Obits and Preschools: Life Really is a Wheel

Bruce Weber, a long time New York Times obituary writer, said goodbye in a retirement column today with this observation that rings true even for my work in the much smaller Chilkat Valley News:

"...obituary writing is important work. An obituary is, after all, the first last word on a life, a public assessment of a human being’s time on earth, a judgment on what deserves to be remembered. In addition, though we write for readers of all stripes, of course, and not especially for those in mourning, I suspect all of us who do this keep the loved ones in mind, and if we don’t seek their approval exactly — unsavory details are often unavoidable — we strive to write so that they at least recognize the person they’ve lost. Journalism isn’t supposed to be a personal service, but obituary writing, without compromising any professional integrity, can be."

I do like Bruce for other reasons-- he is also a cyclist, and wrote a book about pedaling across the country called Life is a Wheel.

 It's a great metaphor of course-- and it brings me closer to home, as we have had four generations of family in our house for the last few weeks, but there's more to that life as a big old wheel idea, and especially in how (and why) we are all rolling toward completing the coolest project in Haines right now: combining the Senior Citizens Center with the Chilkat Valley Pre-School, thanks to a new preschool classroom addition on the senior center. (The old preschool facility across town is being closed by the Borough as it costs too much to maintain and needs renovation, so the CVP has to find a new space and this is the creative solution.) 

 My mother-in-law, 85 year-old Grandma Joanne, is on her way home after a two week visit where she spent a lot of time with her three pre-school age great-grandchildren. When she heard of the new plan for the school she declared it "brilliant" ( she likes that word)-- and she said, "It's obvious why it will work: the elderly and very young children have so much in common. We think the same way. We have the same world view." We all kind of wondered about that, as she is quite the proper lady, in every sense, dressing for dinner each evening, and the children are a tad more, well let's just say, informal. But over the din of the final family meal of her visit, she insisted she was correct.  "It's very simple. You must understand that we elderly live one day at a time, in the present. I cannot be bothered about the future or live in the past. I only know for certain that I have today, and little children think the same way, and that is why it is so important that we make that connection."

Local elder ( 93) Lucy Harrell agrees. She recently gave 25,000 to the Chilkat Valley Preschool with this string attached: that the preschool host a monthly joint activity for seniors and children. (Grandma Joanne suggested singing, ''have the children learn all those good old tunes we know!")

Our family has already donated to the project, which is halfway toward the 420,000 fundraising goal. (The plan is to complete it by the 2017/18 school year.) If you'd like to contribute, now is a very good time, as there is currently an anonymous donor who will match all donations up to 20,000 until August 31.  You can find the Chilkat Valley Preschool at or mail a check to the CVP at PO Box 1165, Haines AK 99827.






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