Kitty Gray Ehresmann made a difference in someone's life while at the dedication ceremony of the official Texas state historical marker for the Texas International Pop Festival on October 1, 2011. It was an amazing God directed event. The son of the only man who died during the Pop Festival was in attendance at the dedication that morning and just happened to be standing beside Kitty and me (Peggy Ford Jones) and Kitty just happened to bring her old 1969 headline newspaper that contained the article about the festival and the death. Unbelievable .... well long-story short .... Kitty gave the newspaper to the man. Kitty also brought another 1969 newspaper with articles about the Festival that she presented to the son of the sign Festival organizer. See the pictures. It surely felt like the Holy Spirit was guiding all of us that morning....just another example that we are never alone in this world. God bless you all.
The Centennial Parade was loads of fun. There were so many people from the community watching the parade and of course the Class of 1970 was going to be SEEN AND HEARD. After all, we are by far the BEST CLASS that ever roamed the halls of RLT. Rusty Marcom from the Class of 1972 drove the truck that carried the alumni float while Sid Sanford rode shotgun. Classmates from the Class of '08 rode in the bed of the truck and The Mighty Class of 1970 classmates J.D. Wyner, Kitty Gray, Shirley Lozano, Lidia Saldana, Peggy Ford, Kathy Runkel and Charli Beauchamp (as we were known in our RLT days), along with Barbara Jordan from the Class of 1969, rode on the float carrying our Class of 1970 sign and waving and shouting at the crowds.
It was an amazing evening. Enjoy the pictures below. Also there is a video of the parade and pep rally on you tube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQJTcNowvUA&feature=related and you can see the Class of 1970 go by as the announcer announces us!!!!
Making a difference
Today's column from Ralph Hendricks
Monday, September 20, 2010
Occasionally in life you meet someone who wants to make a difference in the world. Oh sure we all make a difference in some way, but to what degree? After all, life is tough enough for all of us with the challenges of just making a “living”, enduring the daily grind and overcoming the day-to-day dramas we encounter. So when is there really any time to give more of ourselves when life seems to take so much of our energy just to survive?
Thank goodness there are so many unsung heroes in our society who contribute to the betterment of humanity in one way or another like teachers, paramedics, doctors, health care workers, musicians, artists, fire fighters, law enforcement professionals, soldiers, social workers, farmers and many other vocations.
I had the honor of meeting someone who qualifies as “making a difference” and was inspired enough to share a little about him. It was a chance meeting at a bluegrass jam last winter before a Special Consensus concert. He was playing banjo. During a break he introduced himself as Warren McGuffin. My first impression was that this guy looked a lot like Grizzly Adams. He has that mountain man beard and quiet strength that comes from years of being weathered outdoors working with his hands. We discovered that we lived within two miles of each other and he asked if I’d come to his annual pickin’ party in August. As the months passed, we got together to play music, throw back a few brews and talk about our lives.
I quickly discovered that Warren is much more than an “average guy”. He’s a prolific antique collector (most from family ancestors) and his home is almost a museum of unique antiques, each having a special history. He’s been playing bluegrass since the early ‘70’s and says he wore out his Nitty Gritty Dirt Band records back in the day. He got serious with banjo in 1990. Warren was in the band GrassFire from 2003 – 2008. Warren had past bluegrass / CBA literary involvement that included a number of Grand Ole Opry interviews and published two articles on Ralph Stanley in the Bluegrass Breakdown. There’s a 3rd interview with Ralph Stanley coming up this summer to complete his trilogy series. Warren has also interviewed Steve Sparkman (who plays Stanley style banjo), Charlie Cushman (banjoist and guitarist), Bela Fleck (played banjo in the New Grass Revival from 1982), Sonny Osborne (you guessed it….banjo with the Osborne Brothers.) and Alan Mund (who played banjo with Sam Bush, Jimmy Martin and many others). This year was Warren’s 27th year at the CBA Father’s Day Festival and last month he had his own Annual “Pickin’ Party at his home for the 10th year in row.
This is where my brief story about Warren takes a turn to how he’s “Making a Difference”. After a long career, Warren retired and began donating his time to disaster relief efforts. He was soon in the middle of a full on disaster just 3 weeks after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast where he set up base camp in Pascadulla, Mississippi. He then rallied again on two trips to Galveston, Texas when the next disaster of Hurricane Ike hit.
Warren has teamed up with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (U.M.C.O.R.) a global humanitarian aid organization which matches 1:1 individual contributions to the relief efforts. Since he became involved he has made fourteen trips to serve on the Katrina rebuilding effort with ten trips to Biloxi, Mississippi. His last trip lasted ten days where he built and finished two homes in Slidell, Louisiana that had been destroyed in the disaster. All of the material and labor are donated by U.M.C.O.R. at no cost to the homeowners. This project can be a huge challenge and back breaking labor as the volunteer’s first clear rubble and often recover victims that had been missing in the debris. Warren warned me that this kind of work wasn’t for the faint of heart, but was so important that they overcame the shock and stress and just did what had to be done. Other projects have included the building of evacuation shelters and schools. These projects included up to forty-seven volunteers who would work together for at least a week at a time.
In another international relief effort trip he rebuilt a senior center in the town of Caconde, Sao Paulo Brazil where no one spoke English and the oldest resident was 107 years old. They may not have understood his English but judging from the pictures of someone there playing guitar they all understood music just like us U.S.A. bluegrassers.
On several relief effort missions Warren made side trips on his way back home to enjoy local music festivals in the U.S. After all, he’d earned a little R&R.
In addition to many Katrina relief missions Warren is now also donating his time to the Haiti relief project where he travelled to just last month in August. He will return to Haiti in February 2011 for another phase of that relief project.
Warren has never taken his banjo with him on the missions, but on one occasion he and another volunteer needed a “bluegrass break” so bad that they drove to the closest town still standing and bought instruments to bring back to the disaster site.
So the big question for some may be “why” give so much? Why work so hard at an age when many folks have earned the right to “take it easy”. The work of disaster relief is back breaking. The hours are beyond dawn to dusk. The living conditions are grave. The places are in despair. The first impression can be both daunting and heartbreaking.
But for Warren the question is “why not”? He feels that life has been good to him and now this is his opportunity to give the world and others something back. And for that, Warren is much more than just a neighbor, fellow musician, nice guy and friend. He’s someone out there trying to improve the lives of total strangers at a time when they feel helpless without hope. He’s motivated beyond making just a contribution. He’s out there making a difference.
If you’d like to join Warren in helping make the world a better place let him know. Warren can be found on Facebook or can be contacted here on the CBA site message board. Here are some great video links about the relief efforts. I think you will enjoy the music.