“Laughter Is The Best Medicine” | Blog #31

“Laughter Is The Best Medicine” | Blog #31

Picture gallery at the bottom of the blog!

Sometimes being at the right place at the right time makes all the difference. My morning started, unusually, with me NOT being the first in line for a museum opening. One couple were already at the front door of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library/Museum in Staunton, VA. Gotta give the Ohioans props for beating me to the mark! They told me they wanted to get through the museum because there was going to be a fly-by of WWII planes to mark D-Day at 11:30. I hadn’t heard, so was grateful for the information. 

Once in, we had a half-hour self-guided of the museum before a docent took us through the home in which he was born. Wilson’s father moved to Staunton in 1854 to take the pulpit at First Presbyterian. Two years later Wilson was born at the manse. Although his father took the call to the Presbyterian Church in Augusta, GA a year later, Wilson came back to Staunton during his Presidency with his second wife, Edith, and were hosted in the manse. After his death, Edith bought the manse and turned it into a museum. 

Even though small, I thought the museum comprehensive and liked that they had a copy of the print of Princeton Theological Seminary’s Alexander Hall, the oldest building on campus. Alex was my home for my first two years, so I am always pleased when I see it. While now seen as a controversial politician because of his views (and policies!) on race, Wilson nevertheless is an important figure in our twentieth century political history.

From there I stopped by – on Leah’s recommendation – Frontier Village. A collection of 17th and 18th century buildings from England, Germany, Ireland, and America (and a collection of period African huts rebuilt to represent period housing) the “village” tells the story of immigrants who flooded into the area of Staunton and how they became “American.” Leah had taken a group of teenagers there when she worked in a history program one summer at William & Mary. I was most grateful to be outside to be able to catch the flight of B-17’s heading down to Bedford County for the D-Day memorial.

I drove the hour and a half over to Amissville, VA to Touchstone Farm to see my old AU housemate, Alan Zuschlag, and reunite with AU legend, Mike Roselli. Alan graduated from School of International Service with me and went on to work with the World Bank and IMF in Eastern Europe. But when he hit his mid-thirties, he pivoted and moved out to the rolling farmland of Rappahannock County and hung out a real estate shingle and started specializing in selling farm estates. He bought one himself, built a garage with a couple of rooms above and bought a flock of Clun Forest sheep. His father was an important vet from Illinois, so Alan had the bug; he also keeps specialty pigeons (like 100 or so) a couple of donkeys, and now has a small herd of cattle. But his real estate work continues. and he is in the midst of (finally) building the home he always imagined. Mike is now retired from CNN. His career was producing news from the Capitol and White House and worked closely with Candy Crowley producing her segments. I’ve known both of them since the fall of ’78 and sitting and laughing and hearing them needle each other had me doubled over in hysterics. Laughter is good for the soul. Alan treated me to dinner in Little Washington, VA where former CIA Head William Webster (now an active 96-year-old) was at the next table. Alan likes the “small town” character of where he lives and being part of such a close community.

Driving from Rockbridge County in the “golden hour” through the gently rolling hills into the NoVa suburbs was simply lovely. I arrived at my friend Jeannette Chu’s later than I’d hoped, but she, her husband Keith, daughter Joi, and badly injured neighborhood cat welcomed me even though it was 9:00pm. Jeannette and I go back a long way. We graduated from Freedom High School together and were the only ones from FHS to go to American University. We never ran into each other at AU but have managed to keep up over the years. I have followed her career with awe and gratitude. She worked for the Department of State and Commerce in the US Embassy, Beijing, China first as the Immigration Attaché/Officer-in-Charge and then as Senior Export Control Attaché before working as a Senior Managing Director at PwC leading their Export Controls and Trade Sanctions group. I am amazed at God’s grace that has taken two kids from Freedom High, Bethlehem, PA and let us both serve in the ways we have. Having the chance to (finally) meet her amazingly smart daughter, Joi, who is heading off to San Francisco to work on draught/water issues and having the chance to talk baseball with her Pirate-loving husband, Keith, capped off a wonderfully, rich day.