a beautiful setting of cultivated gardens and preservation land. A highlight was a number of varied sculptures all made from Legos.

* The meal that offered the most fun was at a waterfront place on Marco Island called Snook Inn. We ate outdoors in an open-air pavilion that had heaters going to take the chill off. There is live music there every afternoon and evening. A talented Canadian guitarist-singer-comedian named Billy Bridger entertained us.

* Because we had an early flight on the 21st, we stayed the night before in a motel, Monroe’s on the Lake, in Sanford that was only three miles from the airport. It was a quiet, clean place with a beautiful lake view.

* The best meal we had on the trip likely was the seafood combo at St. John’s River Steak and Seafood located next to the hotel. I’d highly recommend it.

* When we arrived back in the Quad-Cities, it was back to reality. The temperature that greeted us was a less-than-toasty 19 degrees. But there were no panthers, alligators, bears or pythons!

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece ran as a column in the North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

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Posted by on January 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Taking the church to the community

The Rev. Linda Hunsaker from her Facebook page.

The Rev. Linda Hunsaker from her Facebook page.

The pastor of two Davenport churches has a unique way of meeting with church members who want to speak with her in a setting that is less formal than her church office.

The Rev. Linda Hunsaker, pastor of both First Christian Church and Cedar Memorial Christian Church for the last three years, is keeping some office hours at a coffee shop and a restaurant.

Hunsaker is at Starbucks on Middle Road in Bettendorf from 1 to 3 p.m. most Mondays and at the Village Inn on Harrison Street in Davenport from 9 to 11 a.m. most Wednesdays.

She also is holding a Bible study every other Thursday night from 6 to 7:30 in the cafe at the Hy-Vee on West Locust Street in Davenport.

She said the idea to get out of the office and into the community came from a book, “Real Good Church: How Our Church Came Back From the Dead, and Yours Can, Too” (The Pilgrim Press), by United Church of Christ pastor Molly Phinney Baskette.

According to advertising for the book, it “offers a look at everything First Church Somerville UCC, a progressive Christian church in the shadow of Harvard, MIT and Tufts Universities, did to reverse their death spiral and become the healthy, stable, spirited and robust community it is today.”

Said Hunsaker: When Baskette was called to minister the aging congregation, church finances were nearly gone and “they literally were a couple of years away closing the doors. She went to them and said, ‘The church can’t be the way it used to be.’

“Not that it isn’t wonderful, and we don’t love church the way it has been,” Hunsaker said, “but we live in a time when folks don’t engage and go to church like they used to because we now live in a seven-day-per-week, 24-hour-per-day society.”

Hunsaker said the question the book poses is, “how can you be more accessible to people and also be more non-threatening? Not that the church is threatening, but I think a lot of people have been harmed by the church,” Hunsaker adds.

“I had never thought about it this way because I love my job, I love being a pastor and I love that God has called me,” she said.

Hunsaker, who grew up in the Des Moines area and came to the Quad-Cities from Ursa, Ill., said she never thought that visiting a pastor in his or her office was a bad thing, and when growing up was very close to the pastor of her congregation. “I never thought somebody might not be comfortable coming in to the church office and talking to me. (But for some) it’s almost like going to the principal’s office.”

Hunsaker said telling someone they can have a cup of coffee with her or breakfast with her or just sit and talk is must less threatening to people.

“It’s more of a friendship,” Hunsaker said. “That’s what I want people to know — that I enjoy sitting and talking and hearing their stories. Where do you do that? You don’t do that in the formal front room. You do that in the kitchen.”

Ministering to two churches leaves little time for visiting on Sundays.

“I have time during the week so people come and do this,” she said recently while seated at a Village Inn booth. “Sunday morning is not the time to sit down and get to know people in the congregation. Often the most time I get to spend with people is when I’m sitting with families in the hospital or at a funeral home. I want to know them before I get to that point.”

She’d also like to better know members of her flock before they’re in their 80s and 90s and perhaps in a nursing home. “People have useful lives that are like a back story.”

Hunsaker began her out-of-office office hours last fall and said the experience “has been wonderful!”

Pastors used to visit people by going to their houses and knocking on their doors. But Hunsaker said, “These days they often are not home or they are home but their house is a mess because they have kids running through it, and they are embarrassed.”

Hunsaker, the married mother of two young, active daughters, understands that.

There is another benefit to getting out of the office and into the community. Hunsaker has experienced some of the “Cheers” mentality. That was the TV show where “everybody knows your name.” She has, for example, become familiar and friendly with the employees at the Village Inn.

A waitress insisted on donating money toward a Thanksgiving meal for the needy she heard Hunsaker was involved in. Another employee asked her to speak with a regular restaurant customer whom he knew was going through tough times.

“You don’t do that if you’re sitting in your office,” Hunsaker said.

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece ran as a column in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Keeping pace and other random thoughts

WOC Club Dec 2015

Some members of the WOC Club at our last meeting held at Riefe’s (which is now closed) in December 2015. Club members are folks who worked at WOC-TV, KWQC-TV, WOC-AM, WOC-FM, KIIK-FM or KUUL-FM.

As of Dec. 22, I now have a pacemaker. It keeps the bottom part of my heart beating at an appropriate rate; it had been on the slow side. A friend of mine who has had a pacemaker for quite a while told me in advance that the implant surgery would be a “piece of cake.” I don’t know if I would go quite that far, but it was done on an outpatient basis, and I got to go home after a couple hours of recuperation time. That’s not bad.
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My wife, Sherry, recently took great delight in purchasing a children’s book to read to our younger grandchildren. It’s called “Hiding Phil,” and Phil is an elephant.
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The Quad-Cities area has many fine restaurants. But in recent months two — Bud’s Skyline Inn in Moline and Riefe’s Restaurant in Davenport — have closed so their owners could retire. It takes a lot of hours each week to run a restaurant, and brothers Dan Riefe, who joined the family business in 1980, and Rick, who joined in 1971, have certainly earned their retirement. My experience with Riefe’s dates back to when it was just a drive-in. My brother and I went there with our parents. Carhops brought our food, and we ate in the car. The drive-in was torn down in 1960 and replaced by a building that seated 45 people inside. It has since been enlarged several times. I remember eating inside as a teenager and ordering a two-piece chicken dinner, call the “chicken snack,” for 95 cents. Most recently some fellow retired broadcasters and I have met one morning each month at Riefe’s for breakfast. We will now have to find another place, and it won’t be the same. I got to know Rick Riefe personally in the 1990s when his son Jess and my son Dane were in Boy Scouts together. “Rick is a nice guy, and he was a good scoutmaster,” Dane, now 34, recalled recently. He also noted that Rick did the cooking on campouts, and that was a real treat.
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The recent death of former Harlem Globetrotters player “Meadowlark” Lemon reminded me of the time I played in an exhibition game against the Globetrotters. It was 1970 or 1971, and I was a college student and a part-time disc jockey and sales rep at the Quad-Cities’ original country music station, KWNT in Davenport. Our hastily thrown together team, called the Friendly Country Giants, played the Globetrotters briefly during halftime at one of their performances at the Wharton Field House in Moline. Of course, they ran circles around us but I did make a basket, scoring 2 points.

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece ran as a column in the North Scott Press.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2016 in Uncategorized