Sunday, July 5, 2015


Meet Friend Harry.  He belongs to Friend Marge, though he likes to think Marge belongs to him.  We've been friends for well over 40 years. I've lost count. There's a story there but you'd have to really know Harry to appreciate it.  Harry likes to think he's a bit of a chauvinist and he also thinks he's fooling me but I've got his number! He's really a very interesting guy but oh, please, don't EVER tell him I said so or I'll never hear the end of it. 

Every year Marge and Harry's family have a big 4th of July backyard party hosted by their oldest son and daughter-in-law and this year we could actually be there.
 Every year since 2002 there's been a beer tasting. Now, these aren't your craft beers.  These are beers that have withstood the test of time and some almost forgotten to history. These beers are still available so someone somewhere is still drinking them.  Harry researches extensively to find the one for the event and this year it was Drewry's.  I remember my dad drinking Drewry's.  It's been around awhile but then for it to be invited to the party it HAD to be around for awhile.  Harry drove two hours to get it.  The furthest he's gone to get a" beer of the year" was the time he drove to Pennsylvania.  On a good day that's about 10 hours to the state line.

 The day begins with the official tasting by the committee of four.  Harry, Chuck, a friend of Mike and on the end, Harry's oldest son, Mike.  They open, toast and taste.

 After the committee, the rest of the group can try it.  The concensus this year was "it's flat" even though when poured into a glass it had a head.  But the head disappeared quickly. That didn't stop PH from trying more than one can just to be sure he didn't like it!
 Now, this is the thing about Harry.  When he gets interested in something he doesn't go half way.  Each of the years' beers gets thoroughly researched and that information put into a folder.  Historical pictures of the brewery are included.  It's pretty impressive.
 This is the official ballot.  Everyone who tries the beer of the year rates it, Harry tallies and lets people know later what the score was.  Each tally has a number assigned for averaging. 

 This is the list of the beer of the year starting in 2002 with the company slogan and the rating from the tasters. It began when son Mike found a case of Blatz, the beer Harry's dad always drank and as a joke, Mike bought the case and gave it to Harry on the 4th of July at the party.  Everyone who wanted to tried it and opinions were tallied.  The beginning of a Harry tradition.  He told us that one of these beers is no longer available anywhere.  Seems they bought the last two cases that existed. Can't imagine what THAT tasted like!

 Here's another thing about Harry.  For years he worked on his family's geneology and got all the way back to the 1700s...or was it 1600s...or maybe 1500s?   Quite far at any rate, and I was impressed.  In that time he began collecting and reading (some people just collect and don't actually read the books they accumulate) books on Grand Rapids history.  Part of his research took him to cemetaries.  As a result of that he joined an online community called Find A Grave.  Anyone can join, it's free.  People doing their geneology need documentation of births and deaths and sometimes that's in the cemetary.  Harry walks cemetaries.  He has a list of names that people have requested someone nearby go look for their family member. 
 So, Harry (and now that she is retired, Marge, too) walks a particular cemetary with a list of names, an outline of the cemetary sections that he drew, carrying a whisk broom, a trowel and a bottle of water.  The list and outline tells him which section the person is buried in (information he got from the cemetary office). 
 With the whisk broom and water he cleans the grave. 
They use the trowel to really get the corners, sometimes the headstone is completely obscured by overgrown grass and the shovel helps to bring it back to light.  And then he takes a picture of it to document it for the family member that requested help. 
But the thing is, in this process, Harry has also honored the person in that grave.  He cleaned the site, swept and bathed it and left it a little better off than he found it.  And for that particular five minutes, the person was remembered once again.

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