Mark Was No Lester

Mark’s middle name should have been “Quirky”

Mark Steinhoff, my youngest brother, is heavy on my mind. He left us on New Year’s Eve two years ago.

His birth certificate said his middle name was Lynn, but it could just as well have been “Quirky” or “Unusual.”

Do you know of anyone else who ties rocking horses to a tree in their front yard? Or attaches his Christmas tree upside down to the ceiling?

I bet there must have been 200 people at his Celebration of Life, and each and every one of them had a Mark story – it might have been about something he did; a kindness he performed; a prank he pulled, or how he touched another human being.

One of my staffers sold Mark a Sailfish sailboat that he hauled from Florida to Kentucky Lake. Later, he gave it to Matt, who hauled it BACK to Florida.

Matt inherited the Spitfire

Matt Steinhoff with Mark Steinhoff’s Spitfire

Mark promised Matt that he’d get the Spitfire some time in the future. Robin made it happen. It’s been refurbed and put back on the road.

He was a pebble tossed in a pond that created ripples that reached out in all directions.

Waking up at 4 in the morning

I rolled over about 4 in the morning thinking about Mark, then a contrasting character popped into my head.

Marion showed up in my office one day. There are some newspaper folks who are great reporters who can Hoover up all kinds of quotes and turn them into “just the facts” journalism, and there are writers who can make their keyboards sing. She was in the latter category.

I loved working with her. We spent almost two weeks on the road doing tourist stories from South Florida up through Louisiana. Cutting through a foggy swamp road late one night, she, like Bobby McGee, “sang up every song that driver knew (and a lot of new ones).

We were investigating one of New Orleans’ above-ground cemeteries when my car was broken into (“You’re lucky you had an alarm that scared off the burglar, usually they hit the car, then go into the cemetery to rob the tourists.”)

We attended a Christmas party in the country’s only continental leprosarium in Carville, LA..  Not everybody can say that. She was also a regular on weekend bike rides with other newspaper people. On a hot day, water frolicking was apt to occur.

The well is dry”

“I’ve got to come up with a feature this week, and the well is dry,” she lamented.

“Everybody has a story to tell. You just have to find them,” I told her, falling back on one of my favorite clichés. “Grab the phone book and a thumbtack. Open it to a page at random and stab a name. We’re going to find out what that person’s story is.”

We selected Lester R. “Mosley” on Summit Blvd., in West Palm Beach, an address about three blocks from my house. [Last name changed for privacy.]

Mr. “Mosley” lived in an older, one-story home set back on a large, well-kept lawn. When he came to the door, he was dressed in clean, retiree clothes, and, while confused about why we were there, didn’t chase us away.

We talked with him for about 45 minutes and discovered that he was not only NOT like Brother Mark, he provided the exception to the rule that everyone has a story.

Mr. “Mosley” had no interesting tales of work; had no hobbies to speak of; maintained a neat yard, but without passion; didn’t mention any family nor friends.

About the only unusual tidbit he offered up was that he had married his brother’s widow. (I think I remember that correctly.) Beyond volunteering that simple fact, he never told us anything about her, whether she still lived there, had run off with the milkman or had died of boredom.

A Most Peculiar Man

( Not Mr. “Mosley” -He’s a man I shot in New Burlington, OH, for a book c 1971

A few lines from Simon and Garfunkel’s song, A Most Peculiar Man, came to mind.

He was a most peculiar man
He lived all alone within a house
Within a room, within himself
A most peculiar man

Mr. “Mosley” seemed to be content with his rather colorless life, so who are we to judge?

We didn’t do a story on Mr. “Mosley”. Somewhere in my files is an envelope containing a couple dozen frames of Mr. “Mosley”, which have probably faded away as much as he did.

Marion needed to find a Mark, and all I could provide was a Lester.


A search turned up a brief obit for a man who could have been Mr. “Mosley.” (His middle name was Rembert). He was born in South Carolina in 1910, and died in Palm Beach county in 1979.

Marion left the paper, moved in with her elderly parents, became reclusive, and died at age 51 in 2002.

Here’s a not-too-brief collection of stories and photos of Brother Mark.


Poinsettias on the Graves

When Wife Lila came to Cape recently, she tried to convince me to replace the refrigerator when I remodel my kitchen. She’s a big fan of bottom freezers, and I prefer mine to be at eye level. (Her eyes aren’t that far off the ground, so that’s why she likes the bottom freezer.)

When we went to Lowes to look at ice boxes (using that phrase is a good sign that I’m old), we passed an aisle loaded down with Christmas flowers and cacti. The poinsettias were two for three bucks, so we picked up a couple of them and some cacti for friends and relatives.

Mother had always asked, “Who will decorate the graves after I’m gone?” That sent me back to Lowes to pick up some more flowers.

Sunset more colorful than flowers

After dropping off a pot at my Mother and Dad’s stone, I stopped by Lila’s mother, Lucille Perry. The flowers were colorful, but they couldn’t compare with the sunset in the distance. I wish the camera had captured all the colors my eyes saw.

Roy and Elsie in Advance

Mother’s dad and mother had health problems and lived with us from my early grade school days until after I had left for Ohio University. My life was much enriched by getting to know them.

Here’s a little more about Elsie Welch, as described by her friends.

My great-grandparents

Mother’s grandparents, W.M. Adkins and Mary Adkins died long before I was born, but I still have no trouble spotting their grave in the beautiful Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Tillman, near Advance.

A lot of my grandmother’s friends and relatives are scattered in that cemetery.

I wondered if they got stolen

After I had placed the flowers, I wondered if anyone would spot them and carry them off since they were so portable.

As soon as the thought crossed my mind, I said to myself, “I don’t care if someone does. I fulfilled my obligation to Mother, and if her flowers brighten another grave, that’s a good thing.”



Check Out History Center Trees

Cape County History Center Xmas trees 11-14-2023

Don’t just stand outside looking through the window of the Cape County History Center at 102 South High Street, across from the old courthouse in Jackson. Open the door and see what Executive Director Carla Jordan ranks as one of the best of nearly a decade of Christmas tree collections.

When you step inside, pick up a printed guide to the History Center Nativity Walk 2023. I’m using the guide to describe the exhibits you’ll see. The beauty is in the detail, so I’ll concentrate on the stuff you’ll miss if you don’t look closely.

#1 Food Pantry Tree

01 Food Pantry Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

The doves on this tree were created by our team.  You may select a dove to take home with you for $5 that goes to the Jackson Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry.

#2 Spider Tree

02 Spider Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This story has numerous versions in Germany and Ukraine.  Our tree tells of the Christ-Child’s Christmas Eve visit to a family’s home to leave blessings.  The family thoroughly cleaned their home to prepare for the visit.  The house spiders wished to see Baby Jesus, too, and scampered up the tree to get a good view, leaving their webs behind them on the tree.  Baby Jesus was delighted to see the spiders but did not want the family to find their cleaning efforts for naught.  Jesus touched the webs, turning them to silver and gold.

#3 I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Cape County History Center Xmas trees 11-14-2023

This tree’s story is based on the 1863 poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  He was distraught by the loss of his wife in a tragic fire, and his son joined the Union Army during the Civil War and was severely injured. 

Upon hearing the Christmas bells ringing on Christmas morning during this dark period, Longfellow found comfort in the bells, and wrote the famous poem, “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep…peace on Earth, and good will to men.” The poem was first published in Our Young Folks, a juvenile magazine in 1865, and is now a beloved Christmas carol.

#4 Chrismon – Symbols of Christ Tree

04 Chrismon Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

A group of participants met each month for 11 months at our Research Annex with instructor, JoNell Cougill, and they created the ornaments for this tree.  Some of the symbols are ancient and some are modern.  The Chrismon tradition was renewed and preserved by Frances Spencer, and the women of the Ascension Lutheran Church in Danville, Virginia in 1957.

#5 Happy Birthday Jesus

05 Happy Birthday Jesus Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This tree was designed, created, and installed by the PEO-DJ organization.

#6.  Topiary Trees with Nativity & Ornaments from the Holy Land

06 Holy Land Ornaments Cape County History Center Xmas trees 11-14-2023

This collection is a gift from the Kenneth White Collection. 

#7 Follow the Star

07 Follow the Star Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

The star tree has been a part of our exhibit for eight years.  It is designed and created by the PEO-LA organization.

#8 Mary Tree

08 Mary Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

The Mary tree is a little lesson in art history.  Early Egyptians loved bold blue and pulverized lapis lazuli stones to obtain the pigment for embellishments and art works.  For millennia, blue has been a costly hue—at times more prized than gold.  Marian blue is a color creating Mary’s elevation in the interpretation of historic art since the 5th century.  During the first few centuries after Christ, Mary was often depicted in a red gown or wrapped in a pink mantle.  Slowly, blue replaced the artist’s preferred color for Mary.

#9 Donkey Tree

09 Donkey Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

Nearly always depicted as the transport animal for Mary to travel to Bethlehem.  The donkey has an important role multiple times in Christian art and literature.  We chose to place this dear donkey tree close to Mary.

#10 Joseph Tree

10 Joseph Tree Cape County History Center Xmas trees 11-14-2023

You will see the symbols of Joseph’s carpentry trade.  This tree has an authentic Jewish prayer shawl, a yarmulke, and a menorah.

#11 The Wise Men Tree

12 Wise Men Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This story tree tells of the Gentile visitors to the Nativity.  This tree represents that the Nativity story is for all people.  They followed the star.

#12 Multitude of Angels

12 Multitude of Angels Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

One of several “Multitude of Angels” Trees

#13 Sallie Ann Criddle Exhibit

13 Sallie Ann Criddle Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

The beautiful doll in this exhibit came home to Jackson after many years traveling the country with descendants of Sallie Ann Criddle.  Can you find these tiny treasures in Sallie’s exhibit or in her next-door playroom?  A tiny mouse, a tiny Santa, a Christmas postcard, a tiny letter, a tiny book…there are numerous treasures in this display.  Take a close look…

#14 Lace Angel Tree

14 Lace Angel Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

These angels were created by the late Juanita M. Criddle Niswonger.  They fly above a Lori Mitchell Nativity.

#15 Miniature Nativity Scene Flat Case

15 Miniature Nativity Flat Case Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This exhibit case features Nativity scenes from all over the world and other small collections.

#16. Another “Multitude of Angels” Trees

16 Multiple of Angels Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

#17. Rosewood Square Grand Piano Nativity

17 Rosewood Square Piano Nativity Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

The large ceramic Nativity was created by Vicki Crites Lane, and she created both of the quilts hanging in this exhibit.  There is an incredible wreath quilt and one entitled, “Starry, Starry, Night.”

#18 White Feather Tree

18 White Feather Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

Another pretty angel tree.

#19 Child-Like Angels Tree

19 Child-like Angels Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This tree is adorned with angels from the Bradford Collection.

#20. Shepherd, Sheep, with Messenger Angels

20 Shepherd Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This fun tree exhibits shepherds with their flock and the angels who foretold the story. 

#21. Drummer Boy Tree

21 Drummer Boy Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This tree has many styles of Drummers throughout history.  It was designed and installed by JoNell Cougill.

#22. Oh Holy Night Tree

22 Oh Holy Night Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This tree was designed to display a fifty-year collection of Nativity ornaments.  The nearby exhibit was designed by Wendy Hayes and Robyn Hosp, who created the background painting.

#23. Oxen Tree

23 Oxen Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

Another tree designed by JoNell Cougill, representing the oxen.  Oxen are present in nearly every Nativity.  The oxen are a symbol of the 12 Tribes of Israel, depicted on the tree. The oxen also represent strength and power.  The yoke artifact was a gift from the Bob and Yvonne Keathley Collection.

#24. Straw Tree

24 Straw Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This tree represents the manger straw in the Nativity.

#25. Poinsettia Tree

25 Poinsettia Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This red and white tree has poinsettia blooms and cardinals.  The poinsettia blooms wild from Mexico to southern Guatemala on Pacific-facing slopes.  They were cultivated by the Aztecs for use in traditional medicine and for dye.  They are now popular during the Christmas season in the United States where approximately 70 million are sold in a six-week period.

In 16th century Mexico, a legend states that a little girl named, Pepita or Maria, was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus and was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar.  Crimson blossoms sprouted from the weeds and became poinsettias.  The 17th century Franciscan monks included poinsettias in their Christmas celebrations.  The star-shaped leaves are symbols of the Star of Bethlehem. Poinsettias were officially named and brought to the United States by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first appointed U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

The cardinals on the tree are symbols for many of us on this team of “Messengers of Loved ones Passed.”


A Letter to Mother

Birthday Season Exemption

I’m getting a fileserver upgrade, so my computer will be dark for a few days, which would be a problem because Mother’s birthday will fall within that period. Fortunately, I can post this under the Birthday Season Exemption.

My family, for better or worse, is made up of packrats who saved stuff that would be considered inconsequential to most folks. While going through an envelope of greeting, birthday, sympathy and get-well cards, I ran across this snippet of a letter I had written to Mother from Ohio University, probably in 1967.

I’m glad she saved it (and that I found it)

I don’t know what triggered me to write it, but I’m glad I did. I didn’t do that enough to people who are important to me.

Maybe I was trying to recover for letting Mother’s Day slip past me the first year at OU. Trust me, that never happened again.