Local CulturePublic Interest

Notebook Recollections: Walk This Way

Local icon Tim Rumsey walked to work most days from 1987 to 2000. He began as a form of exercise but kept at it for his love of local lore harvested through his interactions with people on the street. He began documenting his musings and eventually filled 53 pocketbooks with his observations. He continues writing about his observations to this day. Here is just one tale.
By tim rumsey, md
Sunday, Fall 2022
St. Stanislaus Parish Festival. Outside. A day as beautiful as it could be. I immediately placed an order for a diet soda and two hotdogs. No mustard or napkin to save calories.
Mr. Positive was there of course. Noshing, helping. Cleaning up. Wrestling folding chairs. Blessed Pastor, Fr. John Clay, would have been there with a smile and big brimmed, white straw hat. But he was two years gone to his reward. No doubt his happiness shown upon the Festival today.
Michael Lee sat down on the picnic table bench next to me. He said Paul was in home hospice at The House. Would I come and see him? Pretty soon.
Michael and Paul along with Kevin and Kyle were Dennis Morgan’s 40-60 year old “foster boys.”
“Paul might not know you,” said Michael. “But, he’ll see you.”
Kevin had bagged my groceries at Kowalski’s that very morning. He also told me Paul was in bed all the time at the house; and I could come and see him. Then Kevin gave me a very generous hug that would have scored nine out of 10 as a successful Heimlich maneuver.
So, heck yes, I would see Paul.
“I’ll head over in 20 minutes,” I told Michael Lee.
They all lived three blocks from where we sat. 
Dennis Morgan and the boys were patients of Doctor’s Ravi, Sharma and myself for three decades. They lived in the Mary Pesek house on Michigan just down the street from St Stan’s.
There’s a long and winding story about the house’s 100 years. That it was Spirited. That it had been condemned. Neighbors wondered. It was the “jewel” of West 7th homes. William Texan DuBois knew because he was a cab driver. Frank Heller knew because he knew West 7th history.
The house was 100% Czech. Like just about every other house on late 19th century Michigan Street. It was always the Pesek House. Trellised gardens with backyard bird baths and life-sized statues. Mr. Pesek tended the vegetation in a top hat and tie. He was a post office official and an excellent amateur photographer. His family members on West 7th were his main subjects. He recorded the building of Schmidt Brewery and the Saint Paul Cathedral at the turn of the 19th century. I’ve seen a black and white of young Mary sitting on a traveling photographer’s donkey in front of their home in 1918. 
Mary’s brother, Tommy, played tennis and polo. Mary fenced, mastered piano and danced ballet.
Frank Heller said the Peseks maintained an old world elegance.
There would be losses. Father 1950. Mother 1972. Mary never recovered from the accidental death of her beloved brother, Tommy, in 1934.
Then Mary was alone.
Mary was a walker. Regularly to church, to the grocery and general walk-abouts. There was a beau here and there and one heartbreak. Neighborhood kids thought she was a Hollywood actress. Always dressy. Beautiful, long red hair kept in place with a green darning needle. On Halloween, she handed out large candy bars on a silver platter.
Years later, the darning needle was replaced with a pencil, and a child’s red wagon became a companion on walks.
Fr. Clay came to St Stan’s as a new pastor in 1975. He recognized Mary’s musical talent and offered her the organist position. As the years passed, neighbors and parishioners observed how peculiar Mary’s habits were becoming. But the one time Mary laid out on the altar floor, in full prostration, during the middle of Mass alleviated any doubt that Mary was declining.
Mary had always loved cats her “Kitties,” she would call them. In no time, there were eight indoor cats and then 15 and then more. She also had outside regular cats that she fed each day.
Mary has been gone since 1998.
I thought of Mary as I walked from the festival to visit Paul. Dennis Morgan and Kevin met me at the door. Paul was in bed, pale and frail. Quiet. His room was sunny with fresh cut orange mums sitting at the bedside. Visitors could still smell the scent of Tide.
Dennis called him, ‘Sweet Paul,” as he rearranged the bedding.
By the way, hot dogs need mustard. And a napkin.

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