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As my book, “Batting Rocks Over the Barn — An Iowa Farm Boy’s Odyssey,” progresses through its launch and marketing, I am learning a great deal about what is needed and what is expected to ensure it reaches as wide an audience as possible.
It was published May 30 and was quickly available on line through Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com for purchase as hard-cover and soft-cover, as well as e-books via Kindle and Nook. The book was published through Xlibris, a division of Penguin Books and Random House. It is essentially my third book project. In 2000, I was the primary writer of a 273-book “Hand-in-Hand – 50 Years Together,” the history of University Presbyterian Church in Tempe. In 2012, I produced a 181,000-word, 306-page book, “The Club of Clubs – The 60-Year History of the Kiwanis Club of Tempe.” Over the years, I have produced a number of booklets for various projects, including a 70-page book for our 40th high school class reunion and a 60-page booklet for our 50th reunion in 2014.
“Batting Rocks Over the Barn” consists of 72 essays I largely composed during the 1970s as newspaper farm columns under the weekly column title, “Rural at Random.” Those I chose and reworked were largely glimpses into what farm life was like for a kid growing up in Grundy County, Iowa, in the 1950s and 1960s. (www.battingrocksoverthebarn.com)
So far, there have been three book reviewing services that rendered comments. All of them were heartening and accurately captured what I was trying to accomplished. One suggested I did not spend much time on people and their character. Here are the three reviews:
FORWARD CLARION REVIEW
AUTOBIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Batting Rocks over the Barn: An Iowa Farm Boy’s Odyssey
Five Stars (out of Five)
Time is well spent within the pages of Griffiths’s home run memoir, launching back to a place where imagination was ever-present.
If Lawn Griffiths’s memoir, Batting Rocks Over the Barn: An Iowa Farm Boy’s Odyssey , was a dish, it would be comfort food: a baked potato with melted butter, meatloaf, chicken soup, or any other kind of nourishment that feeds a larger hunger. In these high-tech, fast-paced times, Griffiths’s recollections unfold like a warm blanket fresh out of the dryer.
As the title suggests, Griffiths grew up on his family’s farm in Iowa, a fertile setting ideal for cultivating coming-of-age wisdom. The fact that Griffiths makes use of the word “odyssey” in his title is neither accident, nor mistake. His well-crafted narrative takes root in early childhood and stretches past his homecoming during his freshman year of college at Iowa State University.
What lies between are well-rendered recollections presented in a thematic structure that is narrated by a man who has had time to reflect on their value and their influence over his life.
And what of the title? In an illustrative short segment, Griffiths declares, “No one has batted more stones over the top of the barn than I have.” It’s a lovely assertion, but it is also one that begs an unfortunate question, whose answer is less than satisfying. Sadly, most of us have likely never seen such an activity, nor can remember the last time we saw kids playing a pickup game of stickball, kick the can, or any other game that does not require a screen.
Unlike a few phrases in this review, the author manages to dodge any clichés in his narrative, including one potential trap at the memoir’s conclusion. Were it not for Griffiths’s skills as a writer, he might have blundered when it came to tackling the issue of coming home and what that means after one has been away for a while. When it seems that Griffiths, remembering his first visit home from college, might remind us that, in fact, “you can never go home,” instead he nails a keen observation: “Despite the estrangement I felt so long ago coming back from college for high school homecoming, I came to realize the changes were taking place in me, and I had moved on.”
Time is well spent within the pages of Griffiths’s home run memoir, launching back to a place where imagination was ever-present.
A debut collection of vignettes about the author’s childhood on an Iowa farm.
Between 1900 and 1990, the number of Americans who lived on family farms declined from 42 percent of the population to less than 2 percent. Newspaper reporter Griffiths grew up on such a farm near Parkersburg, Iowa, in the 1950s and ’60s, and this is an affectionate, if impersonal, elegy for a vanishing way of life. “Rural America,” he notes, “has been as transformed by science and technology as other sectors of our nation.” Griffiths lovingly details almost every aspect of the dairy farming, corn growing, and hog raising to which he was exposed, starting at age 4 when he rode a cultivator plowing through a cornfield. “My father believed all children had work potential, no matter how young they were,” he recalls. “Play was okay for town kids, he’d say, but country youth had to learn responsibility.” Griffiths’ responsibilities included everything from filling silos with corn to spraying cows and protecting them from flies to transplanting “protesting pullets” from brooder houses to wire cages: “Like chicken thieves, we stole [in] just after darkness and began the resettlement project.” The author’s collage of country life includes recollections of the schoolhouse he attended in second grade—“Older boys used to capture mice in traps and dangle the partly paralyzed rodents in the faces of girls”—and the local drugstore, where “the stools and booths around the soda fountain were filled with teenagers sipping green rivers and cherry cokes.” Still, this is a somewhat one-dimensional piece of Americana because he reveals so little about the people in his rural world. There is an amusing anecdote about his mother being cornered in an outhouse by an “ill-tempered ram,” but as for her personality, he simply says that she was “practical, unassuming, modest and enduring.” Only the local blacksmith—a “peppery, strong-willed, broad-shouldered and tireless” man who “developed welding into an art”—gets a fleshed-out portrait. Griffiths’ vignettes may have worked for his newspaper columns on farming but, without the human touch, are less effective as a book.
An affectionate but facile look at family farm life.
Batting Rocks Over the Barn: An Iowa Farm Boy’s Odyssey
Xlibris, 136 pages, (paperback) $19.99, 9781503572836
(Reviewed: July, 2015)
An inviting nostalgia permeates this collection of newspapers columns based upon the author’s experiences growing up on an Iowa farm more than 50 years ago. The title alone will resonate with anyone who ever grabbed a flat stick and a handful of rocks and sent those rocks humming over a rooftop for imaginary game-winning home runs.
For eight years in the 1970s, Lawn Griffiths, then farm editor at the Waterloo Daily Courier in Northeast Iowa, penned 400 “Rural at Random” columns. Here, he assembles more than 70 of them to present an affecting, almost historical, portrait of farming.
With 20 milking cows, hogs, and 1,500 hens to help look after, Griffiths, his twin brother and a sister were kept busy with a demanding schedule of daily chores before and after school. But as Griffiths tells these lyrical essays, he still manages to evoke a sense of long, languid Midwest days when life was much slower-paced than today.
Writing with an assured touch and a journalist’s keen eye for detail, he captures the natural rhythm of farming life with his essays based upon the four seasons. He describes, for example, how winter takes over “like a lazy polar bear about to relax on a floating mass of ice, burying us in smothering whiteness” and later only releases its grip reluctantly and deceptively. “Spring will come a half-dozen times now before spring comes.”
Other entries focus on wonderfully obscure topics that many readers have never considered: gates and fences, tractor seats, the mysterious contents of toolboxes, precious farm flashlights, and more. He also writes wistfully about the tiny country school — “Education at the edge of a cornfield” — the death of the local blacksmith and dozens of other intriguing subjects.
This book will charm readers of a certain age—perhaps those upwards of 50—especially if they shared a similar rural childhood; many others will equally enjoy these well-crafted recollections from a bygone era.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.
Pay attention and take notice of auto license plates in Arizona. The surfaces of many have been falling apart – down to the metal. The four mountain peaks, setting (or rising) sun, various cactus and words “Grand Canyon State” have been fading, literally falling apart and disappearing from the landscape on the plates. The license plate numbers/letters and “Arizona” tend to be all that’s left.
Sometimes you see the thin film peeling off and waving in the breeze. With the loss of the sealant over the images, the scenery is wiped out by the blazing, brutal Arizona sun and heat.
These are a generation of older plates produced more than seven years ago, said Ryan Harding, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Transportation. They failed the test with an unfriendly environment.
The plates were stamped (embossed) onto aluminum so the numbers were raised and the art work applied.
The state quit making them and change to a different kind of license.
The plates for more than a half-dozen years have been printed. The numbers, letters and images are printed on aluminum and are flat. Nothing is raised or embossed. In some cases, these even crack and peel and start to deteriorate.
The plates ADOT issues now use a digital plate-making technology. The thermal transfer ribbon process is a printing method in which plate numbers and designs are printed onto a large roll of white reflective vinyl sheeting. Heat is applied to print the images onto the vinyl surface using multiple color ribbons to the desired color or design effect, according to an ADOT web site: http://azdot.gov/media/blog/posts/2012/05/30/take-a-look-at-how-license-plates-are-made
“The machine that does this can print about 1,100 plates onto one roll of vinyl, which, by the way, has an adhesive backing,” the article says. “After the vinyl is printed, it’s rolled up again (by the machine). That roll then heads over to the blanking line that feeds the vinyl through a system that simultaneously peels away the backing to reveal the adhesive while pressing it only a large roll of aluminum substrate sheeting.” The reader might think of it as a “big roll of stickers getting pressed onto some metal.” After that, the sheeting is cut into rectangular plates, boxed up and sent to MVD locations
Plates that have lost their art work entirely gives plates a total sterile look. Arizonans with flaky plates are requested to go to a Motor Vehicle Division center and turn in the plates for new flat, printed ones. It’ll cost $5, Harding said.
As you probably know, our license plates are produced by inmates at the Arizona State Prison at Florence.
Some of us still have the maroon Arizona plates with white lettering from the 1980s. They well reflect light at night and don’t deteriorate. Sometimes we even see another plate still on cars, dating to the 1970s, the orange plate with green numbers and prominent “Grand Canyon State” message.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a preliminary federal statement that said their research leads them to see benefits in circumcision of infants and even suggested intact older male children and adults undergo the procedure. Such nonsense. They should be calling for an end to forced circumcision. The public is invited to respond no later than Jan. 16 to that preliminary document. So far the denunciation of the recommendation is rightfully fierce. A writer is limited to 5,000 characters in such feedback, and I pressed it to the limits. Go to this site to make your comments:
So this is what I wrote to the CDC;
I am astonished and aghast to learn that, in 2014, an institution like yours would actually resort to recommending the back-country, primitive practice of circumcision for infants and adults. Hopefully, this first round is just time for you to come to your senses. Medical ethics don’t embrace circumcision. It is incompatible with modern medical practices, just as female genital mutilation remains outside your tool kit for treatment for what may come to women.
At the center of this issue is NOT health and disease. It is the vulnerable, indefensible male child subjected to permanent genital alteration and cutting for specious reasons, i.e., continuation of a flagging, faltering medical practice that makes billions of dollars because parents are duped and uninformed. We well know that physicians commonly don’t have their own sons cut because they know it is undesirable.
We find it laughable that you try to suggest that so much bacteria and disease lurk under the foreskin, yet the intricate, moist folds of the female genitalia offer a wonderful environment for any of that. How is that humans are able to wash and keep clean other parts of their anatomy, yet you try to suggest they can’t/won’t clean under their foreskins?
The hypocrisy and double standard that make female genital totally off limits for American medical cutting while male circumcision is legal is cruel and absurd. It only survives because the medical field sees profit and won’t acknowledge that the foreskin has a multitude of purposes, not the least of which are sensitivity, protection of the glans, the fullness of the mechanics of sex, maintenance of lubrication and natural bacteria-battling antigens. It also survives because too many parents are woefully uninformed about physiology and the foreskin’s value.
Please salvage your reputation, especially on the landscape of world medicine. The CDC is a laughing stock in the developed world for caving in to the special interests in circumcision and making this tentative recommendation. You are foolish to try to extrapolate from discredited African studies on HIV/AID and circumcision that you have research to justify wide practice of circumcision in America. How is that circumcision has never caught on in, say, Europe, Asia and South America, and males there are surviving well without all the diseases warned against? How is that there is no race of intact men to doctors’ offices to have their foreskins amputated to avoid some phantom disease? Males who have escaped the Gomco clamp can feel relief. Oddly many circumcised men don’t even know they’ve been cut — all to the benefit of the circumcision industry where ignorance well serves their continuation.
Nearly 40 years ago, my wife and I followed our instincts and our research and rejected circumcision when our son was born, even though I had my body rights violated in 1946. Since then our grandsons have been left intact without any problems or issues for anyone. Their bodies, their rights. How difficult is that to fathom? How triumphant we felt as Midwesterners rejecting something so insidious in the folkways of our culture.
How do you explain the rates of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. what with a long tradition of blanket circumcision? Contrast that to a Finland or Denmark or Italy where the practice of circumcision is far more rare and HIV/AIDS rates are lower.
We certainly hope you are not simply picking up on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ 2012 statement that saw value in circumcision. Their research and findings were flawed, not to mention that more than a few members of their committee have backgrounds, vested interests and histories that made them less than free of bias.
The tragedy in all of this is that the APP and CDC wield influence — and that leads to unhealthy and wrong decisions by Americans unwilling or unable to do their own research. Sadly, too often they are expectant parents where just a little knowledge is dangerous.
Should you tragically move forward to make a pro-circumcision recommendation, you are sentencing more generations of innocent young males to lives of incompleteness, altered genitalia, with questions of “what if? What if I had been allowed to remain whole the way God and nature made me? Like that friend who was never cut? And what about the lover, wife, spouse or playmate who knows the difference between an intact and cut penis as far as pleasure and sensitivity? Why should she be denied?
Why do you suppose there are dozens of books on the market touting the value of the foreskin and critical of circumcision? Why are there so many violated men who deeply resent having been circumcised? Botched circumcisions have left them with skin bridges, loss of sensitivity, pain to the body and psyche.
Males resent circumcision. Being whole is paramount.
Please issue a statement for the 21st century that boys and men have a universal right to their foreskins.
Virtually all families must confront trying events that change their lives forever. It took more than a year for us to learn why our grandson, Ezra, was not developing as he should. He lacked eye contact. He had delayed development in motor skills. He made arm flapping motions and moaned routinely. Crawling and eventually walking were slow developing. He did not produce those first sounds and words a baby makes. An early supposition was that he had “Duane’s Syndrome.”
Shortly after his third birthday in the winter of 2011, Ezra was diagnosed with a form of autism, fragile X syndrome. It’s a genetic disease, which is the most common cause of inherited intellectual impairment. It can range from learning disabilities to more severe cognitive or intellectual disabilities. Fragile X syndrome is the most common known cause of autism or autistic-like behaviors. Symptoms also can include characteristic physical and behavioral features and delays in speech and language development.
For a full school year and part of another, I watched Ezra weekdays, including taking him to and from the Chandler campus of Foundation for Blind Children, where he got therapy, while his parents worked. (Ezra is not blind, but early on, he had surgery on the muscles of one eye ball.) After his diagnosis, Ezra got a wonderful variety of therapists, who patiently focused on specific part of his development, including occupational, speech, physical and habilitation. Wonderful help and support. Today at age 6 1/2, Ezra is in first grade in a classroom for special needs children in a public elementary school. In September, he was named “Student of the Month.” He now says some words and seems to understand conversations and instruction. He lags in toilet training, but has the quickest hands on an iPad and iPhone. He has a gentle disposition, stands out with his curly blond hair and has clearly laid out his likes and dislikes.
His parents and we have worked to develop the Fragile X Families of Phoenix chapter of the National Fragile X Foundation. Our chapter seeks to bring together families with children or siblings with the disease, provide support, encouragement and connection to resources.
My wife and I have recently read “Becoming Mrs. Rogers: Learning to Live the Fragile X Way” by Cindi Rogers. Cindi has magnificently and candidly documented the experience of raising two sons with fragile X syndrome, which is the most common form of inherited intellectual impairment and part of the autism spectrum. She and her husband Chris were doubly challenged when their second son, Joe, exhibited the characteristics they had discovered with son, Jake, born two years before in 1989. So little was commonly known about fragile X 25 years ago. The medical community was very much in the dark. The Rogers chose not only to explore what was known, but to improvise and adapt to teach the boys through the terrain of physical, mental and emotional challenges. Each has had very individual issues.
“Becoming Mrs. Rogers: Learning to Live the Fragile X Way” richly captures a Littleton, Colo., couple’s fearless venture into making the lives of Jake and Joe meaningful. (The Neighborhood Publishing, 2014, 288 pages). They have become an inspiration to parents who can see what determined parenting can accomplish.
Our own family has met with, and interacted with, the Rogers as we have learned to give our grandson the therapies, training and love that he needs to cope with fragile X. The book is a guide for maximizing the development of children having the genetic condition. The book takes the reader through the normal experiences of birth and following the boys’ development and then discoveries about their impairments. Besides developmental delays, the boys were in emotional chaos, screaming, scratching, biting and defying instruction. Cindi put her own career aside and they relied on Chris’ plumbing work, later from his own plumbing business.
It is so heartening to read how the Rogers reached out to educators, business operators, neighbors and friends as a team that made so many experiments work. Both boys found jobs and make their way to work and relish their accomplishments. Cindi, who has become a national spokesman and trainer for fragile X, has been successfully giving hope to young parents stunned and feeling helpless with infants diagnosed with fragile X. Her book serves to allay fears and despair, but supplies practical solutions for the hurdles that lie ahead in caring for their children and giving the family some sense of hope. The Rogers’ dedication is timely in the face the rising diagnosis of autism
The book demonstrates that employing creative methods of step-by-step, sequential instructions allay the child’s anxiety and reluctance to go forward. Using many pictographs, photos, video and role-modeling, Cindi and Chris succeeded at breaking resistance and getting the boys to succeed.
Much of the book, with many short chapters, lays out Cindi’s relentless problem-solving instructions for Jake and Joe so that they can negotiate the steps to self-sufficiently — bathing, dressing, preparing meals, and other routines of taking care of themselves. Cindi’s blog continues to tell their story.
In time, the boys have mastered their tasks and serve themselves to be role models for others. The Rogers are now systematically planning their retirement years, full of travel in the RV called “Rocket,” as their sons seek to live separately from them with assistance from others.
We, of course, wonder how Ezra’s years will unfold while his parents, his sister and grandparents are all there to help him, then as events require other care.
It was gratifying on June 23 to be among a selected group of “pioneers” honored at the University of Colorado in Boulder for sustained years of working to end the forced circumcision of boys and girls.
During a “Meet the Pioneers” event, to kick off a three-day gathering on genital autonomy. I was among dozens — living and deceased –who were recognized and remembered. We were largely selected by Marilyn Milos, R.N., of San Anselmo, Calif., founder of the National Organization of Circumcision Information and Resource Centers (NOCIRC). She has led the effort for more than 35 years after taking part in a circumcision as a nurse and being repulsed. Her activism fostered an entire movement that has helped spur a sharp drop of circumcisions in the U.S., the most circumcising of industrialized nations.
Following our introductions with brief PowerPoint recaps of our work, we were given a moment to say why we continue our quest to awaken parents and the medical community to the insanity, torture and unethical practice of cutting foreskins and genitalia of helpless children who would never choose to have their healthy body parts amputated. I was cited for my extensive writings — newspaper columns, blogs, letter-writing and talks — over the decades.
I was the fifth to be recognized. After noting that I was standing before an audience of giants and mentors in the movement, I said this, “I support many worthy causes, but ending the cruel and torturous indignity of genital cutting of helpless, defenseless males is a noble and no-brainer undertaking that first requires awakening the clueless who don’t even recognize circumcision is a human rights issue. Ending the repulsive violation of young males requires our fierce work, legal actions, drawing especially from women’s innate compassion and relentlessly shaming those who perpetuate such hideous attacks on our precious babies, especially for financial gain.”
Some 150 of us from across the world gathered for the 13th International Symposium on Genital Autonomy and Children’s Rights — on the theme, “Whole Bodies, Whole Selves — Activating Social Change.” I had attended the 9th Symposium in Seattle in 2006. There I fostered friendships that were renewed and strengthened in Boulder. A good many are Facebook friends, and seemingly all have outlets to educate, research and rage against the cutting of a body part from a restrained, screaming child feeling betrayed and experiencing his first violence on earth.
I trace my work to 1971 while a graduate student at Northwestern University. I purchased Gore Vidal’s novel, “Myra Breckinridge.” Reading along, I came to chapter 22, a mere five paragraphs. It was an epiphany moment. Here are the first three sentences, “Just as I suspected, seventy-two percent of the male students are circumcised. At Clem’s party, I had been reminded of the promiscuous way in which American doctors circumcise males in childhood, a practice I highly disapprove of, agreeing with that publisher who is forever advertising in the New York Times Book Review a work which proves that circumcision is necessary for only a very few men. For the rest, it constitutes, in the advertiser’s phrase, ‘a rape of the penis.”
Then it goes on, “….Until the Forties , only the upper or educated classes were circumcised in America. The real people were spared this humiliation. But during the affluent postwar years, the operation became standard procedure, making money for doctors as well as allowing the American mother to mutilate her son in order that he might never forget her early power over him. … Myron never forgave Gertrude for her circumcision of him …. What is truly sinister is the fact that with the foreskin’s removal, up to fifty per cent of sensation in the glans penis is reduced … a condition no doubt as pleasing to the puritan Jewish doctor who delights in being able to mutilate the goyim in the same vivid way that his religion (and mother) mutilated him.”
That opened my eyes, but those pre-Internet years offered few sources for further research. Medical books were sparing, so matter-of-fact, so clinical, so uncaring. Each diagram of male genitalia typically showed the glans without a foreskin, as if that was “normal.” Books on circumcision were not to be found in those years. Thankfully, my instincts ensured that when I married and had a son in 1975, he was left intact through my insistence with the doctor and with some rolled eyes from family members. I still remember the heartfelt joy that came from the triumph of defying a mindless, makes-no-sense tradition.
As can be the case in many emerging social movements, I felt relatively alone. Did anyone else care? When I was managing editor of the Tempe (Ariz.) Daily News in 1986, I wrote a column titled “World must be better 100 years from now.” I noted that “though the march of history, we somehow escape from some of the shackles of ignorance, prejudice and foolishness. It often takes whole generations to be dead and buried to rid our world of so much nonsense.” What followed was a bulleted list of things I predicted would be gone. The second was this: “For, in non-religious applications, mutilating baby boys by practicing the primitive child abuse act of circumcision, something long abandoned, if every adopted, in more civilized nations of the Earth.”
In hindsight, I realize I made an exception for religious circumcision, something I cannot condone nearly 30 years later, given the deleterious impact of circumcision on Jews, Muslims and others. My Jewish brothers are leaders in the intactivist movement, and many Jewish families across the world have chosen for genital integrity and wholeness over an ancient tradition. Jewish representation at the symposium was inordinately high.
The movement picked up great steam in the 1980s, with the picketing of hospitals and clinics. NOCIRC chapters were started in many states. The 1st International Symposium on Circumcision was held in Anaheim, Calif., in March 1989 with development and endorsement of a “Declaration,” which opened with the statement, “We recognize the inherent right of all human beings to an intact body. Without religious or racial prejudice, we affirm this basic human right.” Among other statements within it: “Parents and/or guardians do not have the right to consent to the surgical removal or modification of their children’s normal genitalia. … Physicians and other health-care providers have a responsibility to refuse to remove or mutilate normal body parts….”
Those were heady days. Tim Hammond in San Francisco founded the National Organization to Halt the Abuse and Routine Mutiliation of Males (NOHARMM). R. Wayne Griffiths formed the National Organization of Restoring Men to teach cut males techniques to stretch their foreskin remnant into semblance of what was taken away. Nurses for the Rights of the Child formed in Santa Fe, N.M., after nurses at a hospital declared conscientious objection to participating in foreskin cutting and balked at being a party to circumcision. (In 1987, I interviewed one of those nurses in Mesa, Ariz., for a newspaper column, but one of my superiors “spiked” or killed the column, saying the issue was not relevant.) Doctors Opposing Circumcision (DOC) was launched in Seattle by Dr. George Denniston.
In 1996, the late John A. Erickson in Biloxi, Miss., produced a 150-page booklet, “Deeper Into Circumcision: An Invitation to Awareness” in which he swept through the media and literature on circumcision and pulled things together for a timely resource guide. We corresponded, he gave me a copy of his book and spurred me to go further in my work.
In 1949, Joseph Lewis wrote “In the Name of Humanity: Speaking Out Against Circumcision.” Edward Wallerstein’s 1980 book, “Circumcision: An American Health Fallacy” was especially important in giving momentum to the movement. .
It was followed by book after book debunking circumcision: Jim Bigelow’s “The Joy of Uncircumcising!,” Rosemary Romberg’s “Circumcision: The Painful Dilemma,” Dr. Ron Goldman’s “Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma” and “Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective,” Dr. Thomas Ritter and Dr. Denniston’s “Say No to Circumcision: 40 Compelling Reason,” Billy Ray Boyd’s two books, “Circumcision: What It Does” and “Circumcision Exposed: Rethinking A Medical and Cultural Tradition,” Kristen O’Hara’s “Sex As Nature Intended It” (which contrasts the sexual experience for men and women when the male is intact or circumcised.”) Leonard Glick’s exhaustively researched “Marked in Your Flesh: Circumcision from Ancient Judea to Modern America,” which revealed how inconsistent Jews have been at adhering to the ritual through the centuries. Highly respected pediatrician Dr. Paul Fleiss, along with Frederick Hodges, delivered the consummate book in 2002, “What Your Doctor May NOT Tell You About Circumcision: Untold Facts on America’s Most Widely Performed — and Most Unnecessary — Surgery.” (Dr. Fleiss died in late July). The only notable novel on circumcision was “The Measure of His Grief” by Lisa Braver Moss, who spoke at the symposium. Bernhard Schlink’s 2001 novel, “Flights of Love” contains a lengthy, poignant story called the “The Circumcision” in which a German male, an exchange student to the U.S., submits to the pain of adult circumcision for his Jewish girlfriend only to find her oblivious about it.
I just finished reading one of the newest books, “Unspeakable Mutilations — Circumcised Men Speak Out” by New Zealand researcher Lindsay Watson. Fifty men from nine countries individually and candidly tell how their circumcisions were botched or left them with skin tags or left indelible damage to their neural wiring and destroyed their sexual wholeness. They can’t forgive parents, loathe doctors and hospitals and live with distrust. Such independent analysis of their own regrets of being circumcised speak volumes for other males who are bitter or yet unwilling to self-address what was done to them.
The Internet, along with Facebook, has allowed for a vast proliferation of activism to bring an end to circumcision, primarily through education. A multitude of people in their 20s and 30s have taken to Facebook and picket lines to denounce the cutting. Intactamerica.org and Attorney for the Rights of the Child (arclaw.org) are at the forefront of important work.
For three days in Boulder, there were 45 speaking sessions as attorneys, doctors, ethicists, nurses, educators, activists and other professionals from about 15 countries who gave updates on their work. Some predicted circumcision’s end in the nation is in sight. It is helped by the growing European momentum to outlaw circumcision, along with some strategic U.S. lawsuits, better education and younger parents who just get it and choose to end the madness of circumcision.
The cause to end circumcision is wide and deep. Males, like females, deserve the right to their genital autonomy, all the God-given structures that come with life itself.
This letter is being sent to Chris Pegula of Los Angeles, father of three and originator of Diaper Dude America. He failed miserably to accurately address circumcision in his newly published book, “From Dude to Dad.”:
Dear Mr. Pegula,
I recently picked up your book “From Dude to Dad: The Diaper Dude Guide to Pregnancy.” It is a readable and well-thought-out book.
Alas, you are completely ill-informed on circumcision. I was embarrassed to read the woefully constructed three pages dealing with the topic because you put forward the typical tripe that trivializes the role of the foreskin, a valuable structure of male adult sexuality with 16 primary functions and more.
The foreskin is nothing to joke about or to dismiss as some sort of residual skin. It is rich with some 20,000 nerve endings that are taken away in circumcision. Your urinary tract infection (UTI) pretext for circumcision is a particularly weak one because UTI’s are so rare and can be easily treated. It is said in 100 boys, there is typically just one who will have a UTI. Why would we subject 100 boys to circumcision to prevent one boy from getting a UTI, that is easily taken care of in treatment? By the same reasoning, we should cut out the breast buds of all girls because invariably some of them will otherwise get breast cancer.
Circumcision is medically unethical because it is done without informed consent of the victim and it violates the pledge medical professionals take, “First Do No Harm.” Circumcision is painful, even with anesthetic , and when pain-killers wear off, that nasty wound is met with the vicious burn of urine and feces. The child winds up with a ring scar that brands him as circumcised for life. Then comes a glans that is hung out to dry for the rest of his life. (The glans is an internal structure that emerges only for cleaning, urination and sex and is otherwise protected from rubbing and injury by the foreskin with its ridged bands, frenulum, Meissner corpuscles, tiny muscles and so much more). Eventually the male’s partner will experience richer coitus from the gliding action of a foreskin that rolls and unfolds in her vulva, preventing chafing and giving great sensation. Circumcision is penis reduction. Why would any thinking male want that?
You truly exposed yourself with these bizarre statements:
“The question of circumcision is for you and your baby momma to decide and no one else.” Yes, why not let the owner of the penis decide? Why the rush? Maybe it is the impelling pressure of the nurses, doctors and circumcision industry that derive billions of dollars. Did you know hospitals actually sell foreskins to other industries? Did you know Oprah Winfrey promotes a cream that uses the foreskins of newborns to protect women of wrinkles? Doesn’t that sound like peddling in purloined body parts? What boy would grow up to appreciate he lost his foreskin, with all its value, so some dame could apply an expensive cream to her countenance? How perverse that you might be talking to a woman whose face is smeared with the makings of a helpless baby’s prepuce!
Another of your weird comments:
“I will freely admit that seeing my boy get circumcised was the single most disturbing event I have ever witnessed.” Okay, and what about your son meeting the first violence of his life — sexual assault. A stranger chopping his most intimate, gender-identifying structure? His body altered forever to comply with some adults’ false presumption that it would be for his own good, but probably guided by peer/family pressure. You should have been disturbed. There is a name of a subculture of people called “Regrets Parents” who seek personal healing from the tremendous pain of realizing too late that they allowed their son(s) to be cut and would never have consented if armed with information that circumcision is harmful and wrong.
As a father of an intact son and grandfather of two intact grandsons, I challenge you, Chris Pegula, that there could be what you call “hygiene risks.” At least you didn’t try to perpetuate the nonsense of “looking like one’s father” or “getting teased in the showers.” Did you know a considerable number of circumcisions require repair surgeries, including fixing botched jobs and dealing with skin bridges? Did you know that conservatively there are 117 deaths of male infants annually, triggered by circumcisions that lead to excessive bleeding or unintended consequences? You failed to mention that circumcision was really introduced in this country in the 19th century to curb masturbation? You write that, “It wasn’t until 1870 that the medical community could wrap its collective heads around circumcision and cut away the nonsense.” However, you don’t explain. The nonsense was circumcision itself. And it certainly did not become popular that early. The true medicalization of circumcision was more a 20th century abomination, especially with hospital births where doctors could impose their marketing pressures on captive, uninformed parents and contrive such compelling reasons as better hygiene. (My foreskin can be thoroughly washed with my daily shower’s water in 10 seconds. What’s the issue?)
Perhaps your most absurd comment was this: “The last thing you want to do it (sic) is leave it up to your kid to decide when he is an adult. Oooh, I just got a horrible pain between my legs when I wrote that…” This is precisely the tyranny of ignorance that keeps the unethical practice continuing today.
Your statements only serve to sentence yet more young males to circumcised status. They may only grow up and live in the same oblivion that you live in and think they’re OK without 15 square inches of penile skin with what it can do and what it can feel like. But some of these males will be alert to the violations and compare it to the rape of their bodies by a stranger with the support of clueless, uninformed, misinformed parents who did not protect them. Circumcision removes the most sensitive part of the penis. Who would want that?
I invite you to joined tens of thousands of men who have used some of many techniques to grow new penile skin and get back lots of skin (even full coverage) albeit it lacking the specialized components that only the original foreskin had. It is truly an exercise toward wholeness that is worth it. I suggest you check out, “Unspeakable Mutilations,” also a new book, written by Lindsay Watson and documenting the pain and resentment of many men who felt betrayed by parents, harmed by the medical community and marginalized when they speak out against the medical indignity.
Dr. George Denniston with Doctors Opposing Circumcision concludes:
The solution to this ethical and human rights dilemma is simple: Do not perform circumcision on infants. By ceasing to perform infant circumcision, nothing is lost. Any adult male may, with fully informed consent, have circumcision whenever he wishes.
As the public becomes aware of the accumulating scientific evidence, circumcision is declining, and with the current attention to unnecessary cost, insurance plans are ceasing to pay for circumcision. Most hopefully of all, caring physicians are reviewing this operation in the light of their own ethical standards and are refusing to perform infant circumcision.
So, Dude, go for more information and get informed. We dads who respected our sons’ rights to wholeness know that many, many have changed their minds and have come to see the tyranny of medical traditions can be rejected. You have made a grave mistake with your words, but you can be redeemed. Even the late famed icon of baby advice, Dr. Benjamin Spock, changed his mind and called for leaving baby boys intact.
For more information, I suggest you go to:
Should you revise your book for second editions, please revise that segment so that young males can be protected from the repulsive, invasive, uninvited act of genital cutting. In the final analysis, circumcision is a cruel rip-off.
I was in the U.S. Army in 1969 when my Parkersburg (Iowa) High School Class of 1964 held its first class reunion — a gathering marking five years after we graduated. So I didn’t make the trip from Fort Polk, La., where I was stationed. I don’t know if I was held during my time in boot camp or advanced infantry training — or what? that year.
I chaired our 10th Year Reunion in August 1974, just a couple days after President Richard Nixon had resigned from the shame in Watergate. I would chair our 25th and 40th class reunions and attended several others. There weren’t enough classmates interested in holding a 35th-Year Reunion. On July 12, 2014, many of the 43 living alumni from the 47 graduates of PHS are gathering in Aplington, Iowa, at a place called Stinkey’s Bar and Grill, to catch up on each other’s lives. It will be a fast three hours or so together.
That spring of 1964, we, the first Baby Boomers class, were the largest graduating class that school district had ever had.
For the 40th class reunion in 2004, I produced a 70-page booklet with updates on all but a couple graduates. (Just two classmate did not respond to requests for information.) This year I produced a 58-page book with mostly color photos, and, like the other, it is a mix of memories and nostalgia. I dedicated a page to the four classmates whom we have lost.
Desktop publishing has come a long ways since even 2004, and the cost of color has really fallen. (This time, six classmates did not respond, some because of health challenges). Classmates mostly wrote about what they are doing in retirement. Most of us are 68 years old now. All but three of our original 47 married at least one time. Our singles were all males, and two are now deceased. We were a class of 30 girls and 17 boys. It was a class I take special pride in, as the class’ valedictorian, the editor of the school newspaper my senior year, as freshman and junior class president and a member of the Student Council. I penned the class theme, as well: “Success docks at the Port of Effort.”
Of the 43 classmates, 24 live in Butler County where Parkersburg is — or an adjoining county. Five live in other parts of Iowa, four reside in Minnesota and three in Arizona. One each lives in seven other states: Illinois, Texas, Colorado, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Tennessee and Oregon. In previous booklets, I added up the number of children our class produced, but, now, with non-responses from some classmates and the blurred area of birth and adopted children, it became too inexact to tally. I think we averaged about two children per graduate.
Four major moments of our senior year were the boys football team winning the Big Marsh football championships, the assassination of President John Kennedy, the Crusaderettes girls basketball team making the Sweet 16 State Girls Tournament in Des Moines and the Beatles’ Invasion of America.
Classmates say they don’t want speeches and a long program for the dinner, in order to get maximum one-on-one conversation. One of our teachers, who was a coach, plans to attend, along with a former superintendent.
Needless to say, some of us will have to think a moment to figure out who that nearly 70-year-old bald guy is. It’s confounding why some classmates, even given more than a year of advance notice on the date of the reunion, let other things supersede and not go to the reunion. Some classmates will go across the country to attend a reunion while some living in the hometown opt not to attend “because we see each other all the time at the store.” I remember one classmate telling me before our 10th reunion that she wasn’t attending because she didn’t like that particular restaurant’s menu.
From Arizona as a reunion dinner prop, I will again transport to Iowa the yard-tall cardboard “moon” covered in aluminum foil that hung in the school gym in April 1963 for the junior-senior prom. Our theme was “Moon River,” after the mega-hit Henry Mancini song that became an Andy Williams standard. My twin brother, Lincoln, who went on to be an aeronautical engineer crafted the moon, as he did a spinning cylinder with a light inside that made silver, hanging streamers shimmer as if we were beholding a waterfall. Meanwhile, nearby the school’s bulky tape recorder was playing a recording of the hydrant of the cow tank on our farm churning out water to create the waterfall sounds. As class president, I coordinated the committees that handled all parts of the prom we were throwing for the senior class. When it came to decorating, the gym doors and windows were covered to keep the prom theme a big secret until the night of the big dance.
So my wife, Patty, and I are going to my 50th class reunion to see whether we still have class –we survivors of a half-century of life, mindful that we will never all be around again — or together again –for yet another reunion. We had our kids, now relish in our grandchildren and even have started the great-grandchildren generation. We served our nation, paid our taxes, plugged our skills into the fabric of the American work force and survived.
A few weeks ago, 16 of us on a high school sex education curriculum study committee made our recommendation to the Tempe Union High School District here in Tempe, Ariz. After six months of work, our assignment came to an end. The five-member governing board had a spirited debate about our suggesting the Family Life and Sexual Health, or FLASH, as the best of five programs we examined to use to teach high school students about sex. After some fierce discussion, the board voted 3-2 to use FLASH as the framework to craft its own distinct program.
As I noted in a blog post a month ago, I felt compelled to use the opportunity of studying sex ed curricula to pitch for the rights of baby boys and not let circumcision be taught as an acceptable step of parenting a boy.
I had raised the same issues when our committee itself met for the final time April 14 and voted 13-0 for FLASH. I chose to join 30 community speakers at the school board meeting on May 7 to reinforce that. The sound system in the district’s temporary meeting site, the new Compadre High School gym, was atrocious. None of the speakers could be heard well.
Even with the merits of FLASH, the curriculum is pathetic when it comes to “discussing” circumcision. In the “Reproductive Section,” it has a box that says “Foreskin” with a mere three bullet points: “1) Protects the penis; 2) Provides sensation; and 3) Males who’ve been circumcised don’t have one.”
When my name was called to speak, this is what I shared in my allotted 3 minutes:
Good evening, my name is Lawn Griffiths, a 30-year Tempe resident and father of two graduates from McClintock High School.
It was an honor to serve on the task force. I certainly hope our efforts translate into enlightened, informative comprehensive sex education for many years to come in this district. Our young people deserve a solid, well-grounded curriculum, and I believe we found it with the Family Life curriculum.
I think back exactly 50 years ago to my small school district in Iowa when the best high school teacher I ever had was accused by the school board of teaching us too much regarding sex education in our sociology class. His much needed information was so refreshing and honest, but Mr. King didn’t get his contract renewed the next year because of that. It was tragic. I wrote and posted a blog about that sad episode when Mr. King died little over a year ago.
My other hope is actually an appeal, a call coming from the deepest fibers of male soul. We appeal to your better instincts and your humanity that the health educators who take up the task of teaching about sexual health teach the truth about the male body and that all the parts that nature or God supremely created for that body belong there permanently, that the foreskin is not something to cut off at birth.
Circumcision is not one of the steps that come with having a son, and curriculum should reflect that this entrenched practice of destroying a body structure forever changes that child’s genitals, something he would never choose to have done himself. Gone are 20,000 nerve endings, the ridge bands, the frenulum, Meissner’s corpuscles, mobile skin — what amounts to 15 square inches of skin in the adult male. Much is lost forever. And such a waste of precious health-care dollars.
We need to stop looking the other way and respect males’ right to wholeness, the right to keep their foreskins. Genital cutting of girls in this nation rightfully is outlawed, but the practice of cutting off, excising the foreskins of male babies oddly is allowed. How does that happen? It’s sheer hypocrisy and a double standard. Circumcision is performed on a child who has no voice– except his scream. Whose body is it, anyway? Where are the ethics?
If circumcision were a good thing, the males who survived childhood intact and whole would be getting circumcised, and they don’t — for obvious reasons. They want and like what they have. There are at least 16 functions of the foreskin, and it is not a expendable body part.
So, we believe young students in Tempe Union need to be educated to respect all the bodies of males and females. It is wrong to teach circumcision like it won’t make any difference. The Family Health curriculum, I’m afraid, soft-peddles on this.
Adult males do resent they were violated after their birth, and educators ought to have accurate knowledge and empathy. Schools can help ensure that all minors — male and female — remain whole and intact as is so common in most of the world. Please, teach genital integrity and infant rights along the way.
I urge you to adopt the Family Life program and ensure that students learn that males have universal rights to be safe in their bodies when they come into this world.
Please think of the baby boys — beautiful with all their God-given parts, all with intended purposes.
Recently, the president/CEO of two hospitals in the Phoenix metropolitan area spoke to my Kiwanis Club. Nice man. Totally fit for the job. In the question and answer session, I suggested his hospital close down their circumcision units and asked him how ethical is a hospital in this day and age when it performs circumcisions on helpless infants against their will. He gave a fairly quick and dismissive answer: Yes, circumcision is controversial. He knew of no hospitals that have quit circumcising and his hospitals would continue to do so.
I subsequently sent him this letter. I am still waiting for a reply:
May 4, 2014
Mr. Tim Bricker
President and CEO
Chandler Regional/Mercy Gilbert Medical Centers
1955 W. Frye Road
Chandler AZ 85224
It was a pleasure to meet you Thursday when you spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Tempe. You are vastly articulate and a skilled spokesman for your hospitals and the complex medical industry. You exhibit the energy and form so necessary in such work.
Thanks for taking my question on circumcision. Your response was predictable — so corporate and safe. The circumcision industry is hopelessly intertwined in the cultural cabal of public ignorance and medical myths. Males have had their foreskins since humans first roamed the earth and never became instinct from any of the contrived pretexts for cutting them off. That this is the 21st century and clean and well-lit places like your hospitals can get away with cutting off healthy, functional tissues from helpless infants so, so, so defies medical ethics. The medical doctors’ shameful violation of their Hippocratic Oath — ‘First do no harm’ — is nothing short of breathtaking.
I realize you are just one executive in a far-flung matrix of upward-moving authorities not about to rock the boat and question practices. Corporate America is insidious like that. No one has the courage to step into the circumcision unit, listen to the desperate cries and see babies so traumatized that they fall into a protective semi-comatose state that apologists for circumcision say is “sleep.” You and your peers don’t see the bloody results of the sexual assault that is circumcision. If you demanded parents to observe the procedure, watch the slicing, see how a perfect baby is turned into a wounded, panicky, screaming, confused young human, there would be changes.
It is only because this torturous madness is visited upon helpless, strapped-down, defenseless baby boys that it can be done. Older boys or young men would never allow it. There is a profound quote in iconic anthropologist (‘The Naked Ape’ author) Desmond Morris’ book “Man-Watching: A Field Guide to Human Behavior”: “Circumcision is, in fact, the only really severe form of primitive mutilation to have resisted the modern trend toward abhorrence of body violation. If, as used to be the case, it was performed at puberty instead of at infancy, that, too, would no doubt have vanished long ago, swept away by the outrage of the initiates. But the protests of babies are more easily ignored and with the false accolade of medical hygiene to help it on its way, the genital deforming of young males continues unabated.” Page 229.
How can such a cultural practice, not endorsed by any medical society in the world, continue in a medical center that takes itself seriously? There is no other “surgery” that a parent can authorize for a child. Doctors would reject clipping ear lobes or carving of breast buds from girls so they don’t grow up to have breast cancer.
It is so confounding that educated medical professionals, not even trained in medical school about the complexities, functions and features of the foreskin, can so blatantly perpetuate this medical fraud. It is said the many medical doctors, because they know better, don’t subject their own sons to the cruel indignities of circumcision. Another outrage is the failure of studies to elicit the true neurological impact of circumcision on the young brain. The sudden and vicious attack to his body and the painful contact of urine/feces on his wound have to have fierce impact. There are theories that cut males carry this shock experience deep in their psyches and may act upon that violation later in their lives in striking back at society.
Tim, you need to know that the Intact Movement is huge and growing fast. What is so heartening is the number of young women, especially, who have gotten on board and who passionately speak out against it and approach expectant parents to debunk the myths people woefully believe.
We were so pleased when AHCCCS in 2002 quit funding Medicaid circumcisions in Arizona because the “cosmetic surgery” procedure was regarded as a waste of taxpayer money. Tragically some hospitals will “throw in” free circumcisions to low-income families to circumvent what has been human rights victory.
In my 40 years of saving baby boys from circumcision through teaming up with others and speaking out, I have enjoyed seeing the rates fall. It has been great to see insurance companies move away from reimbursements. I personally think it will be class-action lawsuits and wrongful death suits (117 recorded deaths last year in the U.S. as a result of circumcisions and more that cannot be directly linked to it) that will cause institutions like yours to lay down the knives and put male genital integrity on par with the rights and protection of females from brutal cutting.
Tim, it is only a matter of time. Sadly, how many thousands of baby boys more have to lose half of their penile shaft skin, their ridged bands, the mucous membrane, the Meissner corpuscles, the mechanical gliding action of a wholly intact penis, the more than 20,000 nerve endings because of an entrenched medical procedure? Look to Europe, South America, Asia, most of Africa and most of Canada. They reject circumcision. They scoff at some Americans’ obsession with a skinned penis.
If hospital presidents and CEOs cannot see the sheer idiocy, the serial assault, the relentless stream of violations of the sexual integrity of another human being, then where is the compassion so advertised in the your soft commercials? Where is the “dignity” in Dignity Health? My registered nurse mother in 1946 should have known better. I have in my files the hospital statement, her $83 bill for delivering twins at Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa. The bastards charged her a mere $10 for cutting two boys. I lost my foreskin for $5! Now charges run $200 to $500 or more. Easy money for fast work on a strapped down victim. I would pay 100 times that fee for my foreskin back. Now hospitals, like yours, sell foreskins to labs for profit. How hideous is that? Trafficking in purloined human body parts. How perverse.
In July at the University of Colorado at Boulder, I will be joining hundreds of intactivists from around the world — doctors, ethicists, nurses, attorneys, doulas, educators, authors, parents and more — at the 13th International Symposium on Genital Autonomy and Children’s Rights on the theme “Whole Bodies, Whole Selves: Activating Social Change.” http://www.genitalautonomy2014.com/public/ I invite you and your Dignity Health colleagues. We are often portrayed as harpies spitting into the wind. Our mission is working on both the circumcision industry to see the cruelty of their ways and on expectant parents who need to abandon their shallow notions that circumcision is one of the steps of having a baby boy, that the foreskin is expendable and foul body tissue or that boys should look like their fathers. Then there is the red herring about AIDS. We mourn for what white, western medicine is doing to Africans.
So, Tim, you are part of an industry that needs to re-examine its stake in true care and procedures that don’t hurt and cause permanent loss to structures of the bodies created by God/nature. I have long declined to support fund-raisers of hospitals that cut baby boys. I’d be a hypocrite if I did. We’ll go on trying to get to parents first to see reason and show respect for their sons. I consider our intact son and grandsons fortunate to have been rescued from people like your circumcisers.
Close down that macabre unit. Health care dollars need to go to real medical needs. Don’t let boys grow up in Chandler, Gilbert and beyond resenting any one of your hospitals that violated their bodies when they could not fight back. Be a humanitarian, Tim. After all, civilization is just a slow process of learning to be kind. As I like to say, “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”
Spend some time listening to those cries and then talk to some intact adult males about the joy of being sexually complete. Start sending the whole babies home from Chandler Regional and Mercy Gilbert. Be liberated from the tyranny of a dark side of medicine. Baby boys are too precious for such crude treatment.
We recognize the life of Dr. Robert “Bob” Drye, a psychiatrist and longtime Tempe resident, who died suddenly mid-day Monday, April 28, at his home in Tempe. His family said he had made himself a sandwich and collapsed and died. He has suffered from bronchial issues. Emergency medical folks were there in 10 minutes after he was found, but he was pronounced dead. Sort of that swift death many of us would want some day. Bob was 86.
I first met Bob Drye in 1994 when he joined University Presbyterian Church in Tempe. A number of us from that church served on the board of directors of Presbyterian Service Agency, a mental health provider largely serving Maricopa County (now PSA Behavioral Health Agency with services across the southern half of the state). I was in my 7th year on the board and my first year as board president. We invited Bob, with his credentials, to join our board. He immediately proved to be a valuable voice of knowledge and experience on the board. After three years as president in 1998, I gave way to Bob as our board leader. He served as president through 2002, left the board in 2005, returned in September 2010 and retired in January 2013.
Our homes were 3/4th mile apart, and we often rode together to mental health board meetings. We covered the spectrum of issues, mostly politics. Bob was a very active Democratic Party member and had served as a State Democratic Committeeman. He closely watched the emergence of new candidates for public office, and he took time to know the field of candidates and party workers.
Bob earned his medical degree in 1951 from New York University. He would practice psychiatry in Chicago, California and Pennsylvania. He was once chairman of a National Institutes of Mental Health Psychiatric Training Committee and was a Life Fellow of the American Academy of Psychiatry. He told me he had been a friend of the late Dr. Benjamin Spock, the iconic pediatrician whose common-sense theories of child care helped guide parents around the world for a half century. For a time, Bob was an assistant professor at the University of Arizona Medical School.
Bob was a longtime member of University Presbyterian’s Social Justice and Peacemaking Committee, a determined group of church members who meet monthly to discuss local, national and global issues, including rights, environment, peace and fostering positive change in a troubled world. He served as its chairman in 2001 while on Session. He wrote a lengthy summary of that year for the church’s annual report, noting efforts of participating in the Faith Works Event on Poverty, attending a Ramadan supper at the Islamic Cultural Center, sending a couple to the National Peacemaking Conference in North Carolina and ongoing support of such programs as Habitat for Humanity, Paz de Cristo homeless kitchen and outreach to lawmakers on mental health funding and the scandalous Alternate Fuel car-sale catastrophe.
For many years Dr. William Raby and I took turns teaching the Contemporary Issues class at University Presbyterian on Sunday mornings, and Bob was a loyal attendee contributing to the conversations. During the church’s prayer time in which people typically stand and share prayer concerns, or sometimes joy, Bob often stood and asked prayers for his current or former patients dealing with onerous issues. He frequently told the joys of new grandchildren or marriages in his family.
In 1997, after my mother died at age 87 in Iowa, we brought my 85-year-old father to Tempe. In March 1998, Bob, who had organized a Grief Support Group, attended the American Academy of Bereavement Conference in Tucson. He invited anyone dealing with family loss to the gatherings. My father found it enormously valuable. I had to apologize a number of times to Bob for my father often dominating sessions — conversationalist that he was. Bob served three years as a church deacon (1996, 1997 and 1998) and three years as an elder on the Session (2000, 2001 and 2002).
For a number of years, ending about three years ago, Bob was a front-counter clerk at the Tempe Main U.S. Post Office at College Drive and Southern Avenue, selling stamps, taking packages and fetching certified letters. He had a wonderful smile for customers.
Our prayers and thoughts are with his devoted partner of 20 years, Neria Ryder, and Bob’s far-flung family.