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Sage advice from a life well lived

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First and lasting impression

Whether or not you agree that first impressions are lasting ones, I can tell you that my first impression of William R. King was the correct and lasting one.

Out of respect, I will call him “Bill” and anyone who knew him will understand that.

Bill, of North Buffalo, died last Sunday at 85. He was known in many ways: the once and long-time Armstrong County agricultural agent with the Penn State Agricultural Extension office; an activist in civic affair, most notably the Armstrong County Tourist Bureau, and especially as a wonderful photographer whose work included the book “Armstrong County, A Place for All Seasons,” which I was just recently showing off to a couple of professional photographers doing work at the Leader Times.

As a young, inexperienced cub reporter assigned to the Armstrong County Courthouse in the early 1970s, editor Wayne Owen at some point suggested I visit the agriculture extension office to see if I could scare up a story, He probably didn't say “scare” but that was what it was for a suburban Pittsburgh area 21-year-old whose nearest experience to farming was cutting backyard grass.

Then I walked in unannounced and was greeted by the most amiable fellow it has been my pleasure to know in my 40-plus years of newspaper work. There have been many nice people, but they reach the peak when they are as nice as Bill King. My recollection is that on one slow news day he directed me to a story on the farmers in the area who were starting to use those round bundles of hay that we now see everywhere.

We should all be more like Bill — friendly, a good listener, and with a good sense of humor. Such people make life better for us all. Thanks, Bill, for being the man we all came to know, enjoy and love.

— Mike

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By Michael O'Hare
Thursday, April 4, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

I had a day dream the other day. It happened as I was sitting at the kitchen table finishing a coffee and reading a magazine article.

My mind wandered and I found myself sitting there with granddaughters , Elizabeth and Madalyn, both 12; Peyton, 10, and Johna, 5, and we were having a conversation. I sat at the end of the table and they were listening intently.

I told you, it was a day dream.

Here is some of the “sage” advice I was giving them:

• Your great-grandmother used to say two things: “It all comes out in the wash.” and “You can hang that long.” The key point in both phrases is patience. Whenever I was anxious for something to happen, the end of a stressful period or the anticipation of something good expected to happen, she would use these phrases, neither one being her creations. But they had a way of allowing me to see the larger life picture and to be satisfied to live in the moment. You may not want to think of yourselves as patient, so your phrase can be: “Hey, it's no big deal.”

• In your two households you have cats. As you know, we have a beagle, Cami. Learn from them. First of all you may think that you own them, but you don't. And don't think of yourself as smarter than they are, because you are not. What they know, and you don't, is that they enjoy life and they love more than you will ever know because they are not concerned with themselves, just with you. Your obligations are to try to love them back in equal parts -- though you can't ever really do it.

• Don't get “too big for your britches” (yep, there's an r in there). Britches are pants and the point is that you should fit into the life you were given. Certainly, have aspirations, but temper them with the knowledge that you are no better or worse than anyone else. If you ever forget this point, go back to the one about the cats and dogs. It is something else they inherently know.

• Don't be saddened too much by death. It is part of life. When the old folks in your life die, or even one of those cats or dogs, you will grieve, but in equal part you must celebrate their lives. Life and death are two sides of the same coin, and like those sides they have a shared value.

• Don't let the media (the ones you carry in your hands and the ones on TV, radio or in print) dictate anything to you. Your life is to be cherished, and you do so by paying attention to every little thing. Be mindful of the weather, other people, the colors of the day, the quiet sometimes unnoticed people. There is so much and it is up to you not to miss it. You will, however, miss it if you allow electronic gadgets to focus all of your attention.

• Stay close to family. Over the course of a lifetime, there will be many dramas within family, but they are just that: dramas, with beginnings and endings, and less important than last year's hit movie. See family members as loved ones, not as the characters they may think they are playing.

• Plan to do things, but don't expect them to happen. Every once in awhile a picnic gets spoiled by rain or ants or excessive heat. Shrug it off. Make that lemonade from sour lemons.

• Above all, don't take anything too seriously. Seems the world these days has an epidemic of serious-itis. It makes for gun play and wars, for long-term feuds and short-term spats. You probably make use of the word that expresses an appropriate reaction to those who take themselves too seriously: “Really?”

• And lastly (even in my day dream the girls uttered a collective sigh of relief), don't consider a word I said as all that important. Live your own lives, never stop learning and being interested (and therefore interesting) and someday tell your grandchildren that “it all comes out in the wash.” And if it doesn't? So what?

As for me, it is time to wake up. Or maybe not.

Meandering appears Fridays. To share your thoughts on this column (or on most anything) with News Editor Mike O'Hare, write to the Leader Times, P.O. Box 978, Kittanning, PA 16201 or via e-mail to

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