Last evening, I attended a virtual zoom lecture via the Willows Park Preserve titled “Lost Mansions of the Main Line.” It was presented by Jeff Groff of Winterthur who is the Estate Historian there.
It was like opening the Pandora’s Box of history. It was fabulous. I wished the program had been longer. The program was primarily mansions and houses which no longer exist. Some that still exist in a mostly adaptive reuse capacity.
So I grabbed some screenshots:
I posted the screenshots to show people the coolness of the lecture and the response was amazing. So many people had memories of some of the properties, like my weird connection to the Cassatt Estate in Haverford which was discussed.
My great grandmother, Rebecca Nesbitt Gallen, who was in service back then, was the summer housekeeper to the Cassatt Family. My grandfather and one of his brothers found pieces of old bicycles in old stables or perhaps a garage and built their own ramshackle bikes out of parts and learned to ride bikes on Grays Lane. When he was in his 80s and my parents had moved us to the north side of Haverford (late 1970s), I wonder what he thought about his daughter and her family living but a minute from where his mother had been in service during the summers?
And I have another weird Cassatt connection, or my husband does. His late mother was one of the many, many Tredyffrin residents years ago who tried for years in vain to stop the development known as Chesterbrook that completely changed the face of not only the Main Line, but part of Chester County. (see this history as compiled by TEHistory.) The Cassatts’ Chesterbrook Farm
So anyway, sharing about this lecture and the response led to other things. People interested in Bloomfield (the Radnor Township estate on S. Ithan Ave that burned in the spring of 2012) and as always, La Ronda which was demolished October, 2009 in Lower Merion Township.)
I have photos of both Bloomfield and La Ronda. I chose to document both with a camera back then. La Ronda over the last few months she stood, and Bloomfield after the fire.
What I also found startling are all of the people who vaguely recall the names of some of these places, but have no idea of the history. Or locations. Or the families that lived there.
We live in such a transient world that the very context of history of an area, and the history itself is getting lost. It goes hand in hand with people don’t know what the “Main Line” is, where the name came from and where it ends ( Name came from the days of the Pennsylvania Railroad for the “Main Line of Philadelphia” or “Pennsylvania Main Line”, ends as Paoli, not Malvern or points west.) It also goes hand in hand for realtors and developers who want to call Malvern and points west “Main Line” or things properly in Downingtown “Chester Springs” or something sitting on Route 3 “Radnor Hunt.”
The history matters. The facts and people and places give said history context. Maybe it’s me, but how can you want to put down roots in a community and not have a clue as to how that community came to exist? Or what are area traditions and beloved celebrations and why? Why certain non-profits have specific fundraisers?
Now more than ever, our history is important, along with the context that goes with it. COVID19 has seriously stressed out especially the smaller non-profits. Big non-profit machines will survive the economic fall-out of COVID19, but our small non-profits need our support. Here’s my list of some I think we all should show the love to and whom I am supportive of:
I will note that the Jeff Groff Lost Mansions of the Main Line lecture will be given via zoom and the Chester County Historical Society on May 12th. It’s free, but if you are not a member a small donation would be nice.
Also, there is a Lost Gardens of the Main Line lecture which will be given via zoom and Jenkins Arboretum on March 18th. It is also a Jeff Groff lecture (and I can’t wait!) Also a free event, but if you don’t already support Jenkins, consider a small donation.
All of the institutions I named are wonderful, and offer very reasonable memberships. There are many more I didn’t name, these are just some of my favorites.
The holidays are hard for people even when you aren’t a holidays-are-hard-person. You always want them to be perfect, yet they rarely are at all. It’s human nature and accepting we don’t live in a Hallmark movie set.
Thanksgiving is the seasonal kick-off to weeks of we want familial perfection. Only have you met a perfect family? I haven’t.
The holidays are romanticized and commercialized to such an extent that we think we have to be perfect every year or the world might end as we know it. I am no exception.
Last Thanksgiving was the year of the turkey that would not cook. My husband wanted to put it in the oven at one time, and me another. In the end he had his time choice and then it was like a comedy of errors courtesy of the turkey gods. We ate late, and had turkey consternation.
For a 10-13 lb. turkey (weight with giblets): Bake in a 350° oven for 1 1/2-2 1/4 hr.
For a 14-23 lb. turkey (weight with giblets): Bake in a 325° oven for 2-3 hr.
For a 24-27 lb. turkey (weight with giblets): Bake in a 325° oven for 3-3 3/4 hr.
For a 28-30 lb turkey (weight with giblets): Bake in a 325° oven for 3 1/2-4 1/2 hr.
Times are for unstuffed birds. A stuffed bird may cook at the same rate as an unstuffed one; however, be prepared to allow 30 to 50 minutes longer. While turkeys take about the same time to roast in regular and convection heat, a convection oven does a better job of browning the bird all over.
This year we are starting the turkey earlier and I think I am doing the dressing outside of the turkey. This year, I also need help since I have managed to tear the meniscus in my other knee. When I tore my meniscus in the other knee a couple of years ago, my meniscus waited until well after the holidays.
Translation? I will also need more help at Christmas and I won’t be cooking dinner for around 14 people. Maybe having that break is a good thing, but I actually like doing Christmas dinner. Cooking for people at Christmas is one of my favorite presents to give.
This also means I will be decorating differently. And more simply. It might kill me. No not really, but my inner Christmas elf might revolt. Sigh…and fewer kinds of Christmas cookies will be baked too.
Asking for help and knowing you need help is not the easiest realization. Again, I am definitely no exception. But I guess when you need it, it’s a lesson in working together and trust. Admitting I will need some help this time around for the holidays is maddening. Trust me. There is so much to do.
The other thing about the holidays is giving back. How do you give back? Do you volunteer at a shelter? Cook meals for the less fortunate? Donate to a toy drive? I don’t think it matters what or how much you do as long as you pay it forward in some small way. And it doesn’t have to be publicized for thousands of atta’ boys or atta’ girls, just do it to pay the magic in this season forward.
And back to the Hallmark movie versions of the holidays. I love my Hallmark Christmas movies, don’t misunderstand me. But it’s a little unrealistic. From the apartments and homes that 20-something characters have (in places like New York City and Chicago no less!), to the always perfect hair, perfect coupling up and don’t forget Hallmark movie characters don’t have sex ever, or show too much boob in their Christmas party dresses…it’s like life in a snow globe.
A delightful time warp bubble that transports us for a while from everyday life. But hey now, everyday life is not so bad, flaws and all. And we all have to acknowledge and accept as nice as those saccharine sweet made for TV holiday moments are, do we really want to trade that for our own realities? I mean sure it would be especially nice if the kitchen cleaned up itself magically after holiday meals, but as for the rest of it? Maybe let it inspire a tablescape or other decorations, but don’t place unrealistic expectations on yourself. I know because somehow I do it every year. Holiday Perfectionists Anonymous come on down!
This year I aim to be a little different. It might kill me, but I will try. Meanwhile, I will be sure to look for all the perfect holiday tableaux as seen on social media, knowing full well reality might be a lot different.
Don’t Botox your holiday social media. It’s actually o.k. to be less than perfect, look less than perfect. And I have to laugh because any time I personally express a less than perfect social media persona it starts.
“Are you ok?”
“Did you see what she posted?”
Lord love a duck, it’s quite all right to be human. Have a bad day occasionally. My plastic surgeon and professional stylists tribe are on vacay, ok? Sometimes I do not have a village, and it’s just me not wearing make-up…. (a cardinal sin in the eyes of my mother who told us never to go to the grocery store without lipstick years ago.)
And the holiday race for more social media “friends”? Oh resist. The real ones are so much better. Truth. I have started turning people down and culling the herd. I don’t need neighbors of people I barely know as friends and if I did not like you in high school and you didn’t like me, well not to be mean but why do I need to be part of your people collection?
And that is what I always find fascinating about social media. The fakeness of it. Especially when you know it’s so far removed from the truth. And that fakeness factor increases around the holidays because so many people have a hard time for a multitude of reasons.
So I guess I am saying slow down and appreciate what we have in this world. You don’t have to fake it until you make it. You can admit you love the holidays knowing it might have a couple of flaws.
Love the holidays for what they are. Don’t resent them for what they aren’t.
And pay it forward.
Enjoy the magic of the season. It’s totally there when you stop stressing over perfection. Have you seen my lipstick? I need to go to the grocery store…..
This is something that breaks your heart. A child in pain. And NO, before everyone goes all FREAKY on me, this note is NOT from our area. A friend of mine who lives out of state found this while walking her dog this morning.
She did the right thing and reported it, although there was nothing really that could be done as the note was anonymous.
Kids face a lot of new pressures caused by things like cyber harassment and cyber bullying as a result of social media. Kids also face the same pressures that we did as children, except I think it’s worse today, again because of the social media amplification.
However, a lot of children face pressures because of plain old ordinary bullying because schools and parents do not act. I have heard tales of situations where parents of kids who bully, are themselves bullies. There ARE a lot of schools in this area with bullying problems.
I also believe the anger and vitriol in this country is also affecting our kids. It is 2019 and it still feels like, even as an adult, that it is not o.k. to be different.
We can’t wrap our kids in bubble wrap and put them away until they are adults. We have to let them within reason have their own experiences, and solve their own problems as that is part of growing up. But sometimes we forget kids don’t have adult coping mechanisms, heck I know plenty of adults who don’t have adult coping mechanisms.
This post I saw today gave me pause. I do not pretend to be perfect or above reproach.
So I am paying it forward. Our kids are our future.
Mary Cortes from Cramer Hill, Camden, NJ on left with another Cramer Hill resident on the right at the Little Pink House Screening in Philadelphia with the Institute for Justice.
The Institute for Justice in Washington, DC was kind enough to sponsor an event reuniting a lot of groups who had fought eminent domain for private gain. I was so happy to reunite with my original Save Ardmore Coalition friends and to see Mary Cortes and some of the Cramer Hill, Camden folks. I was thrilled to spend time with Scott Bullock, who is now President of the Institute for Justice and Susette Kelo, about whom the movie is about. I had met and spent time with Susette Kelo when she was going to the United States Supreme Court and after.
Little Pink House coming to town brought back a lot of memories. Eminent domain should be a four letter word. Here is a re-cap of what the movie is about:
Based on a true story, Little Pink House is about a small-town paramedic named Susette Kelo leaves a bad marriage, and starts over in a new town. She buys a rundown cottage with a gorgeous water view. She fixes it up and paints it pink. Then she discovers powerful politicians want to bulldoze her blue-collar neighborhood for the benefit of a multi-billion dollar corporation.
With the help of a young lawyer named Scott Bullock, Susette emerges as the reluctant leader of her neighbors in an epic battle that goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, inspires a nation, and helps millions of Americans protect their homes.
My dear friend Sherry Tillman (left) with Susette Kelo on Sunday at the Little Pink House screening.
Little Pink House could happen to any of us. And as I sat through the movie I was struck again by the B.S. spouted by politicians salivating and greedy for development (it’s universally sleazy.) How they were doing this for the residents and how it would be so wonderful….and what did they do? They stole people’s homes, bulldozed them, and handed it all on a silver platter to Pfizer (it really makes you despise big B.S. development plans all over again after seeing this movie.)
In 2009, Pfizer left New London. Yes, left. People’s lives and homes were destroyed for them. These were every day working and middle class people. The heart of their community was bulldozed into oblivion. Stolen by eminent domain for private gain.
Here is a New York Times article about Pfizer’s final bad act in this play of misery and human suffering:
From the edge of the Thames River in New London, Conn., Michael Cristofaro surveyed the empty acres where his parents’ neighborhood had stood, before it became the crux of an epic battle over eminent domain.
“Look what they did,” Mr. Cristofaro said on Thursday. “They stole our home for economic development. It was all for Pfizer, and now they get up and walk away.”
That sentiment has been echoing around New London since Monday, when Pfizer, the giant drug company, announced it would leave the city just eight years after its arrival led to a debate about urban redevelopment that rumbled through the United States Supreme Court, and reset the boundaries for governments to seize private land for commercial use.
Pfizer said it would pull 1,400 jobs out of New London within two years and move most of them a few miles away to a campus it owns in Groton, Conn., as a cost-cutting measure. It would leave behind the city’s biggest office complex and an adjacent swath of barren land that was cleared of dozens of homes to make room for a hotel, stores and condominiums that were never built.
The announcement stirred up resentment and bitterness among some local residents. They see Pfizer as a corporate carpetbagger that took public money, in the form of big tax breaks, and now wants to run.
In Chester County, many of you should remember the case of Coatesville trying to steal the Saha farm for a golf course and whatnot. That was eminent domain for private gain and I saw the Sahas often during the time we were fighting eminent domain in Ardmore. Dick and Nancy Saha were wonderful folks. I have not run into them since moving to Chester County, and hope someday our paths will cross again.
Here are a couple of articles that will refresh your memory on the Saha case:
During the two-hour hearing, much of the testimony referred to the battle between Dick and Nancy Saha and the city of Coatesville.
Prior to the hearing, Sen. Jim Gerlach, R-44th of East Brandywine, who is chairman of the committee, said he wants to establish whether one municipality can condemn land in another municipality without that municipality’s approval and whether eminent domain can be used for nontraditional uses such as for recreation centers.
The testimony which began with Greg Lownes, the nephew of Dick and Nancy Saha….
“We are not against the revitalization of Coatesville. What Coatesville does with their property, we don’t care. Dick (Saha) has a business in Coatesville. He has a vested interest. But we object to the city taking the Saha’s land for a for-profit business,” Lownes said.
In his testimony, Lownes said he would like laws to be passed that would not allow one municipality to condemn land in another municipality without that municipality’s approval.
The Sahas beat city hall quite literally. But is was a long, ugly, drawn out legal battle.
Also note the 2013 article in the Daily Times where the land acquired that the Saha land was supposed to be added to. The land was being auctioned off. Here is the article from then:
The Saha family – Delaware County natives – rocketed into the headlines a decade ago when they dug in to fight a municipal land grab in an eminent domain case that sparked national headlines.
The Sahas’ struggle with the City of Coatesville centered over the city’s desire to use a part of their family farm for a golf course development.
The Sahas, who came to Chester County from Drexel Hill, decided to fight City Hall. And they won.
They stopped the golf course plan. Elected officials from Coatesville pushing the project were ousted by voters. The city administration was replaced.
An auction Tuesday hopes to dispose of the property surrounding the Saha tract that were acquired in efforts to build the golf course and related projects.
A city property in Valley township is 22.5 acres of land with old stone farm home and is zoned as conservation land. The property is at 175 South Mount Airy Road. The property, officials said, is ideal for agricultural uses.
The city property in West Brandywine township is 63.5 acres of vacant land that is zoned as agricultural and residential land. The property is located off North Manor Road (Route 82).
Dick and Nancy Saha moved to their farm on Mount Airy Road in 1971. They said they worked hard for 15 years to make their home live able and added heating and plumbing. They raised five children on the farm.
In April 1999 they said city officials knocked on their door with legal papers for the intention to take their 38 acre farm land through eminent domain. For the six years that followed, the Sahas said their fight against the city cost them more than $300,000 in legal fees.
There are stories like the Sahas’ from coast to coast. Eminent domain for private gain has been addressed on a state level in many states, but not on a federal level.
Eminent Domain for private gain is legal stealing, economic segregation, and more often than not, class warfare. When you receive a notice of a taking, your world turns inside out, not just upside down. At first you feel like you are in the battle completely and utterly alone. But you aren’t alone. There are a lot of us out there.
I didn’t set out in life to become a grassroots activist on any level, but eminent domain is an issue that, as an American, I found I simply could not ignore. I loved Ardmore, where eminent domain threatened a block of small businesses in a local historic business district. Ardmore to me was a quintessential old fashioned main street-oriented town. It represents the bygone days of small town America.
The township (Lower Merion) had declared this block “blighted,” and it intended to acquire these properties in a certified historic district for inclusion in a mixed-use development project to be owned by a private party.
One of the first lessons we learned as SAC was that when you are fighting a battle like this, you become an instant pariah. SAC next contacted the Institute for Justice and newly formed Castle Coalition, who gave us a crash course in grassroots activism.
We held rallies, protests and community meetings. We wrote letters to the newspapers until we had writer’s cramp. We took every opportunity to speak at public meetings. We lobbied government officials on a state and national level.
In November 2005, we watched as five new faces against eminent domain were elected to the 14-member Board of Commissioners.
During this whole time before and after the election, we had the good fortune to finally get some national and even international media publicity. We networked further with other eminent domain fighting citizens locally and nationally. Members also gave testimony before both the Pennsylvania Senate and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. We submitted written testimony to the U.S. Congress and became part of the record on HR 4128.
In March 2006, the five new commissioners who came to office promising to end the specter of eminent domain did just that: they proposed and passed a resolution to end eminent domain. The businesses were free.
I will not lie. It was an exhausting process fighting eminent domain. I went to so many municipal and other meetings during this time, that even today I have a hard time going to meetings.
We won our battle in Ardmore and the Sahas won in Coatesville, and Long Branch, NJ won….because Susette Kelo lost the U.S. Supreme Court Case by one vote. This of course also demonstrates what happens when administrations stack the United States Supreme Court, doesn’t it?
Seeing this movie on Sunday, and listening to Scott Bullock and Susette Kelo again, brought all of this back. Susette and I spoke before and after the movie and I said I thought she was so brave and amazing to keep telling her story but I imagined it was incredibly hard some days to sit through showings of this beautiful film. She said it was.
📌None of this is Angela Murray’s fault. Not the giant crane that hovers over the Cricket Avenue parking lot, its American flag billowing in the breeze. Not the 110 apartments rising from a giant hole in the ground. Not the upheaval for residents and business owners alike. Not the possible traffic congestion. None of it.
“People have blamed me,” says Murray, who’s been Lower Merion Township’s assistant director of building and planning for 16 years. “But I think it meets a need that was pressing.”….The allocated state money was supposed to go for the station, but when Amtrak balked at allowing apartments so close to its tracks, the plan—which included replacing some buildings along Lancaster Avenue south of the station—lost momentum. Meanwhile, the Save Ardmore folks filed lawsuits and protested the idea mightily. “Amtrak didn’t want people living so close to the rail line because it didn’t think it would be safe,” Lower Merion’s Murray says. “They were concerned about people throwing things out of windows onto the track.”📌
So….this is quite the piece in favor of Ardmore development. I don’t know who the writer is but my, he was sure led by the nose down a primrose development path.
I also take issue with the latest attempt at glossing over eminent domain in Ardmore. But then I also do not quite understand the article love affair with Angela Murray of Lower Merion Township, but perhaps she had a hand in the placement of the article?
Lower Merion Township can not unring the bells of the past.
Back in the day, as a member of the ORIGINAL Save Ardmore Coalition, Ms. Murray was awful to us. She was not nice, she was perennially unpleasant. However she wasn’t alone. You were either with them or against them. If you were against them, well then you were the enemy.
Those of us who reunited from the original Save Ardmore Coalition on Sunday remember what it was like. It was at times, awful.
But also on Sunday we realized what we were a part of with Susette and all of the other folks who the Institute for Justice helped back then.
Also see the huge interview on Megyn Kelly on Today. 44 states changed their eminent domain laws as a result of the Kelo Case. So many people’s lives have been destroyed by eminent domain. Real people. Nothing in the abstract. It almost happened to my friends in Ardmore.
A landmark Supreme Court case over eminent domain and people’s right to private property is back in the headlines with the new movie “Little Pink House.” It tells the story of the Fort Trumbull neighborhood in New London, which was the scene of an epic struggle between a municipality that wanted to take property for the purpose of economic development, and the homeowners who resisted every step of the way….“You go to work every day, you pay your bills, you’re a taxpayer, you’re a law-abiding citizen, you keep your yard clean, grow your vegetables in your little garden, raise your family — and to have this happen to people who were just trying to be simple people and live their lives was really wrong,” said Kelo in a recent interview with Connecticut Public Radio.
If you are interested in learning more about what the Institute for Justice does, check out their website. IJ.org . Also check out the Little Pink House website to find our where the movie is playing or if you can get a screening where you live.
These past few years my blog has been my journey through my now not so new home county, Chester County, Pennsylvania . It’s also been whatever I feel like writing about at the time – what moves me, inspires me, what I want to share.
I have been a blogger for years, but out here I don’t think there are many people like myself who blog just because they want to write. So I am an acquired taste to many. I am also not a monetized blog, which is a rare species sometimes these days. With the blogging sometimes over the past few years I have had some incredibly negative experiences even with all the amazing and heartwarming and positive experiences of writing. As a result it may take me a few days when someone writes to my blog and is truly complementary.
So what I’m about to tell you is basically my O. Henry story for Thanksgiving 2017. (And as a related aside, if you have never read O.Henry you should. His stories are timeless and endure through the ages.)
Recently, someone wrote to me via my blog to tell me how much he enjoyed what I wrote about. And this gentleman, Chris, has really read what I’ve written. It always leaves me slightly in awe when I realize this because I write for myself. I enjoy the act of writing and expressing myself, it’s my art so to speak. And sometimes (sadly) along with the pleasant commentary , I get really ugly comments about my blog; it’s not always happy thoughts. That is the sad reality of the world we live in.
And this nice man also offered me an amaryllis bulb. And for a gardener like myself, there’s nothing better this time of year than paper whites and Amaryllis. I happen to love Amaryllis and the weird spring and fall made mincemeat out of my remaining Amaryllis bulbs and I actually didn’t have one started for Christmas. Someone from DutchGrown, a bulb grower and supplier out of West Chester had given him a couple of bulbs, and he thought enough of me a total stranger and fellow gardener, to offer me one. (And now I know about another bulb grower which is Chester County local too!)
2017 has been a crazy year for me being a blogger, so I showed the note to my husband, and he said that there is enough good on this earth that we can still take people at their word, even strangers. So today I sent a note back and said I would love to have an Amaryllis bulb and say hello.
I have to tell you I really didn’t expect him to come by today because it is Thanksgiving and he has a family, but he did. Sadly, I had hopped into the shower to get ready for family coming here for Thanksgiving. So he and my husband met instead. And now we have a new friend, well met.
There is that phrase about the kindness of strangers, and it definitely proves itself true here in this situation. And once again my travels through Chester county and my blog have introduced us to get another person we normally would not have met.
Chris, Happy Thanksgiving. This post is for you. Thank you for the beautiful bulb and reminding us what is important in this life. It is a true O.Henry moment.
Happy Thanksgiving dear readers and pay it forward this holiday season. Believe.
This is Cathy Costello. I never knew she existed until yesterday. She showed up on one of those crazy Oklahoma Senior Follies/ Ms. Senior Oklahoma pageant emails I have been trying to get off the mailing list of for over a decade (It started out as pageant emails for Ms. Senior Oklahoma pageants and then morphed into Senior Follies in Oklahoma emails)
Over the weekend I started getting Oklahoma Senior Follies emails again, and I shot off an email to the entire un-BCC’d mailing list. And yes I was QUITE testy…I have been trying to get off these email lists I never signed up for for over a decade. I have found it maddening (right or wrong) that I can’t get off these e-mail lists.
I do not even have any friends or family in Oklahoma, I just ended up on these e-mail list and chains. And for over a decade it has been this thing that (again right or wrong) just irritated the snot out of me – it didn’t matter if I was polite or miserable, I could not get off these e-mail lists. Even by blocking many of the senders e-mail addresses I could not stop the flow of misdirected e-mails.
Anyway, this lady Cathy Costello replied to me by accident in response to my cranky gram (a get-me-the-hell-off-this-email-list-it-has-been-over-a-decade message), and after I climbed off the ceiling from being Ms. Cranky Pants we swapped a couple of e-mails and she told me her story. Her husband Mark, who had been the Labor Commissioner of the State of Oklahoma was stabbed (and subsequently died) by a young man suffering from schizophrenia on a psychotic break. The young man was one of their children. Her son. Reading her words was almost surreal and put life right back into perspective in as much as what is truly important. (As in shut my mouth and quit complaining is what I said to myself)
It never ceases to amaze me how people who are total strangers to one and other can relate to each other for even a moment in time, or in a misdirected email. Crazy as it sounds, this Cathy is the kind of person anyone would like to have as a friend.
Six degrees of separation – it’s crazy the way life and fate connect you to people for even a few moments or a few hours.
I think Cathy’s voice is a good one to hear, so I hope you take the time for her video, and more importantly her message. She is true grace in the face of unbelievable loss and tragedy so I am paying it forward.
Mental illness touches so many. I have had friends affected by it over the years, and I have friends who have had family members affected by it for years. One of my closest and best friends is a mental health social worker in another state – she has been the help and advocate for so many over the years. And I can’t help but also think about the teenagers lost to depression and suicide in this area over the past few years, as well.
A chance conversation between two strangers brings a homeless man off the street
Updated: APRIL 15, 2017 — 9:00 AM EDT
Jonathan Sweet knows that Jesus loves him. But until he met Michelle McHugh, he wasn’t sure anyone else did.
“I had almost given up on humanity,” says Sweet, 52, a single, childless Havertown native who was homeless for seven years until a chance meeting with McHugh changed his fortunes. “Not every homeless person is a criminal or an addict. But people treat you like you’re a second-class citizen. It gets you down.”….Last December, he and McHugh were chatting at the 69th Street Transportation Center in Upper Darby. McHugh, who lives in Havertown, was waiting for a train to Philly, where she works as associate director of Drexel University’s television management program….Christmas was approaching. McHugh asked Sweet where he’d spend the day.
“Over there,” he answered, pointing to a forested area within walking distance of the neighborhood where McHugh lives with her husband, Jim, and their preschool son, Nolan.
“I was shocked,” says McHugh, 43. “While my family was warm inside a nice house, Jon was living in the woods behind us. It was heart-wrenching.”…..On Holy Thursday, Sweet moved into his new home, which is fully furnished thanks to donations and the enthusiastic services of Havertown interior designer Liz MacDonald (who even managed to find a sofa in purple, Jon’s favorite color).
This is but a brief excerpt of the article. The article is so truly beautiful and moving that I hope everyone who reads this post, will read this article.
You see, I am lucky enough to call Michelle McHugh a friend.
Michelle and I met many years ago through our dear mutual friend Sherry Tillman. Sherry, the proprietoress of Ardmore, PA’s Past*Present*Future is also the founder of First Friday Main Line.
We were planning a non-profit special event to benefit First Friday Main Line called “Foodapalooza” and Sherry tossed Michelle and I and our cameras together one Saturday to photograph chefs and local restaurants. Michelle and I had been introduced, but this was what really brought us together as friends. That and Sherry’s uncanny ability to share her friends and bring more people together. This was in 2009.
I still love the photos I took that afternoon as I felt they were inspired by the company.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Michelle (who lives with MS) was one of my cheerleaders. Her positivity was contagious and she was one of my friends who buoyed me through quite the life challenge. She always just checked in. Totally casual, no big deal, how are you doing, you’ve got this.
In 2012 when she and her husband welcomed their miracle baby, I was one of the ones who could cheer her on. She is an example of unwavering faith and goodness.
So am I surprised that my friend Michelle took on this project? No, although project is the wrong word because her efforts are so indicative of her heart and soul.
Michelle is a kind and loving and humble person and she deserves the accolades and a beautiful article by Ronnie Polaneczky.
In the world we live in, it’s easy to tear people down. What’s hard and shouldn’t be, is paying it forward just because it’s the right thing to do.
On the holy weekend that is Easter is the perfect time to hear the story of Jon Sweet and his friend, who is also my friend, Michelle McHugh.
Sometimes it is hard to believe in the goodness of others, but this is such a reminder of why we just have to believe. It is also a reminder that it’s the right thing to pay it forward, and that doing good and doing the right thing has rewards more precious than money.
This is also a story of love and friendship and the many forms they both take.
Yes January 1 definitely means winter things, so today I have been applying new patches to an old quilt.
How do I make an American quilt? Well truthfully I do not because I am not truly a quilter. Quilting is an amazing folk art form. I have taught myself how to patch and restore old and vintage quilts.
I have written before about my love of old and vintage quilts and that I use them in my home. Quilts are a happy thing to me.
That is a lot of what I have been doing this weekend. Not very exciting to New Year’s Eve party enthusiasts, but I have never been a big New Year’s Eve person. So yesterday, I patched a really cool depression era lap quilt that was made out of old wool suits. It will be a quilt to snuggle up with and watch TV.
You could say finishing the three quilts I have come across in various stages of now last year is my first New Year’s resolution and one I can keep!
It’s 2017. Let’s make the best of it. Make it your year to be better. We can’t control what others do, we can only control our own actions.
Pay it forward. Do something nice – you know like helping the family made homeless by the Frazer Christmas fire next to the WaWa?
Or attend municipal meetings where you live and stand up and be counted. Tell officials how you want your community to look and stop allowing developers to do the dictating. Pick a township and pick a developer. In January I am told Bishop Tube in East Whiteland will go to zoning.
If you live in East Whiteland bear in mind what has now happened in Lower Merion with the Rockhill Road site. Basically Lower Merion Township officials spent years jumping through hoops at the expense of residents to benefit the developer and many years later a shovel has never hit the ground and a decrepit site is still decrepit and now for sale. Same developer as for Bishop Tube site – O’Neill.
Other items up in January would be yes more meetings in Westtown over Crebilly. Meetings are subject to change so if you live in Westtown, keep an eye on township agendas and thus far please mark your calendars for the upcoming January Planning Commission meeting dates:
Tuesday, 1/10, 6:30 Rustin High School Auditorium
Tuesday, 1/24, 6:30 Rustin High School Auditorium
There is a chance locations may be changed. Mindy Rhodes and others will keep you posted or (which I wholeheartedly suggest) you can sign up for direct notifications from Westtown Township by clicking on ‘Get Email Alerts’ at the top of the website: westtownpa.org.
Also, Chris Patriarca, Township Planning and Zoning Officer of Westtown Township, encourages people to reach out to him directly with questions: (610)692-1930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
And remember there are all sorts of communities suffering from Toll Brothers plans. Take a drive down Little Conestoga Road in Upper Uwchlan. Google the debacle down on Jewelers Row in Philadelphia.
Politics as in national politics? Not going there. Look we need to change the tone in this country, so yes we need to be more active, but the ugliness has gotten us all what? Nothing but more ugliness.
This New Year’s I am grateful. Grateful for my friends and family and to still be in the breast cancer survivor category.
The gratitude jar is a private reminder to you. It’s a sweet and simple thing. I read my year of thoughts and have already added to my jar for 2017.
Creating the jar isn’t rocket science, but the home craftiness of creating the jar isn’t really what the jar is about. If you hang with the jar throughout the year you will find it is not just a bit of ribbon, lace, a jar, labels and itty bitty bits of paper.
Yes, something so simple can teach life lessons.
You don’t have to be perfect. Don’t write something for your jar just to fill it up with little slips of paper. Every once in a while (and how frequent is up to you), sit down for a moment and pause. Let the words come to you. They will. On good days and not such good days.
Some empty their jar each New Year’s Eve. I don’t. I let the little thoughts accumulate. I don’t put something in my jar daily, so it’s fine.
Happy 2017! Wishing all my readers a happy and healthy 2017.