Living in Society

We’re Going Home — Jim Schmidt

New Road, 1939 by Grant Wood.

When Jim Schmidt had a stroke 15 years ago, he was never the same. He almost died. Jim was one of a small number of people in this community of 7,000 with whom we could engage more deeply about intellectual matters. The stroke took that away from us. It hurt no less when he died on Friday, April 7, 2023.

Jim Schmidt’s obituary from the Cedar Rapids Gazette can be read here.

Part of Jim’s legacy was his analysis of the local terrain where Grant Wood painted New Road in 1939, with its mention of the City of Solon. The article, written by our mutual friend Janet Brown, was quite popular. It contributed to the Solon Public Library securing the rights to make prints and note cards of the image, and sell them to raise much needed funds for the library.

After so long, memories of our discussions faded. What remains important is we had those discussions, and for a while, had hope of making the world a better place. May his memory be a blessing.

Living in Society

We’re Going Home — Mike Tandy

Fallen Leaves

Timbers are falling too frequently in the forest of life. Mike Tandy died on March 31 in Davenport.

Our roots together were in high school stage crew. When we formed the band in 1973, Mike would sit in, playing bass from time to time. He was a good guy and always dependable.

I missed Mike and Jan’s 1978 wedding while I was living in Germany. I missed a lot of weddings those years. When I returned to Iowa the following year, I presented a belated wedding gift and got caught up.

Mike was a teacher. He taught Language Arts at Davenport Central High School from the day he arrived until he retired. He directed plays, coached sports, and did all the things a teacher would. More than anything, Mike was devoted to family and friends. I felt lucky to be one of them.

Mike and Jan attended our wedding. The last time I saw him was at a 2019 reunion of stage crew and band friends in Coal Valley, Ill. Like always with Mike, we had a lot to catch up on. It always felt there was not enough time to say everything we wanted. We did our best until it was time for him to be with his family. When he said he had to go, he meant it. I felt there would always be a next time.

I am thankful for our time together. Rest in peace, my friend. You were too young to be gone already.

Read Mike Tandy’s obituary here.

Living in Society

We’re Going Home — Char Hawks

Autumn Blaze maple tree leaves.

Charlene Mae Vorwald Hawks, 93, died on Tuesday, March 21, 2023. During high school, after Father died, I got to know her son Tim and was a frequent visitor to their home on Grand Avenue in Davenport. I don’t remember when we started calling her Char. I have two strong memories of her.

The first was at their family home. The front door of the house opened into the living room where I was waiting for Tim. Char came in to say hello as parents of friends did in those days. As we conversed, one of her daughters came down the stairs ready to go out for the evening. Char immediately sent her back upstairs to address the hem length of her skirt, which was deemed too short to leave the house. There was resistance, then compliance. I can’t recall what Tim and I did afterward as it was anti-climactic.

The second memory is when I returned from military service in November 1979. I contacted her about her recent American Studies degree. We talked about my attending graduate school on the GI Bill. She encouraged me to pursue an American Studies degree. Based on her advice, I tracked down the graduate college dean, D.C. Spriestersbach, over the Christmas holidays when most faculty were not around. Char wrote a letter of recommendation and helped me get enrolled in the January term.

The obituary published on the funeral home website tells her story:

Charlene Mae Vorwald Hawks, 93, of Dubuque died Tuesday, March 21, 2023. Visitation will be from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday, March 31 at the Egelhof, Siegert and Casper Funeral Home and Crematory, 2659 Kennedy Road. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated 11 a.m. Saturday at Resurrection Catholic Church, preceded by a Eulogy at 10:45 a.m. Graveside services will be at St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery, Bellevue, Iowa.

Charlene “Char” was born in Dubuque, Iowa, on Jan. 12, 1930. She was the only child of Elmer and Monica (Theisen) Vorwald. While born an only child, Char saw her cousins on both sides of her family as siblings. She spent many joyous days with them and loved them dearly.

Char earned her BA in Classical Languages from Clarke College. She continued her education while raising her children, earning her MA and PhD in American Studies from the University of Iowa.

Char married James Edward “Ed” Hawks on November 19, 1951, at Nativity Church in Dubuque. Together they shared an unparalleled love and an eternal partnership. The years were filled with raising their children, enjoying their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and traveling the country. Wherever their travels took them, Ed commented that they met a relative of Char’s.  Their best days were spent at an old stone house, lovingly called the “Rock House,” near Bellevue.  Their seven children, and their children’s spouses, are Tim (Mary Lew McCormick), Shorewood, WI, Teri (John) Goodmann, Dubuque, IA, Cathy (Tony) Topf, Wonder Lake, IL, Laura Hawks, Iowa City, IA, Susan Hawks, Sugar Grove, IL,  Carolyn (Bill) Bates, Donahue, IA,  and Lisabeth Hawks, South Elgin, IL. Char is also survived by 21 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren. Char was preceded in death by her parents, Elmer and Monica Vorwald and her husband Ed Hawks.

Char was a force of nature and transferred that energy toward many different pursuits through her life. She volunteered for the March of Dimes, Girl Scouts, and the St. Paul the Apostle School Board all in Davenport, IA. Char was a proud member of Rotary International Club and was recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow. After earning her advanced degrees Char worked at Augustana College (Rock Island, IL) as an adjunct professor and the Director of the Reading and Writing (Lab) Center.  At Augustana College, Char became a beloved mentor of many students.  Never one to retire, Char and Ed opened Hawk Hollow Antiques and Collectibles in Bellevue, IA and Galena, IL. In all these endeavors Char developed close, life-long friendships that brought her much joy.

Memorials may be made to Hospice of Dubuque; the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey; or Luther Manor Communities. Char never met a person, plant, or book she didn’t love. In lieu of a memorial, feel free to donate a book to a library, volunteer time to a literacy organization, plant a tree, or plant some flowers. These meet Char’s greatest wish to make the world a better place. Family, faith, and education were most important to her.  

The family wishes to thank the nurses and staff at Luther Manor Communities and Hospice of Dubuque for their loving care and generous spirit.

I made a couple of trips to the Rock House, once with Tim about the time they were installing a furnace, and another for Tim and Mary Lew’s wedding reception. It was always a time away from quotidian affairs spent with friends and family. Char Hawks has now gone home and will be missed.

Living in Society

We’re Going Home — Joe Garrity

Fallen Leaves

Tracking down remaining folks from our cohort in the old neighborhood was possible. Joe Garrity died Wednesday night and his grade school classmates at Saint Vincent’s deserved to hear the news. That neighborhood no longer exists in the real world, yet I found most of them.

Joe was born the day before I was on Dec. 27, 1951. He lived with his father after his mother died in an automobile crash. Saint Vincent’s, where since 1895 the Catholic Church had cared for children as an orphanage and school, was not far from where they lived.

I met Joe in high school in 1966. We remained friends until near the end when Parkinson’s Disease had his spouse writing his letters and emails. He would occasionally sign a holiday card. We corresponded by mail, and later, email after we both left Davenport in 1970 for university.

I would sleep over at his house when his father was on the road as a truck driver for The Rock Island Lines. In one of my first cooking experiences, Joe and I would make pizza using a Chef Boyardee boxed pizza kit. They had a big house and we had it all to ourselves. The pizza was good.

I referred Joe to the Turn-Style department store where I worked in high school. He started work and didn’t last long. I remember him wearing the vest that made a uniform for us as we worked the sales floor.

We were both in the National Honor Society. A group of us high achievers formed an inter-mural basketball team. We had a high grade point average yet weren’t very good at basketball. We also recruited the only Hispanic in our class to join our team. He later showed us around the LULAC club in West Davenport.

After graduation, Joe went to Georgetown for his undergraduate studies. A group of us from high school visited him and another fellow classmate at Georgetown over the Thanksgiving weekend during our freshman year. He graduated and returned to Iowa to attend medical school, receiving his MD in 1978. When orthopedics didn’t work out for him after an initial period in the program, he became an emergency room physician. We lived together in University Heights while I finished graduate school and he commuted to Dubuque and other workplaces.

While I lived in Mainz, Germany, Joe and his brother Bill made a brief stop on a European tour. Bill lived in Washington, D.C. and attended many cultural events there. He wanted to see an opera at the Mainz Opera House. I got us tickets to Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca. After a long day at work we had dinner at a Yugoslavian restaurant near the opera house. I made it through most of the story. Then… just as Tosca was dramatically preparing to jump from the parapet to her death… I fell asleep. When we visited a jazz club the following day, Bill fell asleep on his bar stool and fell. We were all very tired.

The last few years have been tough for Joe with recovery from a fall, surgery, and fractures, in addition to Parkinson’s Disease. At the end, the coronavirus invaded the household and Joe didn’t survive.

There are only so many friends of more than 50 years. Joe Garrity will be missed.

UPDATE: I helped Bonnie write the following obituary, which was distributed graveside:

Joseph G. Garrity, 71, of Dubuque, died on March 22, 2023. He was interred at Casper Creek Natural Cemetery near Galena, Ill.

Garrity was born on Dec. 27, 1951, of Eileen Honore Quinn and Harry Patrick Garrity, in Davenport. He grew up there, attending St. Vincent’s Catholic School and Assumption High School. In 1970, he entered Georgetown University, where he earned his undergraduate science degree. Returning to Iowa, he earned his Doctor of Medicine at the University of Iowa in 1978.

Joe Garrity practiced medicine as an emergency room physician in Evansville, Indiana, and in Dubuque, later working at Medical Associates’ Acute Care clinic and Occupational Medicine for 30 years. He was a 36-year resident of Galena. Toward the end of his life, he and Bonnie split their time between Galena and Washington, D.C., eventually moving to Dubuque.

He married Bonnie Lamar on February 14, 1987, in Galena. His life’s passions were art, exploring the world, and trekking in the foothills of the Himalayas. He especially enjoyed his treks to the base camps of Mt. Everest, K-2, Mt. Elbrus in Russia, and to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Joe Garrity is survived by his wife Bonnie Garrity, by his brother Michael Garrity (Diane) in Dubuque, sister Nancy Waack (Jim) in Rutledge, Missouri, and ten nieces and nephews. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his brothers William and Harry, and nephews Michael and Gregory Waack.

Memorial contributions made be made to:
Casper Creek Natural Cemetery
P. O. Box 195
Elizabeth, Illinois 61028

Joe’s expanded obituary appeared on April 19, 2023 in the Galena Illinois Gazette here.


Lorraine Anne Deaton

Lorraine Deaton at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Mother died at 2:45 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 15. I wrote this obituary for the newspaper with input from my sister. Here is a link to the funeral home site with details about the service.

Lorraine Anne (Jabus) Deaton, 90, died Thursday, Aug. 15, at Genesis Medical Center in Davenport.

Born at home on July 28, 1929 near LaSalle, Ill., Lorraine moved with her family to Davenport where her mother joined several sisters at a coat-making plant supporting the World War II effort. She graduated from Davenport High School, and then worked briefly for the telephone company where she established relationships with people who would become life-long friends.

Family relationships remained an important part of her life. Family included her husband, brothers and sisters, in-laws, three children, and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins, many of whom lived in the Quad-Cities Area.

She married Jack H. Deaton from Glamorgan, Va. in 1951 at Holy Family Catholic Church, eventually settling in Northwest Davenport where they established a home. She was active in the church where she participated in community organizations and worked in the school lunch program. She was particularly proud of her volunteer work with the Girl Scouts where she mentored many young girls.

After her husband died in an industrial accident on Feb. 1, 1969, she found work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She made a career at the Corps, retiring in 1990 as Equal Employment Opportunity Officer for the Rock Island District. While there she was named Woman of the Year.

In retirement Lorraine remained active in the community. Among other volunteer positions, in recent years she worked at the public library where she helped staff the used book store.

Lorraine Deaton was preceded in death by her husband; her parents, Mae (Nadolski) Jabus and William Dziabas; sisters Winifred Plantan (Hank) and Catherine Nash (Vince); and brothers Richard Robbins (Dorothy) and William Jabus (Marilyn).

Survivors include son Paul Deaton (Jacqueline) of Solon, daughter Patricia Deaton and son Jack Deaton Jr., both of Davenport, and a granddaughter Elizabeth Deaton of Orlando, Fla.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to a local Girl Scout troop or Girl Scouts of America at

Funeral service was Monday, Sept. 9, at Halligan McCabe DeVries Funeral Home, with interment at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Davenport.

Milestones Work Life

Bernardo Bertolucci and General Motors

Bernardo Bertolucci (77) died yesterday in Rome, Italy where he had been suffering from cancer. The bigger news was General Motors’ decision to reduce workforce and eliminate six car models, including the Chevrolet Volt rechargeable gas-electric hybrid.

What do they have in common besides their coincidence?

They both hit me where I live.

When I returned from military service I spent time viewing movies I missed coming up, including The Conformist. I became enamored of the film, its director Bertolucci, and its cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. On my cross-country trip from New Jersey, where my pickup truck had been shipped from Germany, enroute home to Iowa, I visited friends Diana and Dennis in Springfield, Illinois. Diana fed us cornbread and beans and Dennis and I went to see Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, with cinematography by Storaro. That night began an infatuation with cinema that continued through my return home and lingered into the early years of our marriage. Of the films I have seen, The Conformist ranks in my top ten.

The Conformist

Partly The Conformist resonated with my short trips to Italy in the 1970s. More, though, it was Marcello Clerici, the vacillating, spineless protagonist who would kill his professor in a woods at the direction of the Communist Party. Who would want to be that? Not me. Not anyone. The impression the film made on my artistic consciousness persists. I will be forever thankful to Bertolucci for his contribution to this formative experience.

The General Motors announcement was a gut punch to anyone who lived and worked in the Rust Belt.

“The reductions could amount to as much as eight percent of GM’s global workforce of 180,000 employees,” Tom Krisher wrote for Associated Press.

What makes this pill tough to swallow is the damage that has already been done throughout the industrialized part of the country. I’ve written extensively about my experiences recruiting truck drivers in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania during the period 1987 – 1993. I met thousands of people laid off from industry jobs. What makes the GM announcement different is what I experienced then was related to globalization. What’s happening now has to do with board room decisions emboldened by the recent Republican tax breaks.

The Conformist

There is talk unions will negotiate a better deal for workers as GM moves forward with their plans. How has that worked before? It hasn’t. The only union-related board member had been from the UAW health care trust, a position vacant since December 2017. The fund lost the board seat in October after selling a big chunk of GM stock.

Why would a person that drives a 21-year old passenger car care what GM does? When you’ve seen the faces of long-term employees who lost everything after a plant closing or down-sizing, you know what this announcement from GM means to workers. Only a cold, venal, rudderless being like Marcello Clerici could look on and not feel anything.

Milestones Writing

We’re Going Home — Donald Kaul

RAGBRAI 1973; Photo Credit – RAGBRAI

We knew Donald Kaul had prostate cancer and it spread to his bones. He’d been ill for a number of years but after this diagnosis, the prognosis was not good — we expected him to die this year and he did on July 22, just as the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, which he co-founded with John Karras, was getting started.

I’ve never ridden on RAGBRAI, but made a few long runs on the bicycle I bought after graduate school. I even made a century ride through the countryside near Iowa City and discovered what glycogen depletion is. Kaul played a role in Iowa’s bicycle culture. His influence was more than that.

After returning from the military I found a paucity of intellectually engaged people in my home town. Not that there weren’t like-minded men and women, just not very many of them. I began to follow Kaul more than I had.

My first paid work was delivering newspapers for the Des Moines Register while in grade school. That was around 1965 which was when Kaul began writing Over the Coffee full time. The Register didn’t sell many papers in Davenport and my paper route involved a lot of walking with very few deliveries. I recall one of my customers talking about Kaul when I collected — his column was somewhat controversial. I moved on to the Times-Democrat which sold a lot more papers. When I began high school in 1966 I had to give up my paper route. There was apparently a rule.

Despite this history, I was not an avid newspaper reader. I certainly didn’t read every column Kaul wrote. He was a placeholder for the idea that we could do better in life than work for a wage, hit the bars, sleep it off, and wake up to do it again. I wanted something else from my life in Davenport and Kaul created an option.

“Donald Kaul is at least five different columnists, which is a pretty spectacular bargain for his readers,” Vance Bourjaily wrote in the forward to How to Light a Water Heater and Other War Stories: A Random Collection of Essays.

Bourjaily famously moved from the East Coast to work at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He lived in the country and named his place Red Bird Farm. He wrote about men and horses and going to the dentist: things that resonate if one lives around here. Bourjaily captured the essence of Kaul.

“It is one of the pleasures of following Kaul’s column in the Register most days, as most of Iowa does,” he wrote, “that one can never be sure which of the five columnists the paper boy will bring this morning.”

Since Bourjaily died in 2010, I won’t have to break the news “most of Iowa” didn’t have home deliveries of the Register, ever. Some of those who did detested Kaul’s columns, and cancelled their subscription over it. Nonetheless, I like to think the inflated picture Bourjaily drew of Kaul as representative of what I hoped would be… even if it wasn’t.

I keep copies of some of Kaul’s books close by. If I need a lift, or inspiration, I read one of his columns. He was part of the development of my pursuit of intellectual interests. He may have prevented me from staying on in my home town to become another shoppie. Thank God for Donald Kaul, although that’s pretty ironic given his atheism.

If only I could write so well.

Donald Kaul has gone home and we’ll miss him.

Home Life Milestones

Remembering Donald Kaul in High Summer

Sweet Corn from a Roadside Stand

Sunday was a day to hang out on memory lane.

Sweet corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and Donald Kaul.

I bought sweet corn from a roadside stand and we had it for dinner with tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden, and thin slices of cheddar cheese from Vermont.

At some point after our return to Iowa in 1993, I decided to outsource corn growing. It takes up too much space and what space could be devoted to it produced a small crop. It was a good decision.

I cooked and froze the remainder of three dozen ears in two-cup portions in zip top bags.

We revisited stories of our lives during and after dinner.

How our cat would lick the cobs cleaned of corn kernels.

How putting up corn had been a long tradition — a family project.

How simple and good this year’s corn tasted compared to the past.

The trick to eating sweet corn is knowing how much to eat without getting a belly ache. The first ear was buttered, then sprinkled with lemon pepper seasoning and a little salt. Three ears is a usual portion. I ate four and went light on the salt. There were no ill effects.


The arrival of sweet corn and tomatoes is the arrival of high summer. A short window — a couple of weeks max — when summer is good and we get a chance to be human again.

That’s something we need in this turbulent world.

In Iowa we also have the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, more commonly known as RAGBRAI, which began yesterday. Donald Kaul and John Karras were two Des Moines Register reporters behind the annual event. It was expected this year, and Kaul died of prostate cancer Sunday morning.

“On January 11, 2018, Kaul, an agnostic, revealed that the cancer in his prostrate has spread to his skeleton and that he will no longer take treatments,” wrote Des Moines Register columnist Kyle Munson. “He was in the end stages of his battle with cancer and didn’t expect to live beyond the year.”

The end came at 11:50 a.m., according to a local radio station.

The narrative of this year’s RAGBRAI seems already written, and it doesn’t include Kaul. There is time for some show of recognition on the seven-day tour. We’ll see what happens.

For me RAGBRAI was about the summer of 1973 when it started. An artist I met in Davenport invited me to her family’s home near the Catholic orphanage to meet her parents. Her brother was out in the garage when I met him too. He was talking about riding his bicycle across the state with the Des Moines Register. Over the Coffee, Kaul’s column, was popular in this household.

Today people prepare for months for the long endurance test the annual ride has become. Specialized, lightweight bicycles, meal plans, and training. Not in 1973 when the sequence of events was 1. figure out how to get to the Missouri River with the bike; 2. tighten up the hub axle nuts; and 3. air up the tires. I can’t recall, but I don’t believe he even had a derailleur gear on his bike. It was pretty simple then and proved to be enduring.

Kaul’s death on the beginning day of the 46th RAGBRAI is likely coincidence. In any case, he is memorable for his writing more than his promotion of bicycle riding.

In high summer, after our dinner of sweet corn and tomatoes, my wife and I discussed our interactions with Donald Kaul. She got his autograph in a bookstore in Iowa City, and I corresponded with him when he was a Washington, D.C. correspondent for the Register. He was a constant part of our Iowa lives. That will still be true now he succumbed to cancer.

Milestones Writing

Friday in Spring

Retaining Wall

Fridays in Spring I soil-block for a farmer.

Yesterday I made 4,944 soil blocks which were planted in winter share. Leeks, broccoli and the like. It took four hours.

While driving north on Highway One I nodded off for a brief moment. After realizing it I sat upright, glanced in the mirror and concentrated on staying awake.

It’s not like I didn’t get a full night’s sleep Thursday… I did.

The combination of sun and repetitive work may have worn me out.

After arriving home I walked the garden, checked seedlings for moisture level, took a shower, and crashed into a two-hour nap. It’s become a Friday pattern.

Then I remember it was not soil blocking that wore me out but the news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide in France.

Bourdain was a celebrity I liked. I read Kitchen Confidential a number of years ago and watched him on Food Network. In many ways, he is what I’d like to be as a writer, although with less inebriation. How little we know about celebrities. His suicide makes no sense. It may never make sense.

A memorable episode from Bourdain’s television work was when he returned to Borneo and got a chest tattoo on camera. He appeared to be drunk and uncomfortable. In a later CNN interview he recounted the process was much more painful than expected. We already knew that from the video. A reality came through in much of Bourdain’s work — one of his making. That’s why I liked him. The ability to depict a reality is essential to creative endeavor. Bourdain and his crew were masters at what they did. He’s gone too soon and will be missed.

I brought home a bag of groceries from the farm — lettuce, sugar snap peas, garlic scapes, kohlrabi, spring onions and kale. After napping I washed lettuce for salads and stored it in the ice box until supper time. I’m not sure what else got done. Maybe nothing, or something… whatever.

Fridays have been like that in spring.


Joy Corning

Joy Corning – Photo Credit: Iowa General Assembly

Joy Corning was on our target list to become an advocate for U.S. Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Heady with Barack Obama’s 2008 victory, and confident Senate ratification of the New START Treaty would be a slam dunk, a nationwide coalition was formed to advocate for CTBT ratification after the 1999 failed attempt during the Bill Clinton administration.

Corning was on a short list of Republicans we wanted to contact Senator Chuck Grassley about the treaty. As things go in an advocacy coalition, I wasn’t the one to contact her. Someone in Des Moines phoned her and she called back.

“(Corning) had to decline our request that she make an appeal to Senator Grassley,” he wrote. “She said she needs to contact him on so many things, and she needs to have only a few top priorities and couldn’t add this.  She said she is working hard to bring her Republican Party back toward the center.”

Joy Corning died yesterday.

As it turned out, ratification of the New START Treaty was not a slam dunk and we adjusted our focus. Nonetheless, our contacts with Corning taught some lessons to those willing and able to hear them.

Always return phone calls. People who get things done in society almost always do.

Know who you are. While she couldn’t sign on to our cause the way we wanted, her efforts to “bring her Republican Party back toward the center” seem ennobling in the era of FOX News and right-wing talk radio. She fought that fight against steep odds and never gave up.

Focus on what’s most important. There is never unlimited time to advocate with an elected official. One must always be brief, be brilliant and be gone, lest our cause fade into obscurity.

Set the example. Corning’s daughters added the following to her online obituary, “Mother’s life was a model of class and grace, kindness and cooperation, service and civility. She led by example and always saw the good in everyone. She was active until the very end on efforts that supported human rights and justice for all.”

A person should embrace these qualities. That is Joy Corning’s legacy.