Remembering Mr. Prusas

There was a man who I crossed paths with years ago while I worked my way through college as a student assistant in the university library.

He was a well dressed elderly man who came in early every morning. He read things like the New York Times and financial magazines. No fluff. He never checked out anything and rarely spoke to anyone.

I became friendly with him but knew very little about the man aside from what I learned from a supervisor. His name was Dr. Zenon Prusas but we just called him Mr. Prusas. To me, he was the nice man who liked to be the first to read the Wall Street Journal every day.

Looking back, I wish I had the opportunity to know him better and recently Googled him on a whim. Sadly, I found his obituary – not surprising as I figured he would be close to a hundred by now.

Being a sort of connoisseur of fine obituaries (yes, it’s weird but don’t judge me) I was pleased to see that someone had taken the time to honor a life well lived by telling his rather colorful story.

Mr. Prusas was born in 1921 in a small village in eastern Lithuania. He was forced from his homeland by the Russian invasion during World War II and immigrated to the United States.

He landed at the Mead Corporation’s Central Research offices in 1955 where he became an industry expert on pulp and paper technology. Colleagues described him as “a national treasure.”

Mr Prusas loved the outdoors and personally planted over a thousand trees on his own property. He published much professionally but also wrote a book about his family’s experiences during the Soviet and Nazi invasions and occupations of his homeland.

Mr. Prusas left many lasting marks on this world but I loved learning that he was a tireless advocate for the freeing of his native country from Soviet occupation. After Lithuania gained independence, Mr. Prusas organized and sponsored the creation of a monument in the center of his boyhood town. It is dedicated to the Lithuanian freedom fighters.

He died almost eight years ago but lives on in so many ways. In fact, I don’t think Mr. Prusas wasted a minute of his time on earth.

All these years later, I can’t help but wish I had been braver and tried harder to get to know him. My job experience as a reporter taught me that people often are open to questions about themselves – I suspect, if the opportunity were presented today, I could get some really good stories from this man.

Wherever he is, I hope Mr. Prusas has found peace and that he’s still always the first to read the morning paper.

An Early Birthday Present

Scout received an early birthday present yesterday. I relocated a bird feeder outside his favorite window.

He barely moved all day.

This little feeder attracted several species throughout the day and, by dusk, Scout was so worn out from watching their comings and goings that he collapsed on the couch.

This clearly is going to be the best babysitter ever.

Imperfectly Perfect

glass press

This is the kind of thing that would have once left me frustrated beyond words. The building pictured above features fantastic art against nice brick that begs to be photographed.

But look at it. There is no good angle to shoot from because of a ridiculous amount of utility lines coming and going from every direction and at every height.

There are fewer to be seen from the other side but it’s still enough to be distracting.

This once would have made me nuts. I used to strive for clean pictures, free of people, cars and distractions at all costs.

But I’ve reached a mental place where it has suddenly become important to me that pictures not be perfect and instead record the real scene. Documentary photography is more my thing these days even though most of those pictures don’t make the cut here.

My favorite historical pictures aren’t the ones that only show the building. Instead, the ones that give clues are the best. Street signs, power lines, cars, and people all help to root a picture in an era or even a year. I study the names of businesses in old photos like I’m going to go shop there in a bit. Utilitarian pieces like traffic lights and electric lines can help with dating and I’m fascinated by how people used to dress.

What’s the point of a perfect picture of a lovely church if you don’t know where it’s located or when the photo was made?

Not to mention, there are times and places where you literally can’t capture an image without people walking through the frame or cars parked out front. Sometimes it’s better to bend into the problem and appreciate it for what it’s worth rather than fuss because the problem exists.

That’s not to say that I like having all these lines in the picture but I have come to accept that all things cannot be perfect and that sometimes imperfections lend something useful like character or context.

Musings On A Dreary Day

It’s bleak and muddy here in southern Ohio and the barren landscape has left me feeling somewhat uninspired.

The last couple of months have been void of adventure and filled with a lot of work and much quiet time at home.

Part of me wants to head out on adventure and part wants to stay inside till things green up and look less depressing.

This is a season in my life – it happens the same time every year and will be over soon. While I have enjoyed the solace of home – reading, playing music, and relaxing – I hope to soon snap out of this annual funk so I can hit the trail and find some fun to tell you about!

Nick Nack Paddy Wack

Remember that little diddy from your childhood? Nick nack paddy wack, give a dog a bone….?

That’s what he was playing for this young mother and infant. A sweet moment near Prantl’s Bakery in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood.

It made me smile.