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Charles Meredith: Meeting an unusual fellow


Dear Friends,

Good morning. Many of you readers often call me with tips. Sometimes it’s a news item; other times, it might be politics or religion or an introduction. The other day, Larry Bliss called me with an introduction in mind.

You readers have read about Larry’s and Bobby’s (his wife) daughter Karen, the famous biker who’s in the Bicyclist Hall of Fame. Larry wasn’t calling about Karen or where he’s been cycling (Larry still rides competitively …each outing is 20 miles or more).

No, Larry wanted me to meet Harry Branson, an unusual fellow with an interesting hobby. A resident of Sellersville, Branson is an expert bridge player and the director of the Indian Valley Bridge Club, which meets at the Generations Senior Center in Souderton. Larry Bliss and Harry Branson play bridge weekly. One of the players is a woman, age 98.

Harry, Larry and I met for breakfast at the Rockhill Filling Station on Ridge Road near Perkasie. Harry is three years younger than I. Our interests are similar. Harry is an avid reader … he’s also a poet. I shared the two books my club is reading: “Just Mercy,” by Bryan Stevenson and “Inheritance,” by Dani Shapiro.

“Just Mercy,” also a current movie, is about death row and some of the inmates who were innocent but falsely accused and convicted. “Inheritance” is the story of a Jewish woman, raised in a devout family who, in mid life, begins to wonder whether she is Jewish. It turns out that her biological mother certainly was Jewish but her father was not.

Blond and blue-eyed, Dani Shapiro does not look like her parents. It turns out that her biological father was a sperm donor. How Shapiro and the sperm donor connected is fascinating. I recommend both books.

But I stray. I learned that Harry Branson has been in the Information Technology (IT) industry for decades. But in his youth, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and became an aviator on aircraft carriers. Can you imagine landing a fighter bomber on a bobbing and weaving aircraft carrier at night?

Harry sent an email to me with a photo of the plane he flew. In the background is the aircraft carrier, USS Coral Sea. One of the identification numbers on the plane’s engine housing is 203. That’s our house address on Juniper Street in Quakertown. Small world.

Well, it turns out that Harry and I have a rowing connection as well. His daughter and two grandchildren row in the Washington, D.C., area. Thanks, Larry Bliss, for the introduction.

On another topic, one of my recent columns drew some fire. I referenced a Tom Friedman column in the New York Times and his observation that all of the Democratic presidential candidates would make excellent cabinet members if Friedman were doing the choosing.

One of my readers, Don Mikes from Doylestown, was critical. “You would support a proposal to appoint Bernie Sanders as Treasury Secretary and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez as United Nations Ambassador, yet you repeatedly claim that the Republican Party has left you?” he chided. Mikes has a point, I confess.

Also, I heard from an old friend, Woody Kiel, who didn’t like the column. Woody is heading toward 90 and continues to be a loyal Republican. He looks forward to reaching age 100. Our two families go back a long way. Woody was one of my supporters during my county commissioner days a thousand years ago. We were in our 30s and 40s back then. Woody’s full name is James Charwood Kiel Jr. (hence “Woody”).

Anyway, thanks to the George W. Bush and Donald Trump presidencies, I’ve become a “RINO” (Republican in Name Only) I must say that after the last three years of Donald Trump, former President George W. Bush is beginning to look like a genius.

Sincerely, Charles Meredith