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Happy days and sad times

Did everyone have a nice holiday? I hope you did. I received chocolate, alcohol, socks and coffee, so my vices were sated and my feet warm.

Grampy Grumpy even remembered my love of Chocovine and gave me a bottle. I opened it and screamed, “you really do love me!” Of course, I knew he did, but it is nice to have these things confirmed from time to time.

Everyone expressed appreciation — to my face — for the carefully chosen gifts I bought. The months of scouring online sales, compare and contrast, hunting for the unique and research paid off. I was especially pleased when my brother, Davy Crockett, called from Kentucky to tell me he was particularly pleased with the framed art print featuring the Dark Tower. He and I have long been fans of the books.

I was thrilled to find this print, but mailing it was an odyssey of several days, encompassing five stores and four Post Offices in a quest to find a box or envelope large enough to ship it in. I put hours into this, and it caused me so much stress, because I knew this was the perfect gift and I was having such trouble getting it to him. The Steubenville Post Office took pity on my frantic efforts, and they fashioned a box so it could get there on time. I will never again buy anything larger than 14-inches by 18-inches to ship.

I told him about my efforts, and said, “when I come to visit you, the first thing I’d better see when I open the door is that picture hanging on the wall.”

As I got off the phone, my mother wandered over. “Did you know that when you shipped Davy’s package, you forgot the Christmas pickle?”

Well, damn.

•••••

I want to take a moment to remember Mark J. Miller, my newsroom friend and colleague who passed away Sunday morning. Mark sat just across the aisle from me, and we worked together on the Weekender — although Mark did the heavy lifting.

Mark and I shared a lot of the same ideals, and we would often find ourselves discussing politics, history, religion and pop culture. He was fascinated by the Mothman and liked to stay in haunted hotels, but what I remember most about Mark was that he was passionate about advocating for those who were down and out. Mark never looked down on people who were having a hard time, he looked around for a way to help them.

He had real empathy and compassion for anyone who was marginalized. He was a writer who had lived a colorful and interesting life on both coasts, and he knew how to put himself into someone else’s shoes. Mark didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk. When he saw a need, he used his talents and his contacts to fill it. He became involved with a local food bank and he gave free guitar lessons to children who otherwise couldn’t afford it. When writing stories, he was especially engaged in promoting those who served the community or needed help. Mark cared about people.

He died too young. There are songs to be played and stories to be written that no one else can do justice. Mark made our community better, but he left a heavy silence behind when he left us.

(Wallace-Minger, The Weirton Daily Times community editor, is a Weirton resident and can be contacted at swallace@pafocus.com)

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