Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Memories of a family friend

This past Saturday, as my wife and sister-in-law were helping their parents return from Florida, my daughter and I had gone to Waite and Sons funeral home in Medina to pay our respects to the family of Dr. L. Harvey Kassebaum, or as we knew him, Harv.

Harv, as I mentioned in an earlier post was the next door neighbor of my in-laws. He also was a professor at both Cuyahoga Community College and Baldwin-Wallace College. An extremely educated man, but his learning never stopped. He was one to breeze through a book, flipping page after page and being able to comprehend everything he scanned. Even after retirement he would want to learn and everybody was his teacher.

Harv would never let his education get in the way of his personality. He was as courteous to the high school dropout as he would be to his fellow professors. We would be proud of his brand new car but would also make you feel good as you showed him your new used car.

Harv and my father in law, Eddie Bowyer were best of friends, even though Eddie was conservative and Harv was liberal. The two would have some very strong debates but would agree to disagree. At the end of the day they would sit down to a cup of coffee and a piece of apple pie.

After retirement, Harv, even though he was suffering from various forms of cancer was very active, traveling and biking to places far and wide. He loved the outdoors and shared hundreds of photographs with all of us over the years. It was planned after the memorial service this past Saturday, that a film was shown of his last trip, to the Gallupica Islands.

But whether it was a trip or a new easy chair, Harv was proud of it all and had to share it with everybody.

He also was a people person. I remember when I grew my first full beard. Harv had to periodically check the progress and give me encouragement. He also had been proud of the college education my daughter was getting.

My wife and her family felt like they lost a member of their own family and Harv will be missed.


Mike Dane said...

Sounds like someone we wish we all
could be like. Well except for
the liberal part. ;o)
I imagine the world will be a little
bit grayer.

Mike Dane

Kathy said...

Dr. Kassebaum was my Tri-C comp professor back in '77. He was an inspiration to someone who had no idea yet who she was. On my first rough piece he wrote on it "It's good to read a bit of magic" (I've never forgotten those words) and to see him after class. From there, I started reading and writing and taking poetry seriously. When I visited Kass (as my friends and I referred to him) in his office, chances were he was eating his lunch--sandwiches on small, thin slices of rye bread (and now I'm remembering that he had a thermos of coffee there too--I can see him pouring out a small cup of it). He always looked formal yet approachable in his suit jacket. He always smiled (it was happy and gentle and sad, I thought, all at once) and allowed me to take a seat and talk. For thirty-plus years I've adored the memory of that man and the class I had with him. It was because of him that I ever composed anything I cared about. I'd stay up until 3AM nights in a row to finish a paper for his class. I later went on to a poetry program. I owe him that. Thank you for posting the picture and update on Dr. Kassebaum. I'm glad you knew him.


74WIXYgrad said...

Kathy: I am glad you found this post. Funny thing is we may have crossed paths as I was taking classes at Tri-C in 1977 also. I did not meet Harv until the next year. My wife read your great comments to her parents and they are going to tell Margie, Harv's oldest daughter. You blessed their hearts with your comments.

And you also made me feel better about my blogging.

Take care,

Kathy said...

Hi Cliff,

We probably did cross paths. I'm very glad I found your blog. I was feeling sentimental today and typed in Dr. Kassebaum’s name, and the “WIXY” jumped out at me—it was the station I listened to as a kid, WIXY 1260. I just now came back to get the link for my sister. She was only eight when I had my class with Dr. K., but she well remembers how important it was to me. The best part of that class was poetry. Early on we read Sylvia Plath's "Winter Trees," which was the first real poem I ever heard read aloud (and it was by Dr. K.) and it became a favorite of mine. I remember Margie! She had long hair in a ponytail and looked a lot like her dad. My guess is she was about 14, but she may have just been tall for her age (she seemed tall to me). I saw her a couple times and was once introduced to her, and there was such a resemblance. I also met Bonnie. I’d often see her and Dr. K. walking together. I meant everything I said before. If it weren’t for signing up for his mid-afternoon English class one fall term, so much would have been different. Eventually I moved to the west coast, where I am now, and majored in poetry. A couple times I went back to CCC and left a note in his mailbox about what I’d been doing. That was when I was still at CSU though. I didn’t actually see him again. The last time was earlier, when he and some other profs showed up one evening at the restaurant where I was waiting tables. That Chinese restaurant catty-corner from the college. It was a great surprise. I was happy to learn more about Dr. K. through your remembrance—and speaking of surprises, I was surprised to hear of his extensive travels and photography. One thing, in response to the flipped pages. Whenever I saw him reading in his office, he had something sitting atop the open page to keep it open, and he seemed to have been studying that page forever!


Deanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deanna said...

Dr. Kassebaum was my English Comp teacher in '97 for the first college course I ever took. I took my work very seriously; too seriously, as it turns out. I wrote a paper on a short story that we'd read in class, taking issue with the protagonist's irresponsibility and deceit. Dr. K's comments to me were, "lighten up."

I did.

The highest compliment came when he called me to ask if he could read my short story aloud to the class, and I was astounded. His note at the end was, "You are GOOD!" I still smile whenever I think of that comment.

Dr K's teaching style and constant encouragement has had a profound affect on the way I approach my writing as well as the way I teach my children.

I'm 148,000 words into a novel that I've always wanted to write. Thanks in part to Dr. K, I have the courage to finish it and know that I am GOOD!