This weekend marked one of the sporadic and intermittent reunions of the folks who lived at 212 1st Avenue while attending college at UW-Eau Claire. The house, better known as Phelta Thi, the anti fraternity, was right across the street from the campus, a valuable benefit if one arose 5 minutes before class started. We lived there before the movie Animal House was made, and have considered suing the producers for intellectual theft a number of times. This years event was special, both because we haven't had one for a number of years, and also because we had a couple friends who would never be attending another Phelta Thi reunion. Meeshaw died in Anchorage, AK after undergoing a quadruple bypass operation last year. JohnnyK died in a motorcycle accident 4 years ago. This years gathering at CampO would not only be the usual eating, beer drinking, power lounging, and lie telling, but we also had planned a little memorial service.
People rolled in Friday night and the keg was tapped. It became apparent that the old nicknames would be needed when the 'three Chucks' showed up. Little Chuck, Big Chuck, and Rumberg it became once again. Friday night ended on the predictable late note and the memorial service was wisely planned for late afternoon, pre-happy hour, out on a point in the lake that has been christened Chapel Hill. LC (Little Chuck) and his indentured servant, JohnT, cleared some land and set up a nice pulpit on the lake, complete with benches. It was a sunny, breezy, perfect Wisconsin afternoon when we all headed out there, either by foot or by kayak. I must say its probably the only memorial service that I'll ever attend via kayak. While none of us could be described as religious, I think most of us could be categorized as spiritual. The old gothic cathedral architects in the middle ages built soaring spires so they would be closer to God. Somehow I think this little spot out in the woods, next to the lake, with no sights or sounds of civilization, might be just a little bit closer to Him. The informal service began with LC stepping up to the podium and telling stories of our two buddies. One after another we told stories (those that could be told in mixed company, of course) about our two departed friends and expressed what they had meant to us and how they would be missed. Betsy and Rose, the two widows, made it up (Rose all the way from Anchorage) and represented the living connection to our buddies Meeshaw and JohnnyK. We were all grateful that they took the time to make it to what many would consider to be the middle of nowhere. Our buddy Boston flew up from Atlanta and most other folks drove from the tri state area of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. These are the kind of friends where it makes no differnece if you saw them yesterday or haven't seen them for 20 years. Things just pick up in the same spot. It doesn't matter if you're a CEO or a fast food trainee, its who you are and not what you are to these guys and always has been. In fact JohnnyK, the year before he passed, had George Dubya visit his manufacturing plant in Chippewa Falls on his western Wisconsin 2004 election swing. It was observed that he talked to President Bush in the same way that he talked to Boston, Elmer (another crony that made the trip) or me for that matter.
The informal service was completed and we drifted back to camp, some through the woods and some over the water. A few of us stopped to view the memorial stone that had been placed out on the point for another friend, BornReadyAl, who died in a car accident in 1990. I guess this point is getting more special all the time. Who knows if perhaps the Anishnabe people who lived in the area had used the same spot? The one thing it pointed out for me is that none of us are getting out of this alive and that if we worry a bit more about friends, peace of mind, and our well being rather than how many dollars we can pile up, we and the world will be a much better place. Thanks again LC, it was a great idea and a great weekend.