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Helen Gibbs Pohlot

Do you believe in love at first sight?  I do!

It was shortly after 8 p.m. on Good Friday when Peanut walked into my Florida Keys home.  He was barely a foot tall with expressive eyes and an adorable face.  Everything about him screamed cuteness and charm. I resisted my first urge to pick him up and cuddle him in my arms.  Instead, I remembered what the experts say and let him come over and sniff my hand, which he kissed. At that point, a smile stretched across my face, joy filled my heart, and I fell in love.

Sure, he wasn’t my dog, but it didn’t matter, I couldn’t help myself.

Caroline, my son’s girlfriend who happens to be a warm, responsible and loving person adopted Peanut the week before from PAWS4YOU Rescue in Miami.

Knowing she was about to make a serious commitment, Caroline submitted her adoption application along with the required references. Once PAWS4YOU’s volunteer committee approved her application, Caroline attended a meet and greet at Pet Smart in the Palmetto Bay area of Miami where she met Peanut for the first time.

Peanut captured her heart. Her happiness and love for the little dog proved contagious especially with my 6’5” son Bruce who towers over Peanut. They quickly became best friends, sharing walks, treats and good times. With Peanuts inquisitive nature and spunky personality, he warmed up to all the people in Caroline’s life.

Just a week after his adoption, Peanut, Caroline, and Bruce came to the Keys for the Easter holiday.

We were all in a festive mood looking forward to sharing a wonderful time with each other and the sweet little dog.
When I asked Caroline if Peanut could have a treat. She gave me the okay. I opened the refrigerator handing him a small piece of meat.  He took it with enthusiasm and gratitude. We quickly connected as I learned his preference for Nathan’s hot dogs.

Bruce and Caroline quickly set up Peanuts new comfortable looking bed, surrounded by his toys. It was great having a dog in the house once again.  It amazed me how happy I felt as I drifted off to sleep that night.

Peanut was up early the next morning and went for a couple mile run with Caroline. We all questioned whether he would like the boat.  Bruce, his Dad, and Caroline prepared the boat while I hung out with Peanut.

With everything set to go, Caroline put on Peanut’s life jacket. He didn’t love it, but he looked absolutely adorable.

Initially, Peanut was not crazy about the boat.  He was a bit scared and clung to Caroline. With a little time, once he got used to it, Peanut settled down and rested comfortably in Caroline’s arms.

We only stayed out for a little while.  I hurt my knee the day before and volunteered to go back and stay with Peanut if the others wanted to go fishing.

They dropped us off, and my little pal and I got some much-needed rest.  It didn’t take Peanut long to realize the couch was pretty comfortable.  “Go ahead,” I said. With that Peanut leaped up and went to sleep.

As he lay there fast asleep, I looked at him and wondered what his life was like. How difficult it must have been when the woman his former owner dropped him off at the shelter.  Did he wait every day for her to come get him?  How painful it must have been to be abandoned twice.  I thought to myself, how could anyone do this to such a lovable little dog. He deserved much better.

It makes a person proud and grateful to the people working in the volunteer shelters like PAWS4YOU.  They care for all God’s abandoned creatures when the thoughtless, heartless owners dispose of them.

Peanut has a way of looking at you that inspires joy and hope.  I smile just thinking about him because Peanut’s story was not always happy nor easy.  As a pup, he was found abandoned on the street and taken to a shelter. He was adopted by a woman who kept him for a few years until she got a boyfriend that either didn’t like him or maybe just didn’t like dogs, period.  This woman took Peanut back to the shelter where he remained for close to a year. It is difficult to imagine a human being returning a dog who provides unconditional love and friendship. Personally, I would have gotten rid of the boyfriend.

Abandoned twice in his first years of life seems cruel, but Peanut persevered. Then on Saturday, March 24, Peanut’s life changed forever. Caroline, a beautiful, smart young lady adopted Peanut thrusting him into a happy world filled with people whose only desire is to love and care for him.

Caroline did the research on what it takes to adopt, care for and train a rescue dog. She knows about responsibility and commitment. She does not take being a pet parent lightly, knowing full well it was an adjustment for Peanut to come into a new home with new people.  Patience, concern, and love are her drivers.

Not every dog story has a happy ending. This one does! It is a true story of a little dog, nobody wanted. Abandoned twice by the time he was four and a half, Peanut’s future looked bleak. Peanut deserved better than his first four years. He got it with the help of PAWS4YOU and a loving person who will never let him go. Peanut happily found his forever home with Caroline, his forever person.



By Helen Gibbs Pohlot

When you look around your home and say this stuff has to go, it is time for a yard sale or a posting on craigslist.

Over the past weekend, I put a few items on Craigslist to satisfy my need to declutter and clean house.

The first things to sell were my husband’s Power Rack, Bench, Olympic weights and ten chairs that turned our finished basement into a gym.  The chairs and most of the weights are gone while the huge Power Rack and bench leave Saturday morning. With the considerable money my husband made from the sale, he joined a gym.

After more than 20 years in the house, it will be nice to use the basement for something other than working out.  Maybe a pool table or a home theater.

The other items we posted were a table, sewing machine, and antique rocking chair. The table and sewing machine got no response, but we received a call about the rocker.  A lovely couple showed up to look at the chair.

They instantly liked it and inquired about its age and history.

“The chair is probably 100 years old. It belonged to my brother-in-law’s grandmother. She used to rock him to sleep in that chair when he was a baby,” I told them.

“My mother had it and gave it to me when she downsized.  I like the chair but don’t have any more room for it.”

As the woman inquired about the chair’s dimensions while the man examined it, memories of my brother-in-law came rushing back. His name was Willard, but everyone called him Winky. In his late teens, he drove the hottest car in town, a green sleek looking charger. He met my sister and it was love at first sight.

I believe it was in his late twenties that Winky developed severe rheumatoid arthritis.  With both knees and both hips replaced as a young man, his level of physical challenge would have been insurmountable for most people.  I remember thinking that Winky was a true champion, despite tremendous pain and suffering he went to work every day running a construction company. He was an exceptional person that I truly admired for his courage and strength.

For some unknown reason, I don’t know what came over me; I told the woman and man looking at the chair about Winky.  I said that Winky was one of the best people I ever knew and he died a horrible death, way too young. In 2006 at the age of 56, Winky passed away from a devasting reaction to a drug meant to treat  RA.

“He was one of the good people who left this world much too soon,” I said. “Winky was a brother to me, and I miss him.”

On the verge of tears, I was ready to tell the people to leave and that I was keeping the chair.  As the words were about to come out of my mouth, the woman turned to me and said, “I know how you feel. I lost my daughter when she was 18.”

They shared their story, and my heart broke for these two strangers telling me about their child.

We talked for over an hour standing in my driveway.  The woman said she was happy I told her the history of the chair.

“Everything has a story, and this is Winky’s chair,” she said.

I felt much better letting them have the chair.  It found a good home as I realized it was not just another chair.

As we put the chair in the SUV, the woman turned to me and said, “How do you spell Winky’s name?”

“W I N K Y,” I said.

The woman replied, “I will make a little pillow with his name on it for the chair.”



cheyenne series




One day God looked down to Earth and saw too much loneliness and sorrow among his children.

“I must give them a gift that will help ease their way,” He said.

God thought of several possibilities but settled on creating a beautiful creature capable of supplying abundant love and joy.

With a wave of His hand, a brilliant, sparkling light appeared.  From the midst of divine radiance emerged God’s gift.  He called her “Cheyenne”.

Cheyenne was an exquisite, supernaturally gifted Golden Retriever dog. God bestowed on her tremendous powers. With personality, intelligence, and loyalty, she had the capacity to demonstrate compassion and love. She would never tire, never be sick, nor ever die.

“Cheyenne, you and I will go walk the Earth together where I will personally train you for your important assignments,” God said while patting her head cheerfully.

Together they descended to Earth, landing in a small room where a little child played quietly with a ragged toy. The child could not see them.

“This girl is five years old. Her name is Wendy,” God told Cheyenne. “She is a very lonely little girl. Her mother is very poor and must work two jobs to support them, which does not leave her much time to spend with her daughter. The person hired to watch Wendy does not care and often leaves the child alone unbeknownst to the mother.

“Wendy’s mom is facing a choice which could make their lives much better. Hopefully, she will make the right decision, but until that time, Cheyenne, I want you to stay here with Wendy. No one else will be able to see you but the little girl, and once your assignment is complete, the child will have no memory of you. It is best for the child.”

Suddenly, Wendy looked, and a big smile appeared on her face. ‘Hey, puppy, how did you get in here?” she asked.

Cheyenne went right to the little girl and snuggled up next to her.  Wendy hugged Cheyenne as the dog picked up the raggedy toy.

Cheyenne tossed the toy in the air, which made Wendy laugh. The toy came down smack dab on Cheyenne’s head, which made even God smile as He watched from above.

“You are so funny,” laughed Wendy.  “I am going to teach you how to catch.”

Wendy picked up the toy and threw it as high as she could.  Cheyenne took a flying leap and caught the toy in midair.

“Great job! You are a good catcher,” said Wendy with a smile. She continued to throw the toy to Cheyenne for the rest of the afternoon.

Cheyenne made some impressive catches, which made Wendy laugh and smile.

She really enjoyed spending her afternoon with Cheyenne. It was fun to have company.

At 6:30 PM, Wendy’s mom came home. She burst into Wendy’s room, saying, “Wendy, Wendy, I got the job in Miami, near Grandma’s house.  I called the woman today and asked about my application. She said they have been trying to contact me at home, but no one answers our phone. If I hadn’t called today, I would not have gotten the job. I am so happy.”

Wendy’s mom hugged and kissed her little girl. “Thank God, Wendy! Now we can spend time together. You are really going to like Miami.  Grandma wants us to live with her.  She has a nice house with a big yard. You will just love it.  It will be wonderful for you to spend time with your grandma. It will be a new start for all of us,” she said.

“We have to celebrate.  This is a big moment in our lives.  Let’s go out for some ice cream.”

Wendy looked around the room as if she’d lost something.  She picked up her raggedy toy and said, “Mommy, when we move to Miami, can I get a puppy?”

“Of course you can,” her mother replied.

Except for the love and joy embedded in Wendy’s heart from Cheyenne’s visit, God removed the memory of Cheyenne from the child’s mind.

“You got an A plus on your first assignment, Cheyenne,” said God.




cheyenne series



New York City’s fast, exhilarating pace puzzled Cheyenne.
“What are all these people doing?” she asked God.
“Many are on their way to work, school, or just going about daily life,” God replied, smiling.
“It takes a while to get accustomed to all the people, noise, and activity of a large city, but it is truly a wonderful place.”
God and Cheyenne sat on a bench at the entrance to Central Park on 59th Street. They watched children playing, business people, men, and women walking their dogs; skateboarders, joggers, bicyclists, and people of all ages and sizes enjoying the lovely day in Central Park.
Suddenly, Cheyenne noticed an unusual-looking man briskly walking down the street wearing worn-out old clothes, but looking clean and groomed.
“Here comes Joe!” God told Cheyenne.
“How are you doing, Joe?” asked Gene, the hotdog vendor.
“Other than arthritis, pretty darn good,” Joe responded with a smile.
“Hungry?” Gene asked.
“No, but thanks for the offer,” said Joe as he continued walking.
“Joe is a very interesting man,” God told Cheyenne.
“Let me tell you a little bit about him. He is 85 years old but doesn’t look it. He grew up in New York City’s Lower East Side, the only child of Irish immigrant parents.
“In 1942, he joined the Army and went to Europe. While stationed in France, Joe met a beautiful woman, fell deeply in love, and got married.
“Due to the German occupation of Paris, Joe moved his wife to a small apartment in London where he thought she would be safe. Joe joined her when he was on leave.
“They were married just five months when one-morning air raid sirens blasted all over London.
“Within seconds, a bomb hit, devastating their apartment. Joe sustained a puncture wound to his side, but his wife’s injuries were fatal. She was still alive when Joe crawled over to her. She died in his arms. Joe never forgot her and blamed himself for taking her to London.
“Since that time Joe has never been able to sleep in a confined space, which is why he became a hobo after the war.
“Everyone in New York knows and loves Joe because of his affable personality and kind nature. But no one knows his secret. He is a very good man, Cheyenne. Your job is to stay with him tonight and tomorrow. Do what he asks,” said God who disappeared into Central Park.
Cheyenne took off after Joe and caught up with him on Fifth Avenue and 54th Street.
“Hi there, Pooch,” Joe said when he realized Cheyenne was walking with him.
Cheyenne happily accompanied Joe on all his rounds. Joe talked and joked with fellow New Yorkers as they walked all the way downtown.
When they arrived at a loft building in Lower Manhattan, Joe turned to Cheyenne and said, “Okay, Pooch! Now that you followed me all the way down here, you might as well come in.”
Inside, paintings lined both sides of the rooms on the first floor. The second and third floor had just as many paintings. The building was neat and tidy, kept in excellent condition. No furniture could be seen, except stools placed in front of large easels. At the back of the second floor was a cot situated in the corner next to a small bathroom.
Joe told Cheyenne that he bought the building many years ago but rarely stays there. He preferred to sleep in the park or railroad stations.
“Nobody knows about this, and I know you are not going to tell anyone, but I can paint a little,” said Joe modestly.
“It is funny. I never met the people at the Webb Gallery on Fifth Avenue, but I sell them my paintings. I deal with them over the phone and through the mail. They probably would never even let me in the door if they saw me.”
Joe laughed heartily, telling Cheyenne that he didn’t care about money.
“I use the money from the paintings to pay for something extraordinary.
I only keep a small allowance for myself to buy food and supplies,” he said as they prepared to leave.
“See that portrait on the wall there?” Joe said, pointing to a painting of a lovely brown-haired woman.
“That is my wife. Isn’t she the most beautiful creature you ever saw?” he said, wiping a tear from his eye.
Cheyenne barked and followed Joe out of the building.
The two new friends walked happily down the street. Cheyenne playfully jumped up on Joe and tugged his sleeve. It made Joe howl with laughter.
“I see you are a lot of fun,” Joe told Cheyenne as she barked and ran circles around him.
After about 15 minutes of playing and joking, Joe stopped in front of a large, impressive brownstone. He walked up, dropped an envelope in the mail slot, then hurried down the steps.
Cheyenne saw the sign on the building which read, “Adele’s Place, A Safe Haven for Women.”
Cheyenne wondered what they were doing there, but figured Joe would say something if he wanted her to know.
Instead, he said, “Tonight is a special night. Do you know that tomorrow they are going to start major work on the railroad tunnels under the Hudson River? I want to spend one more night there before everything changes. Want to come with me, Pooch?”
Cheyenne barked in agreement, and the duo headed north toward Penn Station.
“Dogs are not allowed in the station, but I bet you could find your way in without anyone seeing you,” Joe told Cheyenne.
Cheyenne already had a plan. She would go in walking right next to Joe. She would stay very close to him and hide under his big coat if someone saw her.
They made it all the way down to the lowest level where Joe had a hard time getting down on the worker’s platform adjacent to the track
“My arthritis is terrible today. I can hardly bend my knees,” Joe said, the pain evident on his face.
Cheyenne jumped down and waited for Joe, who slowly got down on the flat surface.
“Whew, that was tough,” he said sadly. “I used to do that in seconds. Now, I can barely do it at all. Thank God we don’t have to worry about trains, Pooch because the railroad took the track out of service two weeks ago.”
Joe and Cheyenne made their way down the long, dark corridor until a hint of light peeked through from high above.
“This is right before the river where the tunnels narrow,” Joe said.
“Up ahead along the side there is a space where we will camp for the night.”
Reaching their destination took a little longer than anticipated. Cheyenne saw Joe grimace in pain. She knew his body hurt and muscles were cramping with pain that infected every joint.
“What the heck is happening?” he blurted out to Cheyenne as he sat down in an area of the tunnel with ample room for them to build a small fire with a can of Sterno for warmth and cooking.
From his bag, Joe took a small pot, two bottles of water, and a tea bag.
“You know, Pooch! My wonderful Irish mother always said that when your bones ache, have a spot of tea.”
Joe poured Cheyenne some water in a little dish while boiling the water for tea over the Sterno.
Joe unraveled his bedroll and sat back down on the ground, drinking the hot tea.
When he finished, Joe cooked some beans in the small pot. He served them to Cheyenne but left his portion untouched.
Suddenly Joe’s body jerked forward. “Oh, my! What is wrong?” Joe cried, lurching in pain.
When the pain lessened, Joe lay back on his bedroll. Cheyenne knew something was terribly wrong. She remembered what God said about staying with him tonight and then doing what he asked.
Cheyenne curled up by Joe’s side. “You are such a good girl. Thanks for staying here with me,” he said, patting her head.
Joe drifted in and out of consciousness all night; Cheyenne lay right next to him, providing much-needed warmth in the drafty tunnel.
During a lucid moment, Joe told Cheyenne his secret. After the war, he came home filled with guilt and sorrow over the loss of his wife. He did not provide her haven from the German bombs that caused her to die at a very young age.
Joe told Cheyenne that he had no other family. The only thing he had was a vivid imagination that gave him the ability to paint beautiful scenes and portraits.
Right after he came home, he began painting at a feverish rate by day. At night, he slept in open spaces when the weather was good and large railroad stations in the cold and rain.
In those early days, Joe found out about the Webb Gallery by walking past their window on Fifth Avenue. He decided to send them one of his paintings, which they bought without question. After that, Webb sold Joe’s artwork exclusively for over 50 years. They ranged in price from $30,000 to over a million.
With the money, he bought the loft building and the large brownstone in his wife’s memory. He set up an anonymous foundation that for over 50 years gave women of all ages a safe place to go.
“I could not give Adele safety, but in her name, she has given many women a safe place to go, filled with compassion, warmth, and love when it is needed,” he told Cheyenne.
“Well, Pooch, I think it is my time to leave this world. I am going to see my beautiful Adele. I hope she doesn’t think I look too horrible,” said Joe.
Cheyenne stayed very close to Joe, whose voice lowered to a whisper.
“Pooch, inside my jacket is a letter and key which explains everything. Please make sure that the person who finds me is honest. I need the work to continue. There is enough money for Adele’s Place to operate forever, so it is critical that the person who finds me does the right thing.”
Cheyenne now understood what God meant. As Joe drew his last breath, a radiant smile crossed his face. The entire tunnel illuminated as the beautiful Adele appeared. She walked toward her dying husband with outstretched arms calling, “Mon Amour.”
Joe rose from his body and ran to her embrace. He was no longer the ragged hobo, but the handsome, young soldier finally reunited with the woman he loved.
Joe turned around to Cheyenne with a huge smile. “Bye, Pooch,” he said. “I am going home,” and he and Adele walked with their arms around each other.

God stood smiling, watching the joyful reunion. He looked over, caught Cheyenne’s eye, and gave her a thumbs-up.
Cheyenne knew Joe was happy, but her job was still unfinished. She started to bark. She continued barking for hours until an Amtrak track foreman named Mike O’Mahoney arrived to inspect the tunnel before work started.
“Oh no! Poor old Joe, dying down here all alone,” Mike said when he saw Joe‘s body. “He was a great guy.”
Mike knew Joe well; he told Cheyenne. For years, he enjoyed conversations with Joe about everything from city politics to the New York Yankees.
Cheyenne barked again. She tugged at Joe’s shirt, which Mike noticed. He reached down and found the envelope and key.
As he read Joe’s words, tears flowed down his face. It was no coincidence that he found Joe. He knew all about Adele’s Place, he explained to Cheyenne. When Mike was 10, he and his mother lived there for three years after his dad was killed. He never forgot the kind people who gave them food, shelter and helped them get on their feet in the worst of times.
For over 30 years, Mike continued going back to Adele’s place at least once a month to volunteer his services. He fixed things, built cabinets, trimmed the shrubs and small lawn, painted, and did anything that was needed. There was a special place in his heart for Adele’s Place, where people had put back together his shattered life.
Mike took Joe’s hand, shook it, and said with ultimate sincerity, “Thank you.”
He felt extremely proud and honored to carry out the wishes of this wonderful man who unselfishly did so much good. With steely determination, he vowed to tell the world of Joe’s remarkable achievement which would make his paintings even more valuable and ensure the continuation of Adele’s Place for centuries.
Cheyenne stayed until Mike, and the police removed Joe’s body.

With the tunnel now dark, Cheyenne looked over to see God smiling once again.
“You did an outstanding job, Cheyenne. The right person found Joe and will tell the world,” said God.
“Joe used his brilliant gift to help fellow human beings. He created one masterpiece after another and will in time join the ranks of the world’s masters. He never wanted recognition, but I knew.”



Ever been to Key West?

Yes? No? Don’t remember?

It doesn’t matter!

Sit back, and we’ll give you a glimpse of the city and its history plus a character or two.

From our location, here on Cudjoe Key, 23 miles northeast of Key West or as they say in the Keys, Mile Marker 23, we proceed down the Overseas Highway or Route 1, the only road in and out of the beautiful Florida Keys.

The Overseas Highway, a 113-mile road that extends from Key Largo to Key West is one of the most scenic drives in the world. For much of the ride, you feel like you are driving in the middle of the ocean with the Atlantic to your left and the Gulf of Mexico on the right.


There are 42 bridges on the overseas highway connecting the Keys. The Seven Mile Bridge at Marathon, MM 47 is the most well-known.  You may have seen this remarkable bridge in the movies, 2 Fast and Furious 2, True Lies with Arnold Schwarzenegger or Mission Impossible III just to name a few filmed on the bridge.

The spectacular ride down the Overseas Highway, completed in 1938 follows the trail of the Railroad built by Tycoon Henry Flagler between 1905-1912. What took almost seven years to build got wiped out in 1935 with a Labor Day hurricane that destroyed more than 30 miles of track. Remnants of the Railroad can be seen parallel to the highway.

Breathtaking beauty along the drive reaches its peak at sunset when the orange ball like sun slowly descends into the sea. If you arrive in Key West near sunset, be sure to head over to Mallory Square for the nightly sunset celebration.  Performers of all types from musicians, clowns to jugglers and artists delight the hundreds who gather before sunset at the waterfront plaza just off the northern end of Duval Street.

Yes, New Orleans has Bourbon Street, but Key West has Duval Street, a 1.1-mile street, lined with pubs, restaurants, and shops that extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.  Live entertainment is a staple in the bars and restaurants where you can hear everything from Country, Rock, Irish, to reggae. If you are so inclined, take a pub crawl which many people visiting Key West recommend highly.

Some of the better know places are Sloppy Joe’s, Captain Tony’s Saloon, Margaretville owned by Jimmy Buffet, Hog’s Breath, Irish Kevin’s and the Green Parrot, just to name a few.

It has been said that Ernest Hemingway who first came to Key West in 1928 spent most evenings from 1933 to 1937 at Sloppy Joe’s located at 428 Green Street, a bar run by his friend Joe Russell.

Hemingway wrote feverously in the early morning but by three p.m. left his home on Whitehead Street ready to indulge in a libation or two with his adventurous friends who became known as the “mob.”  From this association, his nickname “Papa” emerged.

In 1938, the property owner of Sloppy Joe’s raised Joe Russell’s rent one dollar per week which did not sit well with Russell and his friends, so they moved the entire bar during the night to 201 Duval Street where it remains today. The former Sloppy Joes, one of Key West oldest bars became Captain Tony’s Saloon.

For the past 37 years, there is an Ernest “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest held at Sloppy Joes during “Hemingway Days,” July 18-23 which commemorates the iconic author’s legacy.  This year’s Look-Alike contest runs from July 20 to July 22.  After the final judging, the party spills out onto the street, where everyone has a good time.

Two or three years ago, many people got the chance to meet former Food Network star Paula Deen who was on hand to support her husband Michael, a Hemingway Look-Alike contest finalist.
        CAPTAIN TONY’ S SALOON                          SLOPPY JOE’S

Besides the lively entertainment and exciting adventures available in Key West, the city has an abundant history. The Harry S. Truman “Little White House” located in the Truman Annex off Whitehead Street built around 1890 gives a glimpse of Truman’s life in the 175 days during his presidency that he spent in Key West. The tour, available daily is both entertaining and informative while it takes you back to the late 1940’s.

Everyone visiting Key West should get their picture taken at the Southernmost point in the continental United States.

Lauren and Liam Gibbs on their first visit to Key West from Pittsburgh, PA joined the more than 30 people waiting in line to get their photo taken next to one of Key West’ most famous attractions.

The city of Key West erected the large, brightly colored, concrete buoy in 1983. On the Southernmost Point buoy visitors can read “90 Miles to Cuba” which they round off when it fact it is about 94 miles to Cuba which is still a lot closer than Miami.

Just a few feet to the right of the Southernmost Point Buoy is the bronze life-size statue of Albert Kee affixed in 2015 to the spot where Kee blew on a conch shell and welcomed everyone who visited the Southernmost Point.  With a toot from the conch shell and a wave, Kee greeted Southernmost Point visitors with, “Welcome to the Island.”

Tourist “Dr. Bill” high fives the hand of Kee’s statue. Kee was known as Key West’s unofficial greeter, ”The Conch Ambassador.”

From the southernmost point, the next stop is the beach.

Key West has three beautiful beaches: Smathers, Higgs and Fort Zachery Taylor Park, a personal favorite.

The 54-acre Fort Zachery Taylor Park is a National Historic Landmark with a historic fort and beautiful beach that stretches around the tip of Key West. You can swim and snorkel out to the rocks, but don’t forget water shoes because the coral is a bit rough on the feet.

A café, umbrella and chair rental, picnic tables and grills plus a separate area for fishing provide for a day filled with fun and adventure.

The Park’s magnificent beauty make it a favorite location for weddings and family fun.

“I made it!”

Here we have Dr. Bill again after a proud swim out to the rocks and he didn’t lose the hat.
Another interesting aspect of the Park is Fort Taylor itself. It dates to the mid-1800’s. The Union held the fort during the Civil War to protect the nation’s Southeastern coastline.  Still, on the site today are the ten-inch cannons with a range of three miles that proved a deterrent to Confederate ships.

The abundant history, fun-filled events, excellent fishing and beauty of Key West draws about three million tourists per year. Tourists have ample opportunity for sea, snorkeling and dive adventures, boating, jet ski trips, offshore and backcountry fishing as well as excursions out to the Dry Tortugas, a national park located 70 off the coast of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico.

Key West offers many exciting attractions, but let’s not forget about food.  Fine dining, as well as casual fare, can be found throughout the city. From the raw oysters, Key West pink shrimp at the Raw Bar in the historic seaport to the stunning beauty of Latitudes situated on Sunset Key a short boat ride across the harbor, diners will not be disappointed.
Board the small ferry boat docked in the harbor near the cruise ships for a ride over to Latitudes. Enjoy an incredible meal either outside or inside with a beautiful water view of the Gulf of Mexico.

Randy Smith of Palm Springs, California visits Latitudes on every visit to Key West citing it as one of his all-time favorites.

Many people refer to Key West and the Florida Keys as “Paradise.”  The tropical climate, lush vegetation, turquoise colored waters and sometimes quirky people make it more than interesting.

Walking on a beautiful day in Key West, you’ll see an abundance of gray-haired ponytailed men with tattoos, chickens, and rooster roaming freely, many fishing shirts, bicycle riders, scooter with people ranging in age from their teens to nineties,  and a happy population mostly wearing flip flops.

In most cases, you can stroll down Duval Street with a cocktail hidden in a plastic cup, converse with attractive strangers many just off a cruise ship and listen to music playing in the street. No one puts much thought into what they wear or how they look. Many enjoy life without too many cares amid the natural beauty of the Florida Keys.  Does that sound like paradise to you?


This story does not mention Fantasy Fest, one of Key West’s premier events because that is a story all its own which is coming in October.





Helen Gibbs Pohlot


Driving from Philadelphia to the Auto Train in Lorton, Virginia usually takes four hours. Last week, in the absence of Interstate 95 traffic, I made it in just over three.

It was a little before noon when I arrived at the station.  No cars were in line, so I pulled into the side parking lot. I entered the station and got my ticket from a representative who informed me that my vehicle needed to be checked in by 2:30 PM.

With over two and a half hours to wait, I decided to pay a visit to one of my favorite outlet malls called Potomac Mills, a few miles from the station. The stores are great with some of my favorites that sell quality things at half the price.

After an enjoyable shopping excursion, I headed back to the Auto Train Station.  Several cars were waiting. I took my place in line.  The person at the gate placed a number on my car, and I drove ahead, stopped and got out with my overnight bag.  A few minutes later an attendant drove my car onto the two-story Auto Train.

I entered the station and joined the group of passengers headed to Sanford, Florida.    At about 2:45 PM, an announcer told us we could board the train; first the sleeping car passengers, then coach.

We all went to our designated seats or rooms. The train left shortly before four o’clock passing Quantico and several other interesting sites.

By 5 PM, some people were getting hungry and anxious for dinner. At check in, all Auto Train passengers receive a meal ticket based on their desired time to eat dinner, either 5, 7 or 9 pm.  The train attendant announced that it was now time for the five o’clock dinner.

People riding in coach, eat in the coach dining car while the sleeper car passengers have their own dining car. Attendants seat people in a group of four. If you are traveling alone or in pairs, you will sit with strangers which can be very enjoyable and entertaining.

At 7 PM, I heard the announcement for the second dinner seating in the coach dining car.  I proceeded with many other passengers to the dining car.

Standing in the middle of the car directing people to their seats was a very tall man who introduced himself as “Big Chris”.


Big Chris had an infectious smile, booming voice, commanding presence and a comedic flair very similar to Steve Harvey, host of the TV show, The Family Feud.

He greeted every guest with a huge smile and funny remark, making them feel special, much like a frequent customer would experience in an upscale restaurant. No one was left out.

Big Chris engaged the children with high fives and questions that drew howls of laughter.  All eyes and ears were on Big Chris.

Suddenly you looked around, and a whole dining car was smiling spurred on by the humor and personality of this man.

I thought to myself how lucky this company is to have an employee with such talent, skill, and personality, plus the ability to do stand-up comedy.

As he worked his way up the aisle taking orders and making conversation, people watched and listened.

Four of the most somber people I’ve ever seen were sitting at the table next to me.  They had never taken a train before but were on their way to a function in Florida.  Getting them to talk was like pulling teeth.

The foursome seemed very awkward not knowing what to do. Big Chris recognized this and greeted them with his winning smile and jovial personality. Within seconds he had them right at ease. He asked questions and answered anything they wanted to know about the menu and train.  Soon they were laughing and enjoying themselves.

After turning the somber guests into happy diners, Big Chris focused on our table.  I was sitting with a woman and her incredibly shy 18-year-old daughter, Emily.  We only had three people at our table because we were the last to be seated.

The mother was not in the best frame of mind. She just moved from the Bronx. She was on her way to Orlando where Emily would soon start Nursing school.

Leaving family and friends in New York was very hard for Emily’s mom.  These two women were experiencing a significant change. Emily seemed scared and shy while her mom looked exhausted and weary.

Emily’s dad and uncle were driving the moving van to Orlando. They suggested that Emily and her mom take the train to get some much-needed rest and maybe have a little fun.

Enter Big Chris! With a huge smile, he said, “Good evening ladies. How are you? Do you know what you would like to order?”

He looked over at me.   I started to say, “I’ll have the…….”

“What makes you think I was asking you first?” he said.

“Oh My God! I’m sorry.  You just looked over at me, and I figured you were asking me what I wanted to order,” I replied.

“I was looking at you because you look good,” he said with that infectious smile.

I instantly burst out laughing, so did Emily and her mother.  I guess I should have been insulted by my dinner companion’s laughter, but it was obvious.  No way did I look good. With about two hours sleep the night before, rumpled clothes, no make-up, and frazzled hair, I looked anything but good. However, I was never more grateful for an undeserved compliment.

We all had a good laugh. Then Emily, who by this time is looking down, praying to God she doesn’t have to talk, knows it’s her turn to order.

You better not be laughing over there, baby girl?” Big Chris said to her which instantly brought a smile to Emily’s face.

“There you go,” he said. “I knew I could make you laugh.”

Emily ordered with her head held high and even inquired about the dessert choices.

Big Chris then turned and looked at Emily’s mom. “Now Mama, what would you like to have for dinner?” he asked.

I don’t remember what she ordered, but by the time she was finished talking to Big Chris, her weariness disappeared.  She seemed relaxed and somewhat happy about her new adventure.

The transformation I saw amongst the diners aboard the train was remarkable. This gifted man knew just what to say in a friendly and amusing way. Big Chris brought something out in each of us.  We all talked, joked and had a wonderful night.

I asked Big Chris if I could take his picture.  He happily replied, “I exfoliated for this today.”

Once again, Big Chris, had the entire dining car passengers laughing.

Just ten months later, I was back on the Auto Train, this time from Sanford Florida to Lorton, VA.

When I heard a booming voice from the next dining car say, “Did we give you service with love tonight?” I instantly knew an exceptional dining experience awaited.

Big Chris hasn’t changed. I watched him hold court with a repertoire of funny banter that delighted passengers.

A group of veterans gathered around him when someone asked if he ever played professional football.

“Yes, I played Tight End,” Chris said as a barraged of questions followed.  With everyone vying for his attention, I couldn’t hear what team he played for, but my dinner companions said it was Oakland.

We all enjoyed another wonderful dining experience hosted by Big Chris.

Big Chris taught us all a valuable lesson.  When you treat everyone equally with respect, courtesy and a touch of humor, the world is a better place.  People feel happier and more connected to each other.

While most of us will never recall what we had for dinner aboard the Auto Train last night or that evening in August 2016, we will all remember its’ superstar, “Big Chris.”





Temperatures soared to 93 degrees, making Thursday, September 8, 1960, the hottest day of the year. Juliette hoped it would cool off by Friday, her third anniversary. She and her husband Richard planned a special night.

It was a little cooler the next day when Juliette got home from work around 3 p.m.  Shortly afterward Richard pulled in the driveway. Juliette still got a thrill when she saw his face. She fell in love with Richard the moment she saw him. He was tall, handsome, and kind; everything she ever wanted in a husband.

“Are you ready, honey?” he asked.

“I sure am. I can’t wait, this is going to be so exciting,” Juliette replied.

The happy couple jumped in the car, then drove from their new home in Woonsocket, RI to Boston University’s Nickerson Field.

Friday, September 9, 1960 was a night Juliette would never forget. It started a family football tradition that would last over 56 years.

Juliette and Richard stood in line to purchased their $5 tickets.  21,597 fans turned out to see the inauguration of football in Boston. It was a first for everyone in attendance: The first regular season game of the newly formed American Football League and the first regular season opener for the Boston Patriots.

The AFL, founded by Lamar Hunt and a few others after the NFL denied selling them a team, openly competed with the established NFL.  Eight franchises divided into the East and West Divisions, comprised the AFL.

In November, 1959, a group of executives from Boston led by Billy Sullivan got the AFL’s eighth and final franchise for $25,000.   In 1960, the name Patriots stemmed from 74 fans who suggested Patriots in the Name-The-Team contest conducted by Boston’s AFL management group. Prior to that, thousands of people sent in possible team names.

Due to many area NFL New York Giants fans, the Boston Patriots held their untelevised opening game on Friday night. They did not want to interfere with the NFL’s televised Sunday games, nor the Saturday, Harvard and Boston College games.

Juliette remembered expecting the Boston Patriots to win against the Denver Bronco’s that night, after beating the Buffalo Bills in the preseason game, but they ended up losing 10-13.  1960 was a disappointing 5-9 season, the worst in the AFL Eastern Division.

Despite the loss, Richard and Juliette never gave up on the Boston Patriots. They became season ticketholders, a gift they purchased each year to commemorate their anniversary.

When their three children were born, they too became zealous Patriots fans.  For every home game, they loaded the car with happy kids and delicious tailgate food. Off they went to where ever the Patriots played. From 1960 to 1969, they played at Nickerson Field, Harvard and eventually, Fenway Park.

Then, in 1970, the AFL merged with the NFL. The Patriots went to the American Football Conference East (AFC) division.  Finally, after being denied a petition for a new stadium in Boston, Billy Sullivan moved the team to Foxborough, Massachusetts in 1971, much closer to Woonsocket, which made Richard and Juliette very happy.

Sullivan also changed the Boston Patriots’ name to the Bay State Patriots which the NFL quickly rejected, but on March 22, 1971, the team announced it’s new name, The New England Patriots.

For 30 years, Richard and Juliette enjoyed many victories at what was first called Schaeffer, then Sullivan and finally Foxborough Stadium before they moved again in 2002 to Gillette Stadium also in Foxborough, MA.

Some of Juliette’s happiest memories were watching the three Super Bowl wins in 2001, 2003, and 2004 on television. Family members gathered every year at their house for an impressive Super Bowl party.

Richard thought the Patriots new coach brought great excitement to the team, while Juliette thought the handsome young quarterback was headed for greatness.

Despite Super Bowl losses to the New York Giants in 2007 and 2012, the New England Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24.

Richard watched his last Super Bowl in 2016; Denver Broncos against the Carolina Panthers.  Once again, the entire family gathered for their yearly Super Bowl party. Richard cheered for the Panthers because he still harbored a grudge against the Denver Broncos for beating his beloved Boston Patriots in September of 1960.

Richard passed away in his sleep at the age of 92, the following March.  Although devastated, Juliette knew he lived a beautiful and rewarding life.  There were no regrets, nothing left unsaid.

For the next several months Juliette now 86 felt somewhat lost.  Although it wasn’t the same without Richard, she continued to watch her beloved Patriots. After the recent Playoff game with the Pittsburgh Steelers, she realized that her team was headed to another Super Bowl.  Richard would be so proud that the Patriots were the first team to reach nine Super Bowls.

She inquired if her two sons were coming over to watch like years before. Her daughter Ann lived in Arizona, so she didn’t expect her to come.

Juliette oldest son, a doctor, told her that he was on call that night and probably wouldn’t be able to make it. Her younger son said that he didn’t think he could come, but would try. Juliette couldn’t believe it. For the first time in 57 years, she might be alone while the Patriots played in a Super Bowl.

Her first thought was to go to Houston and watch the game live. Sure, she was 86 and not as spry as she once was, but she could still get around better than most.

She quickly called to see about arrangements.  If no one wanted to come to her, she would go to the Super Bowl itself.

The airfare was reasonable as was the hotel, but when they told her the price of a Super Bowl ticket, Juliette stopped short.  The price ranged between $2350 to over $5000 depending on the seat and availability.  The cost was way beyond Juliette’s means.

After her friend Chloe told her she wasn’t interested in football, Juliette resigned herself to watching the game alone.

On Sunday morning, February 5, 2017 Juliette went to church. Afterwards, she stopped at the store to buy snacks for her Super Bowl party of one.

When she got home, a sadness came over her.  Oh, how she missed Richard.  They shared so many happy times.  Sure, she should be grateful for the time they had together, but she needed to stop feeling so bad.

Trying to collect herself, Juliette half heartily made some snacks for the game later that day.

She couldn’t help it, tears flowed from her eyes while the doorbell rang.  Juliette quickly wiped her eyes.

A look of shock came across Juliette’s face when she opened the door to see her beautiful daughter, and two sons with their children carrying trays of food for a special super bowl party.

“Surprise Mom,” they all joyously yelled.  “We have been planning this for weeks and wanted it to be a surprise. You threw us a curve when you asked if we were coming.  We said the first thing that came to our minds.

“We’d never let you be alone today,” her daughter said.

Juliette almost didn’t have to watch the game. She felt like she just won the Super Bowl.



A blast of cold air hit Elle as she exited her Fifth Avenue building. 

“Do I walk the fifteen blocks to 59th street or take the M4 bus?” Elle said out loud.

With 20 degree temperatures in New York City and a serious threat of snow, she bolted towards the bus stop.

Elle boarded the bus, grateful for the immediate warmth.  She sat down and began to go over her mental list of the things she still needed for Christmas.
With 24 people coming, planning was key, but Elle looked forward to every aspect of her family Christmas.

After a quick trip to Saks, Elle walked over to Rockefeller Center to watch the ice skaters and look at the beautiful Christmas tree.  She walked past the tree almost every day and never tired of seeing the lights.

For Elle, her love of Christmas began with a tree, 35 years ago. She never forgot that first tree.  Elle who was 11, Billy and Caroline, 10-year-old twins and nine-year-old Steve were four foster children living at Mrs. Weiss’s rowhouse in the Mayfair section of Philadelphia.  All four kids were abandoned at an early age, left without any trace of family.

One day about a week before Christmas, Elle asked Mrs. Weiss if she could get a Christmas tree for the small house.  Mrs. Weiss said that she didn’t care, but not to expect any help from her.

Mrs. Weiss was in her late 60’s, disgruntled by life and dependent on the money she got from child care.  She did not believe in holidays, birthdays or extravagances in any way.  She remained detached from the children with the exception of basic meal preparation which left the children hungry most of the time.

No one complained. The four kids were just happy to have a place to live, and something to eat.

At 11 years of age, Elle was exceptionally smart with impressive leadership skills.  She gathered the kids together saying, “I don’t know about you, but I am sick of never celebrating Christmas like other people.  I know we are poor, but we can make some type of Christmas for ourselves. It is up to us and we can do anything once we put our minds to it.”

Elle looked directly at Billy, Caroline and Steve. “I have an idea. On my way home from school tomorrow, I am going to ask Mr. Flynn at the Christmas tree lot if we can have a free tree, if there are any left on Christmas Eve. I know he is mean, but it will not hurt to ask.”

“Great idea,” Billy said happily.  “We all can go with you to pick it up.”

“We also need some type of Christmas dinner.  Mrs. Weiss will not do anything but if we put our heads together, I bet we can come up with something special,”
Elle said.

The next day Elle proudly walked up to Mr. Flynn and asked him about getting a free tree.  “If I have one left at 7:30 on Christmas Eve, you can have it,”
Mr. Flynn replied.

Elle was excited and shared the news with her foster brothers and sister. Her next task was Christmas dinner.  Before she went about gathering food, she needed to find out if they had the necessary pots and pans for cooking.  She rummaged through the kitchen and found a few she could use.

All the kids were excited and filled with ideas.  “I wish we could have biscuits with lots of butter and a big turkey,” said Billy.

“Oh, that sounds good,” Steve said. “Maybe some stuffing too.”

“I would love to have a nice pie or some Christmas cookies like the other kids at school,” added Caroline.

Everyone knew what they wanted. It was up to Elle to figure out how to get it.

None of the kids had any money, plus they were too young for jobs.

Elle decided to seek the advice of her teacher Mrs. Myers.

After explaining the situation, Elle asked, “Mrs. Myers, do you have any ideas? Maybe I could work for someone after school to get the food.”

Mrs. Myers’ heart went out to Elle who impressed her with steely determination.

“As you know, we are having a Holiday pageant here at school this coming Saturday afternoon.  We need help setting everything up and then taking the chairs down,” Mrs. Myers said.

“How about if you give me a list of the things you need. If you, your brothers and sister come help us set up, see the show, then take the stuff down, we will get you the food.”

Elle screamed with joy. Her Christmas was finally coming together. She raced home to tell the others.

Christmas spirit soared into high gear with Elle’s news.  She quickly made a list of the things she needed and gave it to Mrs. Myers the following day.

“Elle, who is going to cook all the food?” Mrs. Myers asked.

“I am, but everyone will help me,” Elle responded.

“Do you know how to cook a turkey?”  Mrs. Myers asked.

“No, but I can read. I figured, if you can read, you can cook. I got a recipe out of a book for the turkey and stuffing,” Elle said.

Mrs. Myers laughed. She was filled with admiration for the young girl.

With the food taken care of, Elle checked out the Christmas trees each day.  Christmas was on a Monday.  By Friday, there were not too many trees left. Elle worried they may not get a tree.

Bright and early Saturday morning, Elle got everyone ready. They went to the school and set up the chairs for the pageant. Afterwards, the teachers offered the kids hot chocolate and Christmas cookies which they eagerly accepted.

The show went well. Billy, Elle, Caroline, and Steve took all the chairs down and lined them in the storage closest.  Mrs. Myers told Elle to come to her classroom when they were finished.

Mrs. Myers had five big bags of groceries lined up.  She gave Elle a step-by-step instruction sheet for cleaning and cooking the turkey. Elle was very grateful because the other turkey recipe was far more difficult.

“I have a great idea. Why don’t we load the stuff in my car and I will drive it to your house where you can unload it?” Mrs. Myers said.

“Great idea. Thank you very much. We will run home and meet you there,” Elle said. “This is going to be the best Christmas ever.”

Mrs. Myers pulled up to the small run-down rowhouse. While the kids unloaded the groceries, Mrs. Myers was grateful for children like Elle who inspire hope.

When Elle and the kids opened the bags, they found a lot more than they requested.  There was a big turkey pan, a turkey, gravy, stuffing mix, cranberry sauce, a cookie sheet and cookie dough, a few bags of vegetables, potatoes, biscuits, butter, eggs and sausage for breakfast, cinnamon rolls and a pumpkin and apple pie, plus cooking instruction for each dish.

Mrs. Myers was thorough and wanted the children to have a wonderful Christmas.  They worked hard and deserved it.

“I never saw food like this before,” said Billy. “This is going to be great.”

Mrs. Weiss walked into the kitchen while the children were putting the food away.

“What is all this?” she said coldly.

“We set up the Christmas pageant at school in exchange for the food,” Elle said.

“We are going to make a delicious Christmas dinner. You are going to love it.”

“I’ll take a plate in my room,” Mrs. Weiss responded.

“Okay, but do you mind if we set the table up,” asked Elle.

“I don’t care, just don’t break any more dishes.”

Elle carefully looked for dishes that matched and a tablecloth, but found neither.

“One day, I am going to have a long white table with pretty dishes, candles, napkins and flowers,” Elle said to herself, but for now this is good.

During the day on Christmas eve, Elle, Billy, Caroline and Steve worked together in preparation for their big Christmas dinner.

Billy and Elle followed Mrs. Myers instructions in cleaning the turkey.  They placed salt inside, but the bird was too slippery for Elle and Billy to handle. Suddenly, it  plunged to the floor, bounced and slid about six feet.

Billy and Steve howled with laughter while Elle hoped the floor was not too dirty.

It took the combined strength of Elle, Billy and Caroline to pick up the bird and thoroughly clean it again.  They put it in the pan, then placed the pan in the refrigerator.

“Do you think we can make some of those cookies today?” Steve asked Caroline.

“Why not! That’s a great idea. I know I would love some,” Caroline said as she got to work making the cookies.

The smell of baked cookies filled the house.  “I just love Christmas,” Caroline told Elle as she took the last batch from the oven.

With all the activity, Elle noticed it was 6:45.

“Billy, Caroline, Steve, let’s go.  We have to get the tree,” Elle said.

The foursome walked the four blocks to the Christmas tree lot.  It was just after seven when Mr. Flynn saw the kids.

“I told you 7:30, you are early,” he shouted.

“We just wanted to get here on time, that’s all Mr. Flynn,” Elle said as she noticed he had three or four trees left.

“Since you are already here, which of these trees would you like,” Mr. Flynn said with a huge smile that made all the kids happy.

There was no contest.  They all agreed on the biggest and fullest tree.  “Do you have a stand for the tree?” Mr. Flynn asked.

“This is the first tree we ever had, I guess I forgot about the stand,” said Elle.

“Here is an old one you can have and it is just the right size,” Mr. Flynn said as he showed the kids how to put the tree in the stand.

“What are you going to decorate the tree with?” he asked.

“We just wanted a tree, we never hoped for ornaments or anything,” Elle told him.

“I have an idea. I have all these red bows and candy canes you can use to decorate your tree. They are left over, but you are welcome to them,” he said.

Everyone was excited and thanked Mr. Flynn for his kindness and generosity.

“Next year, you children come here and pick out any tree you want for free and you don’t have to wait for Christmas eve.”

Elle, Billy, Caroline and Steve carried their prized tree home.  Together they set it up and decorated it with the beautiful red bows and candy canes.  They stood back looking in awe at their first Christmas tree.

“It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen,” Elle said happily to her foster brothers and sister.

The next day, Caroline placed the cookies she made the day before under the tree. She wrapped them in individual plastic bags tied with a red bow so each child would have a special gift on Christmas day.

After breakfast, the four children spent the day preparing their first family Christmas dinner. They followed Mrs. Myers’ instructions and made a sumptuous turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

“I knew we could do it,” a very full Billy told the others.

“So did I,” said Elle.  “We should do this every year and make it our family tradition.”

35 years later, the tradition endured.  Elle, Billy, Caroline, and Steve, all very successful people with their spouses and children rolled up their sleeves in Elle’s state of the art kitchen to prepare their family Christmas dinner.

The long white table was set with matching dishes, stemware, candles, napkins and flowers while a 12-foot Christmas tree stood tall decorated from top to bottom in red bows and candy canes.







Margaret Elward met the love of her life in Philadelphia sometime during the year 1880. His name was Michael O’Sullivan, a tall, intelligent, Irish immigrant bursting with a passion for success.

Not even his love for Margaret could stop him from achieving his dream.  At thirty-seven, after less than a year of courtship, Michael left Philadelphia and a heartbroken Margaret. He knew that he would never be good for her if he didn’t pursue a better life. He hoped and prayed she would wait for him and someday share in his success. Michael promised to send for Margaret once he was established.

During his travels, Michael and his brother Timothy may have learned about Bishop John Ireland, of the St, Paul, Minnesota Diocese’s efforts to help the plight of Irish settlers in the Eastern cities. Bishop Ireland encouraged Irish immigrants to come out to the rural, fertile farmland of Minnesota.  In 1885, after a brief career as a stevedore in the Ohio Valley, Michael acquired 160 acres about five miles from the town of Adrian, Minnesota, under the Homestead Act of 1865. He fulfilled the requirements for land ownership. He resided on the land for three years, built a dwelling, and barn, and worked the land.

Michael was now ready to send for Margaret. After almost nine years of waiting, her letter finally came. During Michael’s absence, Margaret bore several tragedies that often made her question whether she should continue waiting for the man she once loved so dearly.

Now forty-one, Margaret was no stranger to difficult decisions. She’d crossed the Atlantic at sixteen from County Wexford, Ireland and endured more than most people could handle in a lifetime.

In the summer of 1889, Margaret kissed her brother and sister goodbye in Philadelphia and boarded a train headed for the untamed prairie and the man she loved.  Courage, her faith in God, and undying love for Michael replaced the fear of uncharted territory and uncertainty.

Margaret arrived in Adrian, Minnesota shortly before her wedding date of July 2, 1889.  Michael greeted her with open arms.  She spent the days prior to her wedding with either Michael’s brother Timothy’s family or at the home of fellow members of St. Adrian’s Church, people noted for their warmth and welcoming way.

After the wedding, life began on the farm.  Margaret and Michael shared a remarkable love that, although interrupted for a time, now flourished.  Margaret helped Michael with everything. She loved her new role as a wife and farmer.  The 160 acres of land proved fertile as they grew everything needed to survive and prosper.  They became a devoted team with a unified goal of a successful farm and home.

Michael promised to build Margaret a house that would make her proud.  While the small wood shanty provided adequate shelter, Michael wanted better for Margaret. She didn’t care; with Michael by her side, she was home.

A few days before Christmas in 1889, Margaret and Michael, two newlyweds, happily gathered everything they needed for a festive dinner.  Margaret wanted their first Christmas together to be wonderful. They were beyond happy and thankful they were finally together.

Michael looked at her every day and thanked God. He was very proud to call her his wife and hoped that someday they would have children.

Margaret busied herself making pies, preparing the festive meal for their first Christmas.  She invited Michael’s brother Timothy and his family, who owned an adjacent farm, to join their celebration.  Margaret proudly displayed her new dishes, a wedding present from her family in Philadelphia.

Dinner looked perfect.  Everything was right with the world.  Michael looked lovingly across the table at Margaret, the only woman he ever loved.  They said grace together, thankful for the delightful meal.

The following year Michael and Margaret welcomed a baby girl named Helen and another daughter, Mary Margaret, in 1892.



After all the hard work and sacrifice, Michael and Margaret’s dream came true.  They had each other. He built a fine house and had one of the most successful farms in the county.  According to my grandmother Helen, her parents planned and dreamed of sending their daughters to college. The O’Sullivan house around 1950.  The woman on the right is Helen.

Michael and Margaret shared twelve happy Thanksgivings and eleven Christmases together on their farm until death and sickness derailed their happiness.

Although the journey of these two-extraordinary people was fret with sacrifice, sadness, and was far too short, their incredible love story prevails.

During the holidays, most people give thanks for their families. I give thanks for people like my great-grandparents whose fascinating story is only briefly deduced and described in this story.

Before going to Adrian, Minnesota, my great-grandparents, Margaret and Michael, were just names to me.  What I discovered with the help of Annette Gibbs, Dr. Bill Gibbs, Meredith Vaselaar, Librarian at the Adrian Library, and the wonderful people of Adrian, Minnesota is a triumphant story of exceptional courage, faith, trust, and fortitude in building a successful life from nothing but hard work, ambition, dedication, and grit.

Michael and Margaret O’Sullivan bravely took a chance despite insurmountable odds. They came from Ireland to a new land of promise. They grasped that promise and secured it. They never gave up in life or in each other.



Helen Gibbs Pohlot

Patriotic acts of kindness often go unnoticed by the average person.  Sometimes it is just the giver and the recipient who see it.  Yesterday an encounter at a Key West, Florida store, took me back to the time I first observed the unforgettable combination of patriotism and kindness in action.
It was several years ago, when my 84-year-old mother and I went into WAWA, a convenience store located in Whiting, NJ. Lunch crowd customers filled the store, but we were hungry for coffee and donuts.  We waited in line for about 15 minutes to pay for our food.  Standing right behind us were four members of the military, who had sandwiches, drinks, soup, snacks and desserts.

My mother struck up a conversation with them as they happily told her about their families, where they were from, and their area of military expertise.  She knew more about these young men in 15 minutes than most people would learn in a year.  The soldiers responded to Mom’s questions with respect and humor.  It was obvious that they enjoyed talking to her.

I went to pay for our donuts and coffee, but my mother stopped me.  “Put your money away,” she said in a tone that I knew not to argue with.

Immediately after the cashier rang up our purchase, Mom turned to the somewhat frazzled woman and said, “Miss, I would like to buy lunch today for these four young soldiers.”

The cashier lost her edge and broke into a big smile, saying, “By all means, Ma’am.”

The four soldiers turned and thanked my mother profusely as they put their food on the counter.
One young man leaned over and gave mom a big hug.

After my mother quietly paid, we walked outside to the car.  I turned and asked her, “Why did you do that? It was incredibly nice and I was really proud of you.”

Mom looked at me in surprise.

“It is what you do,” she said firmly. “During World War II, every time you saw a member of the military you picked up their check, and that doesn’t change with different wars.  It is about respect, sacrifice and honor.  I have been doing it for years.”

I felt stupid, selfish and downright clueless, because I never paid attention.  My mother’s action that day and countless others after that remain with me each time I see a member of our armed services.

This was never more apparent than in August of 2012.  Mom passed away the month before and despite overwhelming grief I had to go on a business trip to Florida.  I decided to take the train.  With over two hours to wait at the station, I went into a local restaurant.  Seated at a table across from me were five army men.  I instinctively knew what to do.

I summoned the waitress.  “Miss, I would like to pay for the soldiers’ lunch,” I told her.

“Sorry, but that couple over there just paid their check,” she said, pointing to a man and woman who appeared to be in their 80s.

I looked over at the couple and smiled while the words “It is what you do” echoed in my mind.

Then, just yesterday, my mother’s words resounded once again.  I was waiting in line at the Key West Publix’s, a large supermarket.  Two Navy women were in front of me.  When the cashier finished ringing up their groceries, without a word I stepped up and handed her my credit card.  The cashier knew exactly what I wanted to do, charging the card and handing me the receipt.  The two Navy women thanked me warmly.

I thought to myself, it is what you do, and my mother was right.

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