Dear Lowes, ’tis the season for a happy ending

Updated:

Dear Lowes,

Thank you for giving this story a happy ending!

This story needs a happy ending. You can make that happen.

A while back, my Dad and Mom paid Lowes to put new siding on their home in Woodbury, N.J.

After my Dad died this year, my brother and I realized Lowes had failed to replace a structurally important part, something Lowes acknowledged when my uncle pointed it out on before and after photos.

Now Lowes says it will finish the job it left undone, but only if my Mom pays Lowes $250.

Really, Lowes? I think you can do better. Start by telling my Mom you’re sorry.

Just a few minutes after this article was published, a Lowes representative called my uncle and said the repair would be made at no charge, “In the spirit of the season.”

From the time we moved there in 1958, Dad fixed pretty much every part of that house, from the shingles on the roof to the sump pump in the basement, and everything in between.

He had help from us kids.

He taught me how to hold a hammer, how to hit a nail on a shingle (“One to set it, one to sink it.”), how to care for a saw, how to strip a wire, how to glaze a window, how to measure a board (twice) and how to cut it (hold your mouth right), and how to treat a really good paint brush to make it last a lifetime. Without me noticing until after the fact, my Dad slipped in a whole lot of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

That experience – along with frequent calls home and a few house calls from Dad – helped me and my husband go on to rehab and remodel a series of homes in Dallas, Phoenix, San Francisco and San Antonio. My brother was able to leverage that guidance in “how to figure it out and how to fix it” into several decent jobs along the way.

But by 2011, when the outside of our family home needed a facelift, Dad couldn’t do it. He was 78. Cardiopulmonary disease was taking its toll, and he was tethered around the clock to an oxygen bottle.

In phone calls from my home in San Antonio, I helped my parents to get a series of bids, including one from Lowes, for new siding and new windows all around. With help from my friends at the San Antonio Express-News Federal Credit Union, we found the people-centric South Jersey Federal Credit Union for Mom and Dad to join and get a low-interest equity loan for the project.

Dad documented the work from day one, hoping to produce a time-lapse video of the project. It was the first time someone outside the family had worked on our home.

porch

Diagonal support brace holds up side porch roof before it was removed by Lowes workmen in this photo by Joe Lucas

I remember almost to the minute when the Lowes contractor wrapped up the job. Dad told me on the phone how the workmen rushed all day Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011 to finish.

Superstorm Sandy was right off the East Coast, poised devastate parts of New Jersey and New York City. The killer hurricane made landfall in Brigantine, N.J. that night and looked at first as if it would take a straight shot over Mom and Dad’s house on its way to Philadelphia. (more about Sandy here)

In the end, the storm barely touched Woodbury, just giving the new siding and windows a gentle power wash.

When I went home to visit for Thanksgiving in 2012, I didn’t notice what Lowes contractors had failed to do: They removed and did not replace a brace that supported the side porch roof on Mom and Dad’s house.

And when I went home in May of 2013, I still didn’t notice the missing support brace under the porch roof. I was focused entirely on my Dad, who was fast going downhill. We went to the pharmacy where he introduced me to his girlfriends, who kept him smiling. We went to see the chiropractor whom he adored and we went to see his general practitioner, a man Dad counted as an intelligent friend. We drove to his beloved Jersey Pine Barrens for a last visit. We talked, hung out and hugged.

I went home again this year, and got to spend a precious couple days with Dad and my family before my father died on March 28.

When we came back to the house, my brother and I noticed something wrong. The storm door on the side porch wouldn’t open all the way, and the top of the door scrapes the ceiling under the porch roof.

That’s because the Lowes contractors failed to replace the support brace under the porch roof. And the porch roof is sagging because it needs that external support.

When he got home in Yakima, Washington, my brother made many calls to the Lowes store in Deptford, New Jersey. Over the course of the summer, he was told Lowes couldn’t do anything because he couldn’t prove the support brace ever existed.

My Dad’s younger brother, who lives about 20 miles away, took the handoff. He searched through all of Dad’s photos to find the one above that clearly shows the support brace existed – until it was removed by the Lowes contractor.

My uncle said the Lowes representative in the Deptford store, Joseph P. Konsanty, looked at the photo and agreed that their contractor had removed the support brace and that it should be replaced.

But Konsanty told my uncle the job would cost $500 and they want my Mom, who just had knee-replacement surgery, to pay half the cost, or $250.

Really, Lowes?

I think you can do better than that. And I think you should do the right thing quickly, before the first snowfall comes to rest heavily on that porch roof.

Here’s your chance to put a happy ending on this story.

Just a few minutes after this article was published, Konsanty called my uncle and said the repair would be done at no charge, “In the Spirit of the Season.”

Thank you Lowes, for a happy ending!

Home Away From Home

Kelly and Portia waiting Kelly and Portia are home, awaiting our return.

We’re in Woodbury, New Jersey, my hometown, 1,700 miles, a cultural divide and a three-day drive from San Antonio.

I’m going through my Dad’s remarkable photos, negatives, slides, and prints.

Life here is like a combination of Groundhog Day, with familial behavior patterns in a never-changing loop, and the flashback scene from Cold Case. The image and sound of my childhood self pops up without warning, laughing and talking with friends.

Through it all is my Dad, a genius and a hugger.

The quicksand of it all pulls at me.

But I remember.

Seasons change with the scenery… Look around, the leaves are brown, and the sky is a hazy shade of winter.

I must escape before the SAD winter swallows me.

Soon. I’m coming home.

Photographer Joseph Edward Lucas

Photographer Joseph Edward Lucas

Joe Lucas was a gregarious iconoclast, an uncompromising defender of civil liberties and human rights and a passionate Atheist, preaching to all who would listen.

He was born on Jan. 19, 1933, to Anna Kathryn Thaidigsman and Joseph Biddle Lucas in the Riverside, New Jersey, home built in the 1890s by his German immigrant grandparents.

He died of cardiopulmonary disease March 28, 2014, in hospice in Mt. Holly, 11 miles from his birthplace. He was 81.

Joe Lucas

Joe Lucas at Snoqualmie Falls, Washington in June, 2009. Photo by Holly Lucas

He was politically engaged to the very end, contributing to Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, signing online petitions and joining the American Civil Liberties Union in championing whistle-blower Edward Snowden as a patriot.

Besides Snowden, his heroes were journalists, activists and artists. He loved muckraker Jack Anderson, writer Molly Ivins, columnist Jim Hightower  and commentator Bill Moyers. Before the folk singer’s death in 2014, he campaigned to have Pete Seeger nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

He delighted in building things from scratch, be it a model airplane, a catamaran, a culinary creation or a computer.

A voracious reader and collector of tools, music and recipes, he was philosophically opposed to filing systems, hierarchies and rules, with the exception of the rules of grammar.

The exuberant hugger of trees and of people was happiest experiencing and photographing the outdoors with his family. His photographs celebrate the Alaska/Canada Highway, California’s Yosemite National Park,  Washington’s Hoh Rainforest, Texas’ Big Bend National ParkMaine’s Mount Desert Island,  Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument and his beloved Jersey Pine Barrrens.

He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Charlotte Katherine “Holly” Lucas, his children: Charlotte-Anne Lucas and her husband Bill Waldrop, Wendy Lucas and her husband Jay Weatherbee, Kevin Lucas and his wife, Mary Giovaninni; his sister, Kathryn Franklin, and her husband, Henry; his brother, David Lucas, and his wife, Kathy; nine nieces and nephews; nine grand-nieces and grand-nephews and scores of cousins.

A gathering in remembrance will be held May 24 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill N.J. For more details, click here. Our family asks that donations in his memory be made to NOWCastSA or to the Humane Society of Central Washington.

Coming next: The Early Years; The Photographer, The Activist…

Image

My Dad’s life through a new lens

I struggle to write my Dad’s obit. And then I rewrite it. And rewrite it again.

Charlotte-Anne and Turtle by Joseph Lucas

Charlotte-Anne and a turtle at Lake Oswego, 1956. Photo by Joseph Lucas

Where in the world to start?

My Dad taught me to read before I entered Kindergarden, he taught me to be a photographer, how to build and fly radio control model airplanes, how to fish, how to paddle a canoe and how to rebuild the engine in a car.

Most of all, he taught me how to think, and he stoked my passion for social justice. For my 14th birthday on Nov. 15, 1969, he granted my wish by taking me to Washington, D.C. to march against the War in Vietnam.

Because I could, I sewed a gib sail for the catamaran he made from two canoes, I took him to lunch with Texas writer and iconoclast Molly Ivins, and I married a man who loved him and liked talking to him.

But the fact is, since his death on March 28, 2014, the meaning and truth of my Dad’s life ~ and the meaning of my own life ~ is changing.

There are facts, but there are no longer hard and fast truths about our lives ~ the truth and meaning are fluid, evolving.

I understand this a little better now, thanks to a generous and wise friend who pointed me to Robert A. Neimeyer, a psychologist who believes the central process in grieving is responding to the loss by reconstructing meaning.  (Book here: http://www.apa.org/pubs/books/431651A.aspx video here: http://youtu.be/xYS0W-Ulg4g)

So I will take the obit and the story of his life in bites, reconstructing the meaning in chapters. Starting with the facts and finding the truth as I go.

I love you Dad.

{{hugs}}

 

A Sax to Build a Dream on

Image

Photo by Nicole Foy

Just getting into the after-hours club in Phoenix required an unlikely combination of connections and trust.

You had to know it existed in the first place. Then you needed directions – there was no sign outside advertising the joint that opened at 2 a.m., the hour Arizona law required all bars to close.

After knocking on the door, you needed to give the name of a reference. Only then would you be admitted into the foyer, where you’d be patted down for weapons ~ or whatever.

“Don’t bring your purse,” Willie advised. So I slipped my driver’s license into right back pocket of my jeans, and a pack of cigarettes into the left.

Some time after midnight, we took off in his 1974 Datson 260Z for the south side  ~ to a place where the city’s best jazz musicians congregated to jam with each other for the fun of it, after the bars where they were paid to play closed down for the night.

We parked, he knocked and offered an acceptable name, and we got the pat down from the bouncer.

Looking around, I realized we were the only white folks in the room ~ except for the bartender, an off-duty cop.

The “pick up” band grew steadily by twos and threes, reaching about two dozen people by 3 a.m. There must have been about eight saxophones, from tenor on up to soprano, acoustic and electric bass players, a guitar or two, and a full compliment of trumpets, trombones, drummers and singers.

There were so many musicians up front that some spilled out into the room among the tables, not missing a note.

To my complete surprise, Willie took my hand in his and asked, right there, if I would marry him.

Right on cue, a tenor sax sidled up to the table and played for us like we were the only people on earth.

Soft, breathy and low at first, the saxophone swung higher and got more intense. The man behind the horn leaned into the riff, and the bell of the saxophone moved out and up as it wailed a passionate plea.

“Of course, I will,” I smiled.

A while later, we left, walking out the door just as the sun was coming up on the first day of June, 1986.

Entreprenureal Journalism links and Twitters

Here are some of the links from my discussion today on Entrepreneurial Journalism at the SPJ Region 8 Conference in San Antonio.
Books for news startups:
Entrepreneurial Journalism by Mark Briggs
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Lean Analytics Croll & Yoskovitz
Net Smart by Howard Rheingold
Smart Mobs by Howard Rheingold
22 Immutable laws of Marketing, Reiss & Trout
Rocket Surgery Made Easy, by Steve Krug
Good to Great, by Jim Collins

Books for Nonprofits:
The Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter
Measuring the Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter
Guerilla Marketing for Nonprofits Levinson, Adkins & Forbes
Leap of Reason by Mario Morino
Seeing Through a Donor’s Eyes, Emerson & Church

Twitter folos:

@dorieclark
@joshtpm
@lisawilliams
@timoreilly
@grist
@dailykos
@milsf
@acarvin
@kanter
@deanna
@steve_katz
@jdlasica
@hrheingold
@mashable

Planes, People and Another Piece of My Heart

I used to get flashbacks every August.

The aching sadness would start to swallow me on the anniversary of the Aug. 2, 1985 crash of Delta Airlines Flight 191 in Dallas, followed by another collective sob on the anniversary of the Aug. 16, 1987 crash of Phoenix-bound Northwest Airlines Flight 255 in Detroit.

As a young reporter, I covered those crashes with both sides of my brain and 110 percent of my heart.

In the months after the Delta crash in Dallas, I and a team of two dozen reporters and editors at the late, great Dallas Times Herald produced a series on aviation safety that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service Journalism.

Two months later, I quit my job in Dallas and moved to Phoenix to marry an editor, the love of my life, Bill Waldrop.

Bill directed breaking news coverage as Criminal Justice Editor at the Arizona Republic, a big, metro daily paper that wasn’t particularly interested in hiring me. So I went to work for Max Jennings at the Mesa Tribune, a paper that was still small enough to be nimble and scrappy.

Bill and I were watching the television news shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday Aug. 16, 1987 when the crawl went across the bottom of the television screen: “A Phoenix-bound jet has crashed on takeoff in Detroit.”

Back then, we only had one land-line telephone in the house, so there was a bit of an arm-wrestle about which of us would call their news desk first and say, “I’m on my way in to cover it.”

He won, and was out the door in a flash, speeding downtown in his Datsun 260 Z.

Not long after, I was off to Phoenix’ Sky Harbor Airport to interview people who were waiting for friends and family to arrive from Detroit.

My dear photojournalist collaborator and friend, Gary O’Brien, still has a photo in his portfolio from inside the airport that night. I’m squatting down with other people, trying to comfort a woman who collapsed, overcome to learn her family member had missed the flight. He lived.

Photo by Gary O’Brien

Of the 157 people who boarded the plane, only one survived, a 4-year-old child named Cecilia Chichan.

I filed a story for the Mesa Tribune that evening, and also filed something for my friends at papers in Dallas and Detroit to include in their stories for the morning.

Then, after I cajoled him on the phone for a long while that night, Mesa Trib Managing Editor Sandy Schwartz relented, and Gary and I boarded a 2 a.m. flight from Phoenix to Detroit. The Mesa Trib had never done anything like quite like that before, and it certainly wasn’t in the budget.

When Gary and I landed after daylight, Andy Hall, a reporter working for my husband, was already on the ground in Detroit.

Gary and I went straight to the crash scene.

The aviation safety series in Dallas taught me more than I ever wanted to know about the fragile mechanics of JT8D Pratt & Whitney jet engines and the deadly vagaries of weather and wind shear.

As a 10-year-old kid, I learned the basics of aerodynamics by flying radio control planes with my Dad. I was his mechanic.

But the human factor arches over all.

For the “first responders” — EMS, Fire Department, local police and sheriff’s deputies — there is nothing more horrifying and debilitating than doing absolutely everything right – by the book – and not being able to change the outcome.

When big planes crash, people die. You can’t save them, no matter how hard you try.

When I met Wayne County Sheriff’s Lt. Norm Colstrand at the perimeter of the crash scene, I asked how he was holding up. I wanted the real answer, not just a polite response.

Colstrand was a burly, veteran cop. But he was overwhelmed with a primal pain.

We agreed that I would come back, long after dark, to see what he was guarding. He needed to share his pain with the world.

Having entered the game, the Mesa Trib doubled down and sent a gifted young writer, Doug MacEachern, to join the ground team in Detroit.

Doug mercifully agreed to connect with my husband and pick up my sneakers before leaving Phoenix. I’d been in heels since Sunday evening.

When he delivered them, I found a note from my husband tucked inside one sneak: “I love you – now kick ass!”

I wore those sneaks that night on a tour of the still smoldering crash scene.

Very fortunately for me, Gary and Doug were there. Doug tells the story here, better than I ever could.

I remember picking up the page, thinking deeply about the person who owned the book it came from, and tucking it away. It lives in my home in a file labelled, “Detroit Page.” It has seen daylight fewer than six times in 25 years.

From the start, I knew the plane did not crash itself. Even back then, passenger jets were designed to take off and fly with just one engine.

Sort of like in “rock, paper, scissors,” the human factor can overrule mechanics.

And so it had in Detroit, I learned through whispered hallway conversations with pilots and investigators.

Humans in the cockpit failed to extend the flaps on takeoff. Without that lift, the plane crashed.

To the relief of the reporters working for my husband, I finally left Detroit and flew home to Phoenix. He let them come home too.

The amazing experience in Dallas provided a template for the components that needed to be in the Sunday story.

The People.

The Plane.

The Crash.

Dave Becker, Scott Bordow, Ric Clarke, Jeffrey Crane, David Downey, Chris Feola, Earl Golz. Andrea Han, Eileen Myers, Robert Perez, Bill Roberts, Jeremy Stockfisch, Ed Taylor, Ben Winton, Rick Wiley, Dough MacEachern, Gary O’Brien and I provided the facts.

Then Doug wove the words together in just the right way, describing the purple bow her grandma tied around Cecelia’s waist that morning and the yellow blankets we saw that dark night tucked around victims on the ground.

After a long time, the ghosts went into remission.

But this August, they came out to mark 25 years.

And Norm Colstrand’s words echo in my brain:

 “You hear about the plane crashing into Mt. Fuji and that 520 people got blown across the side of a mountain, and you say to yourself, ‘Boy, that’s a shame,’ and then you go about your business.

Or your hear about a plane crash in the Canary Islands and that 582 people were killed. You shake your head, and you go on with your life.

“But this time, we can’t just go about our business.

“This time, death in its massiveness came to roost here.”