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Charles Meredith: Mending hearts and remembering the street


Dear Friends,

Good morning. I received an interesting letter and book from Marylou Kelly Streznewski, one of our readers from Furlong. She had read Jeff Scott’s article in the Herald about my coronary bypass surgery in 1981. She too has had open heart surgery – twice – and she wrote a book about it. She told me about her excellent care at the Doylestown Hospital. “That cardiac team is a modern miracle,” Streznewski wrote.

“‘Heart Rending, Heart Mending’” is not only heart-focused, but heartfelt, the book jacket reads. “It is filled with solid information and support for anyone who has had or may have cardiac disease. It is especially helpful for some, who often go misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. After reading this book, you will be able to be your own best advocate in the confusing world of health care.”

Her letter added an item to my “typos” column. Years ago, Streznewski was a proof reader at a Doylestown newspaper and discovered that a headline which was supposed to read “votes” had the “e” and “s” transposed. Votes became “vetoes.”

On an entirely different front, our daughter Catherine suggested that I occasionally write stories about 203 Juniper St. in Quakertown where I’ve lived for 82 years. I’ve always called Catherine, “Catwin” from the time of her third birthday because her little friend, Virginia Dee Penniman, couldn’t pronounce Catherine and said, “Catwin.”

Here’s one of those stories.

I was about 10 and had often seen an elderly neighbor back his Ford Model T out of his garage, onto Second Street. The garage had sliding doors. This old goat would roar out of the garage without looking. Had he “inched” his tank of a car out of the garage, the inevitable collision could have been avoided. I knew that some day, he’d cause an accident.

And he did. One midday, I saw him slide the garage doors open … heard him start the Model T, and floor it in reverse. The old car shot out of the garage like a canon, just as an innocent driver crossed his bow. Bam! The Model T “t-boned” the car. It looked like it had been folded in half.

What did the old man do? He put his Model T into forward gear, pulled back into the garage, shut the doors and disappeared. The poor innocent driver was naturally furious.

At the time, I think Quakertown only had one policeman and he was also the chief of police. His name was Newton B. Rapp so it was he who investigated the accident. My late father would always refer to him with this phrase, “You can’t beat the rap with Rapp.

So Catwin and you faithful readers … there’s a story from my child hood.

My friend Woody Kiel called me the other day wondering whether I’d seen two obituaries? The first was Val Sigstedt of Point Pleasant. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the obit but Woody told me much about Mr. Sigstedt.

He was an environmentalist who’d opposed the building of the Point Pleasant pumping station, known in the 1970s and 1980s as “The Pump.” The Neshaminy Water Resources Authority (NWRA) water divrsion project began when I was a county commissioner in 1968. It was successfully completed in 1990 but not without considerable anguish. Woody told me that Sigstedt was one of the organizers of DEL-Aware, which led the fight against the pump.

Woody added that Sigstedt lived in an unusual house and served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches plus coffee for breakfast. He must have been an unusual fellow. Sigstedt wrote a column called “A Citizen’s Voice.”

The second obit was about the Rev. James Rubright who died at 96. As an Army medic during World War II, he landed at Normandy on D-Day plus one. He was a longtime pastor to the people of the greater Pennridge community, serving as both a volunteer chaplain at Grand View Hospital and pastor at St. Luke’s UCC in Dublin for more than 25 years.

Turning to other subjects,

Sincerely, Charles Meredith

PS. My good friend Mac Butcher often sends me funny emails. Here’s one: “What do you call an intelligent, good looking, sensitive man?” Answer: a rumor.