Sunday, December 7, 2014


One of the great pleasures in this life is thanking people who made an impact on you. Teachers, relations, friends, strangers, whoever. Sometimes it’s a small action or just the right word at the right moment, sometimes an ongoing blessing. But none of us could step forward on our path without the aid of these seen—and also unseen— helpers. Sometimes the help is unintended, just a pebble thrown into a pond that creates unexpected ripples. How good it feels to let someone know, even 40 years later, that they changed your life.

I’m sad to say I just missed such a moment. I’ve long thought about trying to find the couple who first donated the Orff instruments to The San Francisco School back in 1974, a pebble in a pond that rippled into my first—and only— job as a music teacher in a school. An old school colleague just notified me that he saw an obituary for Thaddeus Kusmierski and wondered if this was indeed the same person and having just read it, it indeed is. He just passed away at 81 years old. And his wife Carol is referred to in the obituary as his first wife and my hopes are that she is still with us and I can find her (I’ve set that process in motion). They were both on my mind recently as I acknowledged and thanked them in a small talk I gave on the occasion of beginning my 40th year at school. Below is a photo of me teaching that first year (1975) with Thaddeus sitting on the side and watching. (And yes, that is a hole in my T-shirt!)

It reminded me of other missed opportunities. My sister just told me that my cousin Susan passed away yesterday. I found out a month ago that she was ill with cancer and always intended to call and to my shame and regret, didn’t. So all I can do now is thank her for her lively spirit, her handwritten Christmas cards all the way up to last year and the affection we both seemed to feel for each other even though she was some ten years older. I’m sorry, Susan and I hope you can hear this message now.

Who else do I have to thank? Well, the list is long and I hope I have properly thanked most of them. But still, I would like to meet Jim and Karen Bold in Nether Poppleton outside of York and thank them for picking Karen and I up hitchhiking and bringing us to their home for three days back in 1978. I’d like to thank the man in Bali who drove Karen back to our homestay on his motorcycle when the buses stopped running and then came back and got me. I’d like to thank the woman in Japan who saw us eating lunch and came across the street with two milk bottles filled with green tea and gestured for us to enjoy. (From that same trip in 1979). You get the idea.

Friends, don’t put off thanks. I regret it every time I do.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Yes. I agree. Recently, I tried to find an old friend as we had both moved to new addresses. Rita was 30+ years older than me and one of the best people on earth. When I married and moved to a new area and a new job, she (and her husband, Sherm) showed my husband and I around town. They showed us where the grocery stores were and how to get to the nearest Borders. Rita and I became fast friends, sharing our love of music and books. We had coffee together every Wednesday night for 3 years, never missing our "date," until we moved again. She helped me through a rough time. I loved her. We lost touch because life gets busy and then she moved, and I moved AGAIN, then Sherm died and she moved in with her daughter somewhere else. You get the picture. I tried in vain to track her down this past June only to find out she had just passed away. I'm still mourning. I'm so sorry I didn't try harder and sooner. I think many of us have this experience so I second your recommendation. Say it now. Get in touch with those who have touched your life now. I have two women who supported me early in my teaching career and they are on my list of "Things to do." I'm going to make every effort to see them in the next month.

    THANKS, Doug, for this post and for your writings and music.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.