The Rev. Dr. Harold Haas, left, joined with two other former Tressler presidents, the late James Raun, center, and the Rev. Dr. Thomas Hurlocker, right, for a dedication of their portraits in the early 2000s following the creation of Diakon.

Remembering Dr. Haas … rather, Harold

In a long-ago article in T-LSA Now, I wrote, upon the retirement of the Rev. Dr. Harold Haas, that I could never bring myself to call him Harold.

That may have been because of my age (I was half the age I am today when I wrote that article), but it also stemmed from my respect for Dr. Haas (see, even now, I write Dr. Haas). He was simply a man, I told him and wrote about him, who engendered respect.

At the conclusion of that article, in light of his wishes, however, I wished “Harold” a happy retirement.

Unfortunately, another transition has occurred and I learned this week that Dr. Haas passed away in August at the age of 98. He had moved to New England some years ago to be near children and grandchildren; his wife, Evelyn, passed away two decades ago.

If Dr. Haas’ name is unfamiliar to you, that’s understandable, given the passage of time. Yet I believe it’s important you know who he was.

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Running to invest in future generations

My running partner quickly surveyed me.

I knew she was probably wondering how she had ended up with this “old guy” as her Girls on the Run “running buddy.” Sensing her skepticism, I attempted to break the ice with a variety of questions about her interests. Eventually, we connected a bit on the topic of music as she shared the names of favorite musicians such as Selena Gomez.

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Jump in and have fun…at every age

When I arrived at Luther Crest in 2011, at the age of 76, I had no idea I’d end up writing a book. But it was, after all, a period of starting over.

I had lived in New York State all of my life before my move and had experienced numerous new beginnings: leaving my parents’ home to marry; moving from Brooklyn to Long Island as a young mother; getting divorced; meeting my life partner and moving to his home; retiring from my job as a social worker in the domestic violence field; seeing my partner through his final illness and then moving into a kind of transitional housing situation until Dan the Moving Man carried me off to my new, and probably final, destination, Luther Crest.

I was happy and excited about starting over again.

I loved my small apartment, crammed too full of precious items from my past lives, and I was excited by the novelty of no longer having to eat solitary dinners in front of the TV.

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Worth the wait

I always wanted to be a mom; in fact, when I was younger, I knew I would adopt someday. I just always knew.

When I was 25, I decided I would go to an information night for foster-to-adopt; this was with another organization than Diakon Adoption & Foster Care. I was a teacher at this point and ready to be a mother.

The training was quick and painless and I was approved. But, if you foster or adopt, you will quickly learn that waiting is part of the experience.

Following approval, I said yes to foster-parenting a girl, but was not selected. Before long, however, I was asked to provide a home for a 15-month-old girl on a foster-to-adopt basis. A few weeks later, the exciting part began and I still recall that day 18 years later: A little girl walking in with her social worker. That was followed, however, 20 minutes later by the toddler’s mother coming by with a different social worker.

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Rebuilding after disaster

Colorado. The word conjures images of the majestic Rocky Mountains and herds of Elk roaming freely … thoughts of relaxing in the outdoors … and feelings of awe that we have been blessed by God with such beauty. 

Peaceful, isn’t it? In September 2013, however, the region of Weld, Larimer and Boulder counties was anything but peaceful. Heavy rains prompted flash-floods across some 2,000 square miles, destroying or damaging more than 7,000 houses. Miles of roadways were gone.

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Remembering the guardian of Topton’s history

I had heard the name Virginia “Ginny” Ebersole numerous times after the 2000 creation of Diakon that brought The Lutheran Home at Topton into my work-life, typically as the guardian of The Lutheran Home’s history as an orphanage.

Because I had a similar role in safeguarding the records of the children’s home operated by Tressler Lutheran Services—my former organization before the Diakon merger—I felt a sort of kinship with Ginny, even though the similarities ended there.

Ginny, after all, had actually grown up in the children’s home and then returned in retirement to the place of her childhood, living in one of independent-living cottages at The Lutheran Home, now a senior living community.

Although I had the privilege to work with Ginny the past two years, I wish I had learned to know her personally sooner because her commitment to protecting and preserving the history of the home was both outstanding and amazing. When someone wanted to know the history of a child who had been served by the home, everyone immediately turned to Ginny for that information.

But no longer. Virginia B. (Baer) Ebersole passed away last Sunday, July 24, at the age of 88.

Ginny lovingly told stories of her time at the home, to which she moved in 1933 when her mother passed away; her father’s work schedule made it difficult for him to take care of his family.

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An honor, a privilege

Some believe that knowing your life’s journey is coming to an end can be a blessing of sorts. You have an opportunity to say goodbyes and perhaps even let go on your own terms—but knowing certainly does not always make the process easier.

At Manatawny Manor, we recently helped a chronically ill resident and her family members face such a struggle. Our chaplain, the Rev. Roxi Kringle, has a special way of discussing end-of-life issues. She engages in a heartfelt conversation with individuals and their loved ones, asking about wishes and goals. Is there something the person would like to do, a place to visit, favorite foods?

Climbing a phone-tree … to view the past

When you work in communications, your daily tasks can be pretty varied, from developing an entire strategic plan to … well … redoing a phone tree.

What’s a phone tree?

It’s the sequence of options people hear when they call a main number for an organization … you know, “to speak to this program, press 1,” and so on. I don’t do any of the technical phone stuff; rather, I review the sequence of the tree, edit the accompanying text and arrange for the professional recording you hear.

Diakon had not revised its tree for a while and when I began the update process, I found I had quite a few changes to make, sometimes because programs had been transitioned to other providers, sometimes because they had moved geographically or administratively or, in an instance or two, because they had closed.

In some ways, tackling a phone-tree update is a history review.

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Mission possible

My alarm went off at 5 a.m. and I hit snooze. It was still dark outside and I wondered how on earth I would get these teenage girls up and out the door by 5:45 a.m. I flipped on the light after warning them with a 3-2-1 count and then I ran to get in line for the bathroom we shared with about 20 other females in the area to which we’d been assigned in a church.

Thankfully, I had to remind them only once to get up. They knew they had to get to breakfast in time to eat and pack their lunches before heading out to our job sites. The earlier we left, the sooner we could finish before temperatures became unbearable.

This was our morning routine during a youth mission trip to McColl, South Carolina, where about 20 adults and 60 teenagers volunteered to repair broken homes and, while doing so, also fix some broken hearts.

This trip, taken in late June, was my first mission trip with my two younger daughters, who are 16 and 14. I had received approval to use Diakon’s Love of Thy Neighbor fund to assist with the trip; the fund provided extra paid vacation days, as well as some grant money to use toward travel expenses.

After reading stories from co-workers who did mission work and learning how much they helped others beyond what we do during our typical work days, I wanted to do the same thing.