Dîner en Blanc in Philadelphia is a lovely idea, but holds no real appeal because it is for me, a zoo. It is well over 4000 people at this point, and that is just too many to picnic/dine with. Also, if I am going to do head to toe white and put together a tablescape and wine and food, the last thing I want to do is schlep tables and chairs around Center City Philadelphia in the heat of the summer.
Which is why I was so psyched to discover Brandywine in White. It was lovely to attend last summer. The people attending were marvelous as well. Brandywine in White is an elegant, BYO-everything affair where guests clad in all-white bring a magical touch to an end-of-summer picnic dinner. In other words, a beaucolic and lovely Dîner en Blanc without the maddening crowd and smells of a major metropolitan city in the heat of summer.
Brandywine in a White is set to make it’s return August, 27th, 2016. Only this year it has competition out of West Chester. Last year Brandywine in White raised funds for the Sunday Breakfast Mission I. Wilmington, DE.
A new event is debuting the SAME date at Brandywine in White and it is called WC Summer Soirée . It is ALSO August 27, 6:30 pm to 10:30 pm. They also have a Facebook page. They are very clear on who they wish to help, and one of their charities is Chester County Food Bank. Another is a Chester County Family Academy and Saint Agnes Day Room.
Like Brandywine in White, this event provides tables and chairs. Tickets are moderately priced for both events (Brandywine in White and WC Summer Soirée ).
The location for WC Summer Soirée will be released prior to the event and will be within a five mile radius of downtown West Chester the event planners say.
Last year Brandywine in White was at Chadds Peak Farm. It was truly beautiful and a wonderful event. But sigh, the newcomer event is logistically more appealing.
I can’t be at two places at the same time, so this is going to be a difficult choice!
When you buy an antique or vintage or collectible item, people often speak of the “provenance” of the item. Provenance (from the French provenir, “to come from”), is the chronology of the ownership of an object. The term was originally mostly used in relation to works of art, but is now used in similar senses in a wide range of things and fields.
I like to know the provenance of things I buy, even if it isn’t an antique or true collectible. These things all have a story, and sometimes the back story or journey is more wonderful than the item.
Today, I had that happen.
I went to an estate sale in Malvern, but in Charlestown Township. It was magical.
I drove up this beautiful little road that was deeply wooded, and so quiet save for the early morning song birds. I parked and walked down the driveway. It was a pretty house. Modest in size, it was lovely in its surroundings in the woods.
I greeted the estate sale people whom I like a great deal and have dealt with several times before – Caring Transitions of Chester County. When they run a sale or an auction they are so wonderful to deal with. They research what they are selling, price fairly if they are doing an estate sale, and the sales are neat and organized and easy to navigate with items priced clearly. They have staff in the majority of the rooms and it is always just a pleasure to deal with them.
And they are legitimately estate sales when they hold them, as not all sales that call themselves that are. And while some estate sale companies seem to create states of chaos where people are just grabbing and often stealing things while nearly destroying the homes, Caring Transitions doesn’t operate in that manner. They are nice, knowledgable professionals. They run a nice, tight ship.
I walked into the house and the first thing I noticed was how happy the house felt if that makes any sense. It was spotlessly clean, but just had a nice vibe. I had come for nutcrackers and Christmas ornaments I had seen advertised but found other things.
The woman who had lived there had been an amazing embroidery and needlepoint and petit point artist. The needlework took my breath away. An estate sale professional in an upstairs room told me the lady of the house had been German. I asked her if she had been a war bride. “How did you know?” said the employee. I pointed to some of the World War II uniforms hanging in a closet.
I have been to estate sales where old military uniforms were sort of tossed in piles in corners. Not these. Lovingly hung in closets, and neatly folded in opened footlockers or trucks. These uniforms meant something. Looking at them was like a history lesson.
I wandered into what had been the master bedroom and saw this completely lovely framed sampler, just lying displayed on the bed. I love vintage samplers. To me they are the ultimate in folk art. I have several little ones scattered around my house.
I bought the sampler.
I drove home thinking how warm and happy the house had felt. When I got home I hung up the sampler. The woman who made it in 1988 had stitched her name in it. Annaliese Nagel.
ANNELIESE NAGEL OF CHARLESTOWN Anneliese Nagel, 89, of Charlestown, was taken by her Lord on Friday, September 7, 2012. She was the wife of Harry W. Nagel, with whom she shared 66 years of marriage. Born in Heddesheim Germany, she was the youngest child of the late Katharine and Johannes Scherb. She moved with her family to Westtown where she lived for 17 years before moving to Charlestown. She attended schools in the Heidelberg area of Germany and later took courses at the Technical University in
Hannover, Germany where her husband was studying under a Fulbright grant.
She was a homemaker in the fullest sense of the word, an expert cook, baker and a gracious hostess who truly enjoyed people. She was also expert in many forms of needlework, through which her memory will live on in many of the homes of friends and family .
Now I wanted to know about her husband. So I Googled again. I found her beloved husband, Harry Nagel. I hope his family is not upset, but I am sharing a big chunk of his obituary. He wrote it himself, and he was part of the Greatest Generation and theirs was such a love story, and what a life he lived!
Hi everyone! It’s me, Harry. I’ve decided to create my obit myself prior to the actual event. I thought this might make for more interesting reading. The two photos illustrate the toll time takes on all of us. One was Harry at 20, the other is Harry at 82.
I had hoped to survive until stem cell technology or some other medical procedure might enable once vital organs to be reproduced, therefore, extending life. However, should dementia or Alzheimer’s intervene, life extension would be a questionable goal.
I was born in Union City, NJ on 21 January 1925, the first child of Anne Elise Christine Nagel (nee Von Spreckelsen) and Harry Conrad Nagel. I grew up during the ‘Great Depression” in, strangely named, West New York , NJ . Upon graduation from Memorial High School in 1942, I was accepted at Columbia College (Columbia University), class of 1946. However, December 7, 19 41 changed America’s and my destiny. As most of my former classmates were already in the armed forces, I volunteered for the Army on my 18th birthday.
After training in lesser known vacation destinations in Alabama and Louisiana and having been introduced to such denizens as coral snakes, armadillos, wild boar, chiggers, heat rash and fellow Americans who could neither read nor write, we embarked for England on the army transport, George Washington, in the midst of a 100+ ship convoy.
While in England, we engaged in the same type of exciting training which we had done in Louisiana, substituting cool rain for heat and humidity. Then, that mysterious hand of fate loaded us onto ships, and, the next we knew, we were stepping off of LCIs (Landing Craft Infantry) into the mud and wreckage of Omaha Beach , France. The beach landing was required as all of the French ports were still incapable of accepting ships.
Life as a PFC (Private First Class), rifleman, infantry, was about as grim as it got. During WWI we were called ‘Cannon Fodder!’ Our division was employed in combat in Holland , Belgium and Germany . The Battle of the Bulge began on 16 Dec. 1944 . We were there on 17 December. It was there I earned my first Purple Heart medal (first of two). This got me out of the snow and a happy stay at a huge hospital in LeMans, France. There I was patched up and returned to my rifle company as ‘fit for duty’.
After crossing the Rhine we fought our way across Germany (Purple Heart #2) to link up with our Soviet comrades on the Elbe River . Shortly thereafter, as the territory we had bled for was to become the Soviet Zone of Occupation (later East Germany ), we were moved to the Heidelberg area. It was there I was to meet my future wife, Anneliese. As Americans were prohibited from marrying Germans at the time, I was returned to the US in November 1945 and discharged from the army in December 1945.
Resolved to return to Anneliese, I joined the Merchant Marines, signing on the George Washington (the ship which took me to England as an infantryman) as an engine room oiler. The ship was being used to return German soldiers who had been US prisoners of war to Europe. On one voyage to LeHavre , France , I jumped ship and, disguised as a German POW, made my way into the city of LeHavre , dressed as a seaman. From there I traveled by train to Strasburg via Paris. There, disguised as a French soldier, I was able to cross the Rhine back into Germany and back to Anneliese.
After a couple romantic months, with me disguised as a German civilian with a German ID card, I decided to turn myself in to the US authorities and try a legally approved approach to remain in Germany. This approach saw me incarcerated in the 19th century Bermen City prison. After my trial I was permitted to re-enlist in the US Army. I was assigned to third Army Hq. (General Patton) in the intelligence section in Heidelberg . Anneliese could not believe our good luck! As I was fluent in German, one of my more interesting assignments was to interrogate ex-SS personnel and war crimes suspects at the former concentration camp, Dachau . While there I also sat in on the trial of Ilsa Koch who had been the wife of the commandant of the concentration camp, Buchenwald. Ilsa, known as ‘The Bitch of Buchenwald ,” was accused of having inmates with interesting tattoos killed and skinned. She allegedly then made lamp shades of these skins.
In December 1948, Anneliese, our two children and I left Bremen on a tramp steamer bound for Mobile AL , and then on to Leonia, NJ to stay with my dad and two younger brothers. From there I commuted daily to Columbia where I had been re-admitted. Motivated by my family I earned three degrees in five years, receiving an AB, BS and MS in Chemical Engineering, topped off by a Fulbright Grant to do post-graduate work at the West German Petroleum Institute in Hanover , West Germany . While there Anneliese and I traveled widely and the children stayed with relatives and went to German schools. Upon returning to the US, I resumed work at Sunoco where I had already worked summers while at Columbia, retiring in 1983.
My second career! While at Columbia, the Cold War with the Soviet Union was intensifying. Having been an NCO (Non-commissioned Officer) in the Infantry, I was convinced, should war break out, I’d be right back at my old WWII job. As a result, I took advantage of an existing law and applied for a direct commission as a second lieutenant as I knew my family would be better off if something happened to me. At this time I had no further interest in the Army. Fate intervened! I met a fellow officer at Columbia who convinced me to attend an Army Reserve meeting with a group of ex-WWII infantrymen. I was hooked!
At this writing I am a retired colonel, having completed the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the Army War College at Carlisle, PA , with over 36 years of combined active and reserve service.
What a life they had! What quite literally, a love story. My sampler has its provenance. And I learned the happy house I visited today had as part of it’s history, it’s provenance, and amazing love story.
Thank you Annaliese for my sampler. I will treasure it and remember your story.
After the Inquirer article appeared on the ruin of Ebenzer AME in Frazer, I contacted Rev Dr Mark Tyler via e-email with a few interested folks on the e-mail including local historians.
Why email? Because also included was information to help them make an informed decision. I stupidly thought maybe if they could see what we’ve been looking up, and see photos of the spot over the past few years, they would be interested in working together to clean this place up.
When not even a simple acknowledgment of what had been sent to him was received after three attempts, I took to Twitter. Why did I take to Twitter? Because I learned that they respond to Twitter.
But the lesson I learned again is there not particularly nice about anything if you aren’t one of their “flock”.
So I will call the good pastor but I’m not expecting much. Because the continued message I received from any level of this church is they aren’t interested in preserving their history. They also aren’t interested in communicating or speaking with me.
They can pony up the money for fancy bicentennial celebration which must have been super expensive to put on, but they can’t clean up one small church yard and secure one small ruin?
I don’t even know where to go in my head with this.
And what a horrible thing to think about any church. It’s so terribly sad. They all want to speak about and preach about their marvelous history, yet when their marvelous history needs saving they don’t want any parts of it?
I guess they might not want to respond in writing because then they have wiggle room for potential deniability down the road or something?
Wow, what a take away lesson.
I do not like to think the worst of anyone, let alone a religious organization, but it’s been over three years at this point of my trying to get this place saved and it just gets more disappointing for everything of effort I expend.
The phone number is 215-925-0616.
I just phoned and I left a detailed message and who I was and why I was calling. I don’t expect a call back. I don’t expect an acknowledgment.
I really want to save this place but at this point in time I am just thoroughly disgusted. I thought doing God’s work meant you tried to save places like Ebenezer AME. You do it for future generations, you do it for ancestors living today, do it for the history and the fact it’s a sacred place, and you do it because it’s the right thing to do.
Apparently I have been operating under a misapprehension all these years. Is no wonder that people step away from organized religion.
No I’m not disappointed in God, just the people representing him.
This photo was taken the day many of us were interviewed for the Philadelphia Inquirer article. We had brought the reporter Kristin Holmes out to see the state of the site herself.
Well as lots and lots of people know, The Philadelphia Inquirer covered the story of Ebenezer A.M.E. that was once located at 97 Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, East Whiteland Township, Chester County, PA.
Interestingly, a couple of fairly powerful and influential members (or so I was told) of the A.M.E. Church were interviewed : Rev. Dr. Teresa L. Fry Brown, executive director of the national denomination’s department of research and scholarship and Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler, senior pastor of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia.
I had contacted Rev. Dr. Teresa L. Fry Brown in the past and it kind of got nowhere. I have contacted the A.M.E. Church Elder Rev Charles H. Lett and that was late December, 2015. He never responded after we had a brief telephone conversation where he instructed me to write to him.
Most recently because of the Inquirer article, I contacted Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler, senior pastor of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia. Three times. I have not even received an acknowledgement of my efforts to reach him.
So either the A.M.E. Church cares very little about honoring their history and their dead or they don’t want to hear from a woman who is not of their faith and is not related to anyone buried at Ebenezer AME in Frazer.
How sad and too bad, I am not giving up. The A.M.E. can’t just talk the talk of their history, they need to walk the walk of their history. And if they could afford a giant bicentennial celebration in the city of their faith’s birthplace, surely they can afford one cleanup of one small old and sacred and historic place, right?
Here is the article before I tell you who I wrote to today for help:
Tia Manon trudged through the swampy cemetery of the old Ebenezer A.M.E. Church, looking for two names belonging to one man. (SLIDESHOW)
Perry Ringgold was a slave who escaped the South on the Underground Railroad. James Williams was the free man he became after he was harbored by a Quaker family in Exton.
According to family lore, this relative of Manon’s helped found the East Whiteland church in 1832, but none of the stone markers bore a trace of him, by either name. She did come across one name she recognized, a Reason – William Reason. Could he have been an ancestor of her late husband, George Reason?
….”It makes you feel very, very sad,” said Manon, 47, of Paoli, a student at Immaculata University.
She is among a group of neighbors and history buffs who want to clean up and preserve the two-acre tract on Bacton Hill Road. Officials of the Chester County township said that they will coordinate the effort, but that they first need permission from the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which they believe owns the property….
The 2.5 million-member A.M.E. Church, founded in Philadelphia by Bishop Richard Allen in 1816, is the oldest independent Protestant denomination established by African Americans. It currently has 7,000 congregations, but the number that sprang up over the centuries and then vanished is unknown.
Chester County is filled with the ghosts of churches past. Like Ebenezer, they grew in concert with pre-Civil War black communities in locations such as Uwchlan and Downingtown, said Renee Carey, a Chester County history enthusiast and South Coatesville borough councilwoman who has researched black churches and cemeteries.
So I decided to e-mail Dr. Gates, it can’t hurt. Here is part of what I said:
You don’t know me but I am a huge fan of your work. I watch your shows on PBS. I live in Chester County, PA, and I am desperately trying along with others including the people on this e-mail to get the A.M.E. Church to save a 184 year old church ruin and cemetery.
The Church is named Ebenezer AME and land was deeded by a Quaker named Malin around 1831 and the church was completed in 1832. It was one of the earlier black churches out here and there is a graveyard too. In the graveyard there are USCT Civil War soldiers and freed slaves. It is because of one of the Civil War soldiers I became interested in the first place. His name was Joshua Johnson. Ebenezer A.M.E. is still located even as a ruin on 97 Bacton Hill Road, Frazer, PA (East Whiteland Township, Chester County, PA)
I am a blogger and a native Philadelphian who moved to Chester County, PA a few years ago. I have been trying for a few years now to get help.
All records indicate the AME Church still owns the land. We just really want to get this place saved. And I am hoping the reason I am ignored by the AME church doesn’t have to do with the fact it’s not my church and these aren’t my ancestors. To you, I respectfully submit these ARE the ancestors of people in the area, and there are more in addition to Tia who was in the article I placed with Kristin Holmes recently in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
I think you might be surprised by the people who wish to help get Ebenezer cleaned up before it is too late. The A.M.E. Church needs to spearhead the initial clean-up as we all believe land is STILL owned by the AME Church and merely not owned by a church congregation that no longer exists. But there are people interested in helping the church after that as in volunteering their time. The boy scouts always want service projects, in addition. And there is a history with local scouts and this place.
The A.M.E. Church just finished hosting their bicentennial in Philadelphia. This is part of the history they celebrate this year.
I have been routinely ignored by the A.M.E. Church for three years now.
I am not the only one.
I am a realist, and not every sacred and/or historical place can be saved. But this place is special, truly special.
I also promised the poet A.V. (Ann) Christie before she died this spring of breast cancer I would keep working with others to save this. I want to keep my word.
Most recently I contacted someone you interviewed not so long ago, Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler of Mother Bethel in Philadelphia. He was interviewed in the Inquirer article. I alone have now sent him 3 emails with information to try to get Ebenezer saved. He has not even acknowledged receipt of the e-mails. I can’t tell you how discouraging it all is.
I know you are so incredibly important a person and busy, but I thought maybe if someone like you expressed an interest, the A.M.E. church would actually respond to us. We just want them to help us get it cleaned up. It is so badly overgrown, we can’t just go onto their property and clean it up. We need their permission, and we need them frankly to pay for the initial clean-up. After that we feel we can get volunteers organized and with the permission of the A.M.E. church hopefully keep it cleaned up going forward.
But we are at a critical juncture, and we need to get the A.M.E. Church moving now before all is lost forever.
I am not asking you for any sort of financial input, but I am asking you to help us because of your unique academic and celebrity position. You are the one who teaches us how to find our roots and the importance of our personal histories. You are also the foremost authority on African American History in this country today. The people buried at Ebenezer are part of that history. Plus there are local residents and not so local residents interested in honoring their ancestors buried here.
I hope you can help us.
So we will see if that helps, or if Dr. Gates responds. He is kind of famous, so maybe he won’t. But I hope he does.
Here are some e-mail addresses for any of you out there interested in getting Ebenezer saved:
Click HERE for a Google Cache of organizers of the A.M.E’s bicentennial.
Be polite but please consider writing to these folks to get them to help save the ruins and graveyard of Ebenezer AME Church on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, East Whiteland, Chester County.
If you are a member of an AME congregation please tell them and the location of your church. If you have ancestors or think you have ancestors buried at Ebenezer, tell them that as well. I would also suggest including a link to the Inquirer article.
Seriously, just because they don’t respond to me it doesn’t mean they won’t respond to you- the MORE emails they get the more likely they will pay attention.
In closing, yes the song remains the same, but we can hope the more people talk about Ebenezer, the better our chances to save it and what remains of the graves.
The only photo I have ever seen from a book by Chester County Historian Catherine Quillman (History of the Conestoga Turkpike)
I found out the evening before last from a mutual friend, that Tom Hickey had died. Knowing him a little bit for eight years was a good thing. He was kind and loved animals. Now he and PSPCA’s George Bengal are fighting the good fight from heaven. Homeless pets have another guardian angel watching over them.
But darn it, I am sad.
I liked Tom a lot and before his first stroke we would speak every now and then. My cell phone would ring and I would get “Hey it’s Tom. Got a minute?” and then he would launch into whatever he was thinking. Or he would text me similarly and ask me to call.
I first met Tom on August 21, 2008. I met him through Bill Smith at Main Line Animal Rescue. It was when Bryan Lentz and others were presenting the PA Dog Law Puppy Mill stuff in Radnor Township. Tom Hickey was with the PA Dog law Advisory Board,and at the time Jessie Smith was with Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.
From then on, I would keep in touch with him. He was funny, nice, an animal lover, and adored his family.
He could get controversial and would go to the mat for homeless pets. Animal Rescue is a tough business and he was one of the ones who gave it their all.
If you did not know him or knew that happened, you would never know he was the quiet force behind that. But he was.
In 2013 when Chester County was gripped with the horror of two family dogs being shot in West Vincent, in what became the movement called Justice for Argus and Fiona, Tom stepped up and rolled up his sleeves, and was a big part of justice actually happening in that situation. I was also as my readers know part of getting justice for the family in that case, and it was a pleasure to work with him on that. He was always positive and encouraging and said the right thing would happen, and it did.
He was also a former member of the board of the Chester County SPCA now known as the Brandywine Valley SPCA, and always, always was a champion of homeless pets. Tom was a board member during tumultuous times at the Brandywine Valley SPCA, but he should be remembered there for his contributions. He was passionate, and incredibly dedidicated. He was also just one heck of a good guy.
Tom was one of a kind. I enjoyed knowing him even a little bit for a few years. To his family I send prayers and hugs and condolences. He was one of a kind and a lot of use will miss him, but I know how much you loved him, and he you.
Good-bye Tom. You were way too young to go. Sigh. Now you and Sharon are together again.
In the end, it’s still that amazing love story between he and his wife. Good-bye Tom.
This is how Tom should be remembered- with his dogs. Hickey family photo
A lot of you would remember him as Christopher Arthur Thompson as the former Director of Land Preservation from 2006 to 2009 at the Willistown Conservation Trust.
Or simply as Chris Thompson who lived in Berwyn. Or as in Chris Thompson who used to own a sustainable food business, a true farm to table venture called Panache Foods.
Celestial Blue by Chris Thompson. Photo courtesy of family.
To me he was just Chris, father of Alexandra and Margaret. He was the former husband of my dear high school friend Sandra Hitschler Thompson (also Shipley 1981). He and Sandra had divorced after their move back to the Midwest around 2011, and at his death he was married to Jennifer Drackley Thompson. To all of them I send love and condolences. The dynamics of couples you know change over time, but that doesn’t mean you stop being their friends or thinking about people and remembering them fondly. Such is how I feel about Chris. He was just a good guy.
Writing about the death of someone you knew and liked is so darn difficult. I liked Chris a great deal and his former wife and daughters will always be close to my heart. When I heard about his passing I thought not only of his career in land stewardship and conservation, but his art. Chris was an accomplished artist and his work hung all over the Midwest and East Coast. His art was powerful and lyrical and always blew me away.
Violet Eclipse by Chris Thompson. Photo courtesy of family.
Christopher Arthur Thompson, 56, late of Three Oaks, MI and formerly of Berwyn, PA Joliet, Ill., passed away suddenly on Friday, June 3, 2016.
Chris in his element, Photo courtesy of Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy
Born January 27, 1960 in Joliet, he was the son of Arthur and Marilyn (Smith) Thompson. Surviving are his wife, Jennifer Thompson; two daughters, Alexandra and Margaret; his mother, Marilyn Thompson of Joliet, IL; two brothers, Jeff (Nancy) Thompson of Joliet, and David (Carla) Thompson of Coal City, IL; one sister, Marianne (Joe) Haake of Joliet; his former wife, Sandra Hitschler Thompson; and several nieces and nephews.
I mention this business not to diminish any other aspects of my late friend’s career but because this business at the time was at the head of the class when it came to CSA and locally sourced food. The so called Locavore movement was just revving up in our area when this business began in my opinion. There weren’t many businesses like this in existence if at all at the time. There were folks who were offering CSA shares, but not a direct to the consumer’s home business like this. This wasn’t pizza delivery, it was much more and they offered catering connections and introductions as well. It is through Panache I also made the acquaintance of the now very popular Chef Jennifer McCafferty, owner of JPM Catering in Ardmore, PA.
Panache Foods and Chris participating in Foodapalooza for First Friday Main Line in 2011
For 18 years while living in the Chicago area, Chris owned Event Management. He offered many jobs to local youth who helped him with the Food and Beverage at the Taste of Chicago. Those were challenging, but very fun times. That was part of the inspiration later in his life for Panache Foods.
He attended Joliet Catholic High School and received his undergraduate degree in Art and Anthropology, and Masters of Fine Arts degree from Northwestern University.
Chris, as I mentioned, was an accomplished artist. He was the recipient of the Scholastic Gold Key Award, a Scholastic National Gold Medal for painting, the Rotary International Scholarship for Art, the Ford Foundation Arts Fellowship, the Quita Brodhead Memorial Award from the Wayne Art Center, and the Squirrel Gallery Award of Excellence. Now as a related aside, the Squirrel Gallery was the brainchild of the late mother of my friend Averil Smith Barone (also an accomplished artist) named Valerie Lamb Smith.
Chris Thompson in his role as Executive Director of the Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy in Sawyer, MI. Photo courtesy of Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy.
Chris will be remembered for his dedication to preserving the natural beauty of both Chester County and Southwest Michigan and his appreciation for the arts. He was a wonderful husband, father, son, brother, athlete and most of all friend. He loved life and was a warm and welcoming and inclusive person by nature. He was so truly multi-faceted that on some levels he could be considered a true Renaissance man.
I received word a little while ago through my Shipley network. Young Austin Wylie is gone. Reports indicate suicide. This teenager is a perfect stranger to me, my only sense of connection is my alma mater Shipley, and I have to tell you I find the news devastating. I am having such a hard time wrapping my head around the photographs of a seemingly happy and well-adjusted teenager, and this news.
We have a teen close enough in age to this boy, so it hits home on that level too. My better half’s mother was on the Board of Trustees like Austin’s mom when we were in high school . (My sweet man’s mother is one of the reasons boys were allowed to go to Shipley all those years ago, truthfully.) We were speaking about this today, I called him at his office to tell him the news from Shipley wasn’t good.
One of the things we spoke of is how I don’t remember kids being under pressure like this when we were at Shipley. And that at the Shipley of today this was the second teenage boy from there in a little over a year to chose to end his life. I am referring to Cayman Naib.
Before all you haters pop up and criticize me for thinking about this, be honest, am I the only one? This is not a dig at my alma mater Shipley at all, they are just as devastated and this came way the hell out of left field at school officials as well. I am speaking of the pressure teenagers, and seemingly boys in particular are under to succeed.
This was not a boy anyone would have pegged for this action. But Austin Wylie as per Shipley, his family, and the authorities ended his life by jumping off the Ben Franklin Bridge. He left a note on his phone apparently, and was feeling overwhelmed by something at that time. I don’t understand how no one saw him climbing up on the bridge, but that is one of the things about cities and life: we are all so busy going about our days we often do not notice what happens around us.
This is a very nice letter. I am sharing in my own post because I am a little offended by the Patch and their zeal to spread devastating news like spam. They hit a power share button and just blasted the news across their sites in my opinion. Maybe if they did actual reporting they might have content for all their hyper local sites. But I digress.
Yesterday Shipley had put the following out:
I have to be honest as the hours dragged on yesterday and people in the media I knew kept commenting how they were being shuttled back and forth between the police departments involved trying to figure out what was going on that the news was NOT going to be good. It was just a feeling, and now as I write this post I wish the outcome had been different.
What happened to Austin that made him drop everything else he was doing and go do this in the middle of the day like this?
A friend of mine just made the following comment:
Another suicide. Another young person with their whole life ahead of them. I can’t think about it without crying. But what can we do…to lessen the pressure our children feel – whatever happened to the carefree days of high school? – and what can we do to recognize and support those in need of mental health support. I can’t help but feel like we are failing today’s children.
Another friend then said:
This is horrible. We all need to stop the high expectations, pressure cooker, mentality at school and home. Isn’t great teaching and great learning enough? Manage the expectations and egos.
I agree. And I think this goes especially for boys. Boys internalize so much. We don’t even realize it. Girls seem to let emotions out more. And they will talk about stuff more. When you ask a teenage boy how their day was, the response is monosyllabic. I know first hand and it drives me crazy. Ask girls the same question and you will not only get more of a response, you will get the added color of who annoyed them at lunch or what someone was wearing.
However, male or female, we do need to regulate the pressure cooker called life. As kids climb the grades in high school the expectations grow. The expectations grow from their schools, from us as parents, and the pressure these kids put on themselves so they don’t disappoint anyone.
Another friend of mine said :
It‘s not just Shipley though. It’s an epidemic. The pressure and expectations how early it starts is terrible. And the way today’s teenagers believe their lifetime happiness and success are somehow related to test scores or number of AP classes or grades is heart breaking. In addition we need them, everyone, to be unafraid to ask for help and to not be embarrassed to address and acknowledge their struggles.
It’s a topic that is hard to discuss. It’s not something that teens or adults want to think about. It’s unpleasant and difficult. But it does happen. Teen suicide is very real, and is preventable.
Good mental health is fundamental to the health and well-being of every person and of the nation as a whole. Our children are our future, so we need to help them know they are not alone and there are resources at their and their parents disposal.
Being a teenager is not easy. It is quite literally the best of times and the worst of times. As adults, we need to think back into the deep, dark recesses of our minds and remember what it was like to be a teenager. The hormones, confusing and often conflicting (let alone ever-changing) emotions, peer and parental pressure. Add to that today the issues of multi-platform bullying and social media overload.
Teen suicide is part of a larger public health issue. Coverage of this topic and discussion needs to encourage help-seeking. And we all have to remember suicide is a very complex issue. It can’t be pigeon holed into a little box and that’s it. There are multiple causes. And the signs of suicide vary.
According to the website Reporting On Suicide, the signs can include (but not all individuals display signs):
talking about wanting to die
looking for a way to kill oneself
talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
talking about being a burden to others
Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
sleeping too little or too much
withdrawing or feeling isolated
showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
displaying extreme mood swings
Parents need to be honest and admit at times it can be a struggle when communicating with the teenagers in our homes. And according to a study produced during the Clinton White House Years , teenagers aged 15-16 who do not feel close to their parents are about three times as likely to think about suicide as teens who are close to their parents, and teens aged 15-16 who don’t eat dinner with their parents regularly are twice as likely to have attempted suicide. This talking point about dining as a family is also just good common sense.
Togetherness as a family that is positive opens many doors, and face it, what is one of the hardest parts of raising teenagers? Communication. And communication isn’t social media like Facebook and Twitter, e-mails, chat programs, it’s a real conversation. Sitting down and talking even if it is light dinner conversation. Real and tangible contact and human interaction is so important with regard to interpersonal relationships at any age.
Teen suicide is very preventable, but as a society we have to open the doors to productive conversations and communication. Proper education on the topic is one of the keys to prevention. This needs to be discussed in the schools, the community at large, and the home.
Again, communication is key. When life gets bumpy or stressful it is helpful to know there are resources and people to talk to. Some teens in crisis will not display any telltale signs of issues, so it is really important to be able to talk with your children and they with you. And it is important for them to know from us that we do not need them to be perfect, and for some parents, especially if they are personally ambitious that is often hard to convey.
I am not laying blame here, I am devastated for the Wylie family. I look at photos of a boy that will be forever frozen in time, never aging. That makes tears run down my face. I also hope parents who were friends with, neighbors of, and went to school with Austin hit the pause button and help their children grieve and work through this. We can’t pretend these things aren’t happening, they are happening right in our own communities and across the country.
The Shipley School in Lower Merion announced Friday that a student who was reported missing earlier in the week had likely taken his own life.
“Although everyone was praying for a good outcome, I do not have good news,” Head of School Stephen Piltch wrote in a letter posted to the school’s website Friday.
Austin Wylie, 17, was entering his senior year. He was described as a talented player on the school’s soccer team and the club team FC Europa.
On Thursday, Philadelphia marine units were searching the Delaware River near where Wylie’s car had been found, according to police sources. A body was found Friday morning, but officials have yet to positively identify it.
Please talk with your kids about teen suicide. We need to take the top of the pressure cooker.
Austin Wylie, I never knew you, but I won’t soon forget you. I hope you are at peace, and I pray for his family and friends to find peace at this most difficult time. Remember the good times you had with this by all accounts remarkable young man. Hold him in your hearts with love.
My deepest condolences to Brooksley and Jim Wylie and Austin’s brother Cameron.
I close with one of my favorite Robert Frost poem I shared a year ago:
Out through the fields and the woods And over the walls I have wended; I have climbed the hills of view And looked at the world and descended; I have come by the highway home, And lo, it is ended.
The leaves are all dead on the ground, Save those that the oak is keeping To ravel them one by one And let them go scraping and creeping Out over the crusted snow, When others are sleeping.
And the dead leaves lie huddled and still, No longer blown hither and thither; The last lone aster is gone; The flowers of the witch-hazel wither; The heart is still aching to seek, But the feet question ‘Whither?’
Ah, when to the heart of man Was it ever less than a treason To go with the drift of things, To yield with a grace to reason, And bow and accept the end Of a love or a season?