Mad for…Mary

What a great favor God does to those He places in the company of good people! (St. Teresa of Avila)

Self-sacrificing, friendly, and full of life is how I would describe Mary Bohn in (slightly more than) three words! She’s the wife of Chris, and mother of three who lives in Westfield, Indiana. She is also the grandmother of this handsome little bundle she’s pictured with, above.

Mary is quick with a hug and she has a gorgeous and very genuine smile that lights up a room. Her oldest son, Nathan, is a long-time friend and college roommate to my Nick. It’s hard to believe they will be SENIORS at Xavier University this fall. Gosh that happened too quickly! They played baseball together in high school, which helped to create a common bond of survival among those of us with Guerin Catholic seniors back in 2016…ha?! I respect Mary for the way she puts others before herself and how she seems to genuinely want the best for others. Because of these traits, she’s often the face of Christ to those around her!

Over time, Mary and I have prayed for one another and for each other’s children, and we check in with each other every once in a while. While we aren’t “everyday friends”, I know her to be filled with kindness and faithfulness. She likes to laugh and she has a tremendously welcoming spirit. Her children and husband are incredibly blessed to have such a character and integrity filled woman in their lives!

The last time I spoke to her, she was driving to Ohio to babysit for her precious grandbaby a couple of days a week. What a stunningly selfless and loving sacrifice, I thought! No beauty shines quite as brightly as a good heart. Mary certainly owns one of those! Since today is Mary’s birthday, I felt I was overdue to honor her with a few affirming words. Thank you, Mary, for being a wonderful witness of love to all around you! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARY BOHN!!

Mad for…Colleen

Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid…” (Luke 12:7)

As my youngest son exited St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School this week and the “SLDM” era comes to a close for our family, I find myself thinking of all the folks that made our experience so positive. I’ve already written about many terrific educators, but teachers are phenomenally special. Therefore, I present you with another great one today. Meet Colleen Bill!

Colleen is pictured above with her very good looking family. She’s just as beautiful in person as she is in the striped dress above at her daughter’s college graduation! Mrs. Bill was Zach’s 4th grade teacher. His year in her classroom was indisputably positive, because Colleen is a consummate professional. Probably it helped Zach bond with her a little that she had a son the same age as Z’s oldest brother, Nick. Jude Bill is pictured at left, above, with his fairly tall mom Colleen beside him. I am not sure how tall he is, but I recall the Cardinals playing against him in CYO ball and he was irrefutably the tallest person in the gym at that time and Z thought he was WAY COOL. It’s funny the things that kids key on with teachers sometimes.

I know that Colleen attended St. Mary’s College and that she’s run the mini-marathon at least once. Other than that, I admit I don’t know a lot about her personally. The Lord, of course, knows every tiny facet of her personality and even the number of hairs on her head! That doesn’t help me today as I look to honor her, but I will share with you a couple of my observations. Zach thrived in Colleen’s classroom because she isn’t dramatic. She’s not a yelling, banging, or overtly spirited person. For him, her stability, compassion and quiet smile made him feel safe and loved in her care.

She’s faith-filled and with terrific strength of spirit. She honors children and their parents too with dignity. Colleen is graceful and she’s a beautiful witness of Christ to others. She’s got a good sense of humor but she doesn’t need to be the center of attention. Like Jesus, she sees the underdog, the easy-to-miss, and the unnoticed in her daily work. That fact is what I always appreciated most about Colleen Bill and never mentioned. So, thank you, Colleen for all the little things you do each day for ALL the children! Yours is a tough job, but you make it look so incredibly easy. You’re a fantastic teacher and a role model I am so pleased my son had the opportunity to spend some time with during his grade school years. More than that, though, you are a thoughtful woman who puts others ahead of herself. We noticed, and we should have said THANK YOU quite a bit sooner!

We know that the Lord loves the way you live like Jesus, and we are grateful for you, Colleen!

Mad for…Dr. Eva Freeman

Given one well-trained physician of the highest type and he will do better work for a thousand people than ten specialists. (William James Mayo)

Just over 21 years ago, I was a brand new mom with a newborn laying in my hospital room at the Women’s Hospital in Indianapolis. Like a conscientious new parent will often do, I had interviewed and chosen a pediatrician ahead of time for my new baby. Now that little Nicholas had arrived, the hospital called her office. The woman who showed up to examine him was not that doctor. That doc was on maternity leave. Instead, I was greeted with the very young and super friendly, Dr. Eva Freeman. None of the nurses had ever seen her before, and I am fairly certain he was the first baby she saw at that hospital. We liked her immediately and the match was made.

Since then, she has been the pediatrician for all three of my boys. At the tender age of about 2 months old, and fresh out of the NICU, I presented my second son, Drew, at her office with a very high fever. Fearing meningitis, Dr. Freeman did a spinal tap in her office. I am pretty sure there were 3 adults in that room who were pretty rattled that day– including Dr. Freeman and her nurse. Thankfully, he didn’t end up having meningitis, but from his other symptoms she suspected he might have kidney reflux and she referred us to Riley Hospital for Children. I clearly remember the specialist there saying to me after his tests and exam that he had never seen a child this young correctly diagnosed with the condition. He said, “You have a sharp pediatrician.” Indeed we do. I later learned that when she did her training there at Riley Hospital, she had encountered a young man who had lost his life to the VERY TREATABLE condition, because it was simply caught too late. A few years later, the same Riley doc surgically repaired Drew’s kidney issue. Because he was diagnosed at such an early age (and we were able to intervene with meds to stave off infections while we waited for him to grow big enough to have the surgery), his kidneys were not damaged. That early intervention was all thanks to the talented Dr. Freeman!

We have had very little medical drama since then, but Dr. Freeman has continued to treat my 3 guys over many years with her signature smile and common sense approach to medicine. We’ve always felt her generosity of spirit, courtesy and understanding as a blessing. This morning as she was jokingly “searching his ears for Superman” just like she used to do when Zach was very small, I couldn’t help remembering all her compassionate care and kindness to our family over time. This made me realize that we truly have taken for granted the good will and decency of a terrific woman who has been our family’s pediatrician since Nick was born back in August of 1997. THANK YOU, DR. FREEMAN for your professionalism, humanity, and goodness! We are grateful for you!

Mad for…Sheri

I feel there is nothing more artistic than loving people. (Vincent Van Gogh)

Allow me to introduce you to Sheri Conner! Wearing sparkly sunglasses that match her effervescent personality, Sheri is pictured above with her amazing and beautiful daughters, Candice and Lydia along with her crazy and hilarious husband, Mike.

Some time has passed since I have run into Sheri, but I noticed that her birthday was this week and I couldn’t resist the urge to write about her– because she is such an uncommon, unique and utterly artistic soul. I met her many years ago when her youngest, Lydia, began attending school at St. Louis de Montfort. Sweet Lydia then attended Guerin Catholic High School where she graduated with my oldest son, Nick. Both her daughters are sunny, positive young women who have inherited their mom’s charm and welcoming nature.

Sheri is married to one of the funniest men I have ever met, but she is equally entertaining. These two are unrivaled extroverts! I’ve spent just enough time drinking adult beverages on a couch in their garage to know that Sheri understands all the most important things in life– faith, family and the value of authentic friendship!

A talented artist who runs her own design company, there’s just nothing “standard” about Sheri! She’s quirky, unpredictable and so incredibly stunning– inside and out! Is it any surprise her creations are a lot like her? Nope! She is a woman who always makes me smile when I see her, which is certainly not often enough, and I find myself inspired by the way she stays true to herself and focuses on using her exceptional giftedness to brighten the lives of others. It seems to me she has always encouraged the same in her girls. I just love that…and I am WAY overdue to say so! Thank you, Sheri, for reminding me that painting outside the lines sometimes is where it’s at!!

Sheri, I know I am a couple days late, but the birthday festival continues! Happy (Belated) Birthday to talented, curious, adventurous YOU!! I hope your day was a great one!

Mad for…Zach

“I command you: Be strong and steadfast! Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Raising boys is both a privilege and an adventure. My youngest son, Zach, spent three straight years pestering me to purchase yet another “Lightning McQueen” or “Mater” toy car from the movie “Cars” which was an obsession of his from about ages 2 to 5. I often miss that little boy now. Seasons come and they quickly go. By the time he joined our family, I already knew that and so I was a much softer touch. As a result, we still probably have 75 matchbox size cars in our basement collection from this classic kids movie…and the young man has eaten more mac and cheese than should ever have been permitted!

Tom and I decided two boys was probably a big enough family after Nick joined us in 1997 and then Drew in 1999. Then, one ladies “Bunko Night” about 4 years later, I complained to friends that I had this little touch of the flu that I couldn’t shake. One of the gals looked at me and said, “Shelly, are you sure you aren’t pregnant?” That’s when I left the party and went straight to CVS. One would think I would have picked up the signals a little sooner the third time around, but I had not. Never has a little pink “+” sign appeared quicker on a pregnancy test. Tom and I decided “Oops” was a bad name choice, so we decided to go with Zachary Charles. Our good and gracious God knows what He is doing with the plan for our lives even when we don’t, because our family would most certainly be incomplete without the Z-man. He is a complete and utter blessing!

Z is a rules following, brother-adoring, sports maniac. He’s a kind friend who owns a sarcastic and very quick wit. He knows the lyrics to every country song on the radio, and the jersey number and stats for nearly every Boilermaker, Colts or Pacers or Chicago White Sox player. Actually, those are just for starters. He’s pretty good at everything he tries. However, he’s got an Eeyore-like melancholic temperament so he tends to underestimate his own skills and abilities. So, while I often have to remind him to choose to see the positive in his day, he’s also the owner of exceptional compassion and empathy toward those around him, as he sees the challenges facing others more clearly than most too. Often, I hear him say things like “I was so glad that (insert name here) got recognized for (insert honor here) because sometimes he/she gets overlooked.”

Zach has exceptionally quick hands, and they were hilariously on display a couple years ago during Spring Break when he had very little trouble taking down an overconfident former Chicago Bears football player who entered the Marriott Hotel’s ping pong tournament. This guy thought he was pretty talented at ping pong, until he ran into a little buzz saw from Carmel, Indiana. We all got a great chuckle watching that unfold down in Orlando! Also, he’s been able to hold his own in poker, euchre, wizard, and most any other card game since he was about five years old. As the youngest, he’s always been trying to keep pace with his heroes, Nick and Drew.

Zach can handle a basketball and has a good looking jump shot. He took up tennis a year ago and has made fast progress. He’s a solid infielder with a quick bat, and I hear his golf game is coming on strong. NONE of these are the reasons why he makes me incredibly proud though. It’s this. Very often, I hear from coaches, teachers, or other parents that Zach made a point to thank them for their time, or that he encouraged in a meaningful way a classmate or team member. He takes pride in his relationship with the Lord, often asking me meaningful questions about the faith or sharing about someone we need to remember in our prayers. Every single day when I picked him up from school, he would ask me, “How was your day, Mom? What did you do today?” In short, he is a young man of character and integrity who is the face of Christ to others. NOTHING could make me more proud than that!!

As he celebrates his 15th birthday today, I want to say a couple more things directly to Z. Zachy Chuck….I love you kiddo. Dad and I are crazy about you. Nick and Drew try to act cool, but they are big fans too who care about you more than you might know. Never forget, though, that you are a beloved son of the Most High God, and He controls the storms that will certainly come your way in life. If you stay close, He will never leave you to weather those dark clouds alone. So, WORK HARD, BE STRONG, SMILE and never forget that the Lord is always by your side. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ZACH!!

Mad for…Grandpa Tom

If everything seems under control you’re not going fast enough. (Mario Andretti)

Tinkering with his son’s go-kart set up in his old garage on Saw Mill Rd in Lafayette is about the most satisfied I ever saw my future father-in-law look…until I went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with him! To say Tom Thieme is an IndyCar fan would be understating things quite a bit! I’ve chosen a quote by 1969 Indy 500 Winner, Mario Andretti, on the 50th anniversary of his win in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” to honor Grandpa Tom’s love of motor racing.

This morning, as is their tradition, my handsome husband and three terrific sons accompanied Grandpa Tom to IMS for today’s running of the Indianapolis 500. I’m not sure how long my race-crazed father-in-law has been going to the 500, but it’s a VERY long time. He spotted Emerson Fittipaldi on his way in to IMS in Emmo’s first year there and helped him carry his helmet in as he hurried to get to the garage area. Typically, he lugs a camera that’s heavier than he is, and over the course of years I have seen him wiggle himself into lots of places and circumstances he’s definitely not credentialed for entrance. You just have to look the part, that was always his motto! He’s got literally THOUSANDS of images from his time at IMS over the years.

Grandpa Tom has long parked just outside turn one at a local insurance agency, just steps from his AMAZING turn one seats. It was always an adrenaline rush to be a passenger in the Thieme car on race morning, because while the parking spot is FANTASTIC, it’s located deep within the “restricted” area which usually requires some sort of special pass which we did NOT have. The passes were always on a different color of paper each year, and the Thieme brothers (Tom, John and Jim) always had a ream of multi-colored construction paper at the ready. Spotters from the rear of the car would often spot other cars sporting the necessary pass just moments before we needed it….then there would be yelling! “It’s YELLOW! Get out the yellow!! Hurry!!” HAHAHA! When they ended up in their perfect parking spot each year very early in the morning, celebration commenced. They had beaten “the man” yet again. REBELS! It makes me laugh still thinking of their joyous faces.

I am certain that his brothers John and Jim are looking down on the Thieme men from on high smiling at their brother, Tom, along with his son and grandsons today! Their sunny grins are dearly missed by many, and especially on this special day in May.

To be honest, I struggled with what to do in my little column today, because it’s both race day and my own dad’s birthday. However, Father’s Day will be here soon enough and it just seemed like the only fitting tribute to Grandpa Tom was one written while he was sitting in the top row on turn 1, drinking a Bud Light, during race day festivities! I have deep respect for him for many reasons, not the least of which is his honesty and incredible work ethic. Both of those things he certainly passed on to his own children! I am also the grateful recipient of some of his most genius parenting successes. My husband spent a lifetime watching his own dad do chivalrous things like drive his mom right up to the door when it was sprinkling to drop her off. As a result, I am married to a gentleman too! I rarely even need an umbrella because I am always treated like a princess in foul conditions. I kind of love that! My father-in-law is faith-filled, kind and a man of integrity. He truly loves all his grandchildren. He enjoys rooting for the Boilermakers and drinking a beer at his nephew’s bar in downtown Lafayette.

Today, I am hoping the rain holds out and he can enjoy one of his favorite days of the year with his son and grandsons. We are grateful for you and we love you, Grandpa Tom! Thank you for your service to our nation and HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND!!

Mad for…Steve

There is no better relation than a prudent and faithful friend. –Benjamin Franklin

When our six (collective) boys were quite small, I had taken possession of Vinny, Dom and Anthony Ferrucci one afternoon. As good friends with little ones know, this was not at all unusual. I always found it easiest to entertain my guys when friends were around anyway. We adored those kids then, as now. The Ferrucci boys and Thieme boys have truly grown up alongside one another. This particular day, I pulled into the Ferrucci driveway to return their three guys, and I opened the sliding door on my minivan. As I tussled with car seats, plastic “Happy Meal” toys fell out onto the ground, along with a few stray french fries and a partially smashed bag of goldfish crackers that the toddlers, Anth and Zach, had been munching on. My dear friend Steve Ferrucci happened to be outside working in his perfectly coifed yard, and I am fairly certain he began to twitch a skosh.

Ferruch came bounding towards me and he encouraged me to go inside with the guys and chat with Julie while he cleaned up the van. Forty-five minutes later, after having essentially detailed the interior of my mom-mobile, Steve smiled and handed me a Mike’s Car Wash coupon and suggested I drive through on the way home and then I would officially have a fresh start for the week! Now, some folks might be a touch humiliated by this unraveling of events, but as for yours truly…not a chance!! I have no pride and thought my cleaned up minivan was SPECTACULAR! This was the day, however, that it finally occurred to me to look around and notice that Steve’s garage was cleaner than any room in my home HAS EVER BEEN. Also, now my van looked like it could be for sale on the used car lot down the street, and OH MY GOODNESS my friend Steve is most certainly OCD!

As a surprise to me, one year while I was out of town on vacation, Steve broke into my house and completely cleaned and reorganized my pantry. He texted me when he had completed the job. “Shell, do you have any idea how many bags of freezer pops you own?” I smiled to myself and replied, “Umm…lots?” Suffice it to say, we would NEVER make it as a couple. However, as a friend, Steve is absolutely top drawer.

Because his work ethic is second to none, and his generosity of spirit is laudable, I have deep respect for my uber-intelligent lawyer friend. I am certain without a doubt that if I called truly needing him at any time of the day or night, Ferruch would be on my doorstep in short order. Steve is also compassionate, faith-filled, honest and funny. After a couple of beers, his east coast accent starts to reveal itself and his already terrific laugh takes on new volume. He has a deliciously wicked sense of humor and is fiercely competitive.

For instance, when our youngest boys were about 7 years old, he was coaching them both and his Skiles Test “Red Sox” (of course) baseball team, trying hard to encourage them to a come from behind victory. It was hot, and they were a tad lethargic. Steve strided over to the dugout and at top volume he asked his players, “Are you guys going to MAIL IT IN today or what??!” At that point, one little man raised his hand high for all to see and hollered back, “I’ll do it, Coach! I’ll mail it in!!” AND THAT IS WHEN I LOST IT! I don’t know if I have laughed so hard since then to be honest.

Coach Steve has given countless hours to so many children and families by coaching kids over the years in various sports, but most notably baseball. He loves everything Boston– the Patriots, Red Sox, and his alma mater Boston College just for starters. He’s ministered to friends at their time of greatest need, and he’s been deeply involved at his parish, St. Louis de Montfort. He’s often spotted attending early morning daily masses, and I am certain that it’s the grace of frequent receipt of the sacraments that sustains him.

He’s a loving dad to his three guys and his incredible wife Julie is one of my dearest friends. As you can see in the above photo of my Zach with Steve after a big hoops victory, my guys are crazy about him too! One of my most favorite verses in the bible is from the book of Sirach, “Faithful friends are beyond price, no amount can balance their worth. Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; those who fear God will find them.” This is exactly how I feel about the Ferrucci family.

Today is Steve’s birthday, and I’m fairly certain he may have been dreading this edition of “Mad for 2019” because, frankly, there’s just so much phenomenal material available. The truth is, though, he’s a terrific man and think his presence in my life is a blessing from the Lord. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FERRUCH!! I love you. You’re the only person who could make me ever consider cheering for the Patriots– that is real love my friend!!

Mad for…Fr. Dan

And I will give you shepherds after my own heart who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. (Jer. 3:15)

Meet Fr. Dan Gartland! He’s currently the pastor at Holy Spirit at Geist Catholic Church in Fishers, Indiana. However, Fr. Dan spent most of his ministerial life in my hometown of Lafayette. He spent quite a bit of time as the pastor for my parents at St. Lawrence on the north side of town, and also at St. Mary’s Cathedral parish. He’s made a few others stops as well. However, I’m pretty sure every Catholic in Tippecanoe County knows this man who hails from Marion, Indiana. He’s pretty much a local celebrity in my hometown.

I met Fr. Dan when I was in high school at Lafayette Central Catholic. He taught my religion class while I was a CC Knight, and I still smile and laugh when I think of him as a result. Fr. Dan has the gift of gab. He’s gregarious, affable, and just plain fun. He made us giggle with his humor and he knew how to draw in teenagers…plus his giftedness in the sarcasm department often came in handy. We were always testing him in one way or another. I vividly recall a classmate of mine asking him during Lent if there are any exceptions to the “no meat on Fridays in Lent” rule, and he gave us a few common sense thoughts on the matter, which I am sure were NOT intended to have the outcome for us that they did. One of those was about how the Lenten rules might be relaxed in extenuating circumstances, such as when you are traveling. It’s possible that several of us felt that “traveling” to West Lafayette might qualify for this exception, for instance! I mean who were we to argue with the wise and powerful Fr. Dan Gartland? Ha?!!

When he preaches a homily at mass, he can weave a story in such an accessible way that he draws everyone in to the love of Christ with his naturally outgoing temperament. His eyes smile and his laugh is infectious. What really makes him special in my mind, though, is his witness of living his vocation in a joyful way. People like Fr. Dan who do their best for the Lord with their life, wearing a smile, make a huge difference for others. Fr. Dan grows disciples because of his friendliness, authenticity and compassion. Working for Jesus in the priesthood hasn’t made this man sour-faced, despite the hours, the hand-holding, or the walking beside folks at their worst moments. He’s still smiling and using his intelligence, wit, and sharp tongue (mostly) for good!

I’ve run into him several times over the years, but most recently when my youngest son was playing CYO baseball on the field behind his rectory. His warm greeting truly made my day, and it was an easy conversation that left me grateful for the sunshine. Today is Fr. Dan’s birthday and I am LONG OVERDUE to thank him for all he has done for me personally and for so many family members and friends that the list is truly endless. YOU are a treasure, Fr. Dan, and your life is certainly worth celebrating! I hope your special day is terrific!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FR. DAN!!

Mad for…Joe

Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime. (Dale Carnegie)

Several years ago, I spent about a week in the hospital following a rather “eventful” hysterectomy. Sore and scary looking, I was not having one of my finer weeks. Just down the hall and around the corner from me in another hospital bed was Nula Harmon. She was just a gem of a woman and she also happened to be the mother of a dear friend of mine, Julie (Harmon) Ferrucci. I’ll definitely talk to you about Julie some day soon, but today it’s her older brother Joe who is on my mind. He’s pictured above on the far right, with his siblings, Mike, Julie, and Nick, along with his little nephew, Liam.

Because Joe was spending quite a bit of time with his mom in the hospital that week, he stopped in to see me too. My healing was going slower than expected and I’d had a few post-op complications, so it was particularly encouraging to me when Joe, who is an OB-GYN, offered me his expertise and many words of encouragement. I’ve never forgotten his kindness to me at that time, and it’s gone much the same way in every interaction I had before or after that one.

Jokingly, I tell Julie that he’s the big brother I never had. I met both of his parents while they were still around, so I can’t for the life of me figure out how he is so soft-spoken. Genetically speaking, I’m thinking he inherited a recessive gene there…ha?! The truth is, Joe is accomplished, but courteous and humble. He’s kind and with the most genuine smile. Neither of those things cost a dime, but they are priceless qualities. Joe is a man who showers blessings on others by his presence.

He’s a husband and wonderful Dad to four terrific young people. Since I know him tangentially through his sister, I can’t say for certain what it’s like to live with Joe. However, he strikes me as a man who might underestimate the value of his finer qualities. The smallest act of care and concern truly does mean everything. In his roles as a physician, father, uncle, brother and friend to many, Joe is a treasure. He lives in South Bend and I live in the Indy area, and that fact is crystal clear all the same. How blessed are his patients and his children? They are IMMEASURABLY blessed!!

Yesterday was Joe’s birthday, and as we all should know by now, I am BIG on the festival approach to birthdays, and Joe’s life is one worthy of a large celebration that goes on for days! Celebrate loudly all weekend, Joe!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY to a truly fantastic human…my “adopted big brother”…Joe Harmon!

Mad for…Mitchell

It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do. (Steve Jobs)

A Purdue educated engineer, Mitchell Volpe is now gainfully employed as a mechanical engineer and is living in Chandler, Arizona. He’s pictured here with his beautiful and absolutely incredible (and faith-filled) mom, Karen. He’s the younger brother of William and Samantha and the son to Mark and Karen Volpe. I couldn’t resist the Steve Jobs quote because Mitch is absolutely the kind of person Jobs was speaking of when he said it!

Today, as I filed into the parking lot full of cars at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School for the very last carpool experience after 16 years, I couldn’t help but think of Mitch. You see, this big smarty pants was one of my very FIRST carpool kiddos. He has long since moved on, but I have still been in that parking lot all this time Mitch!! Ha!!? That’s a tad crazy, isn’t it?

When I first met this kiddo, he was a kindergartener. We had two small boys and Mitch was our new neighbor. He spotted us unloading our moving trucks and he parked himself on the garage floor and began reading “Winnie the Pooh” to my 4 year old, Nick, who was mesmerized. He was only 5 or 6 at the time himself, but he was sharp as a tack and completely polite. He’s a lot taller now, but not much else has changed. He’s still the same character filled young man.

During some of his formative years, his mom was awfully sick. I recall having many conversations with Mitch over that time that make me look back and smile. For example, I recall the Volpe fridge often being full to the brim with casseroles that friends brought to help the family cope through moments of struggle. Karen never said no, because she knows that giving is a gift to the giver too. This particular day, though, Mitchell was in maybe grade 4 or 5 and he had JUST ABOUT ENOUGH of chicken casserole. From the front passenger seat of my minivan he looked at me and said, “I don’t mean to be rude but I just can’t eat one more of those casserole things today, Mrs. Thieme.” I giggled at his honesty and marveled at how smartly he handled his predicament. I asked him what sounded good and he immediately said, “Subway!” So, we went and grabbed Subway sandwiches, and his handsome little grin was my reward. The kid just has the most beautiful smile. I know, I know, he’s a grown man now. He’s still that cherub faced boy to me, and probably he always will be!

Mitch was the bartender at Nick’s HS graduation party and he stayed until all hours working his tail off for us. He went above and beyond the call of duty keeping our guests in cold beverages all evening! His work ethic is impressive but also he’s truly brilliant. A talented musician, he’s kind, quick-witted and authentic. Mitchell is not a man to be underestimated. He’s incredibly competent at everything he tries, but also he can joke around and he knows how to have fun. There’s just not one mediocre thing about Mitchell Volpe. I have always respected him, from the very moment he showed up in my garage. He just does what he does…stunningly well. He’s a loving son and a terrific brother to Will and Sam. TODAY is his birthday so I wanted to celebrate him with a few affirming words. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MITCH!! All of the Thiemes think you are THE REAL DEAL, kid! BOILER UP!!