A Tribute to Clarence R. Sekerak (1922-2013)

SekerakHe was born on December 1, 1922, in Barberton, Ohio, as the youngest son of Michael and Julia Sekerak, Slovakian immigrants to the United States of America. He attended Barberton High School and graduated from Cleveland Bible College (now Malone University) with a Bachelor of Theology degree.

As a Quaker minister, he led youth missions to Mexico, Guatemala, and the Bahamas. He had a morning radio show, ‘Sunrise Scriptures’ heard on WFAH in Alliance, Ohio.

From 1963 to 1969, he served as the director of public relations at Malone University. He also established a brokerage company that served many clients for more than twenty years before retiring in 2002.

He was a historian, and personally financed publications of many historical books. Mr. Sekerak introduced me to the history of the Santee Sioux Indians. At 91, his brain and tongue were ‘sharp’. He tirelessly narrated Quaker history during his multiple visits to my office. His face beamed with pride when he extolled the lives of pioneer Quakers buried in the state’s oldest Friends cemetery near his home in Damascus, Ohio.

To summarize who Clarence Sekerak was, I need to borrow the following from his obituary. “Self-described as, Old Man Sekerak on the 13-acre hacienda on the outskirts of southern Damascus, and often wearing his red beret, he was a gifted storyteller whose ability to dramatize religious and historical facts made his eclectic interests appealing to many. His personal integrity, work ethic, spiritual faith, civic consciousness, generosity, and expertise on countless topics were inspirational to those blessed to know him.” He died on December 10, 2013.

I am sitting in my study reading ‘Journal except by the Rev. S. D. Hinman, Missionary to the Santee Sioux Indians’ from January of 1869, a treasured gift from my friend, Clarence Sekerak. “Read and write about issues that inspire you,” he told me many times.

Fidelis O. Mkparu, November 28, 2014

Early Morning Dew (November 15, 2014)

I left my office later than usual last night. The setting sun did not even bid me farewell. Bright lights from approaching cars kept me agile. A slow drive to my home twenty miles away. Street lights kill the essence of the night sky. Stars and meteors fade away. No songs or whispers from my blackberry. I drift away to my special place.

The house on the hill, my abode and sanctuary, welcomes me. Semicircular drive, a dream of my youth, is an easy maneuver. My tired hands agree. My car throttles to a stop. I step out into the cold night. The car engine spews heat of twenty mile drive. Why not? It loves expensive premium gasoline. “Click.” The sound of car door lock. Do I bid you good night? No, you’re just a car.

My fireplace crackles, and my snore bellows. Really? Maybe a whimper. Who cares. It is a snore. Five hours of solitude.

Morning shower cleans my body, but my mouth gets the first cleansing. Red silk tie accentuates a navy blue suit. Ready for a meeting at seven with ‘human sharks’. Red tie? Forget it, a shark knows a guppy in fancy clothes.

My front door opens. A blistering cold wind greets my face. It’s mid November in Northeast Ohio, but winter beckons to me. An early morning dew on my windshield. No quick remedy, except for a good scrape.

Snow on my windshield please, not frozen early morning dew.

I’ve Lived

It was a cold Friday morning. For a ‘not so small town’, we have only one full service post office. Well, I read that the population is twenty thousand. It has a main street. Does it matter if it has a main street? Maybe. Some of the older residents tell stories of how vibrant the main street used to be. Used to be? It is now a desolate place. Let me get back to my story.

I walked into the post office building early on Friday morning. My goal was to be their first customer for that day. I placed twenty-five priority mail envelopes on the counter to relieve my aching arms. Twenty-five prepublication books to be mailed out to wonderful reviewers. Reviewers are lovely people that hold my fate on their hands. Maybe their computer keyboards will determine my fate. Their ‘epistle’ about my book will influence potential readers. Sorry to digress again.

Exactly at the appointed time, and not one minute before, the postal attendant opened his window. “Good morning,” he said, with a smile. I love cheerful government workers. “How are you, sir?” I said, or maybe asked. Who cares? I spoke. He looked at the pile of priority envelopes I had, and sighed.  I understood his dilemma. Earlier in the week, a postal worker informed me that they have to enter the addresses on priority mails electronically. Electronic entry automatically assigns a package to a ‘postal zone’. The mails are sent to appropriate zones first.

Half way through my pile, he realized that all the envelopes were addressed to ‘Book Review Editor’. “Wow! Are you an author?” he asked with an interest. “I’m not sure, but it’s my book,” I replied. He picked up one of the envelopes and looked at the destination address. “New York. What a lovely city,” he exclaimed. He sighed with a smile on his face. I was confused. He entered the address ‘Electronically’ before he asked, “What are you doing in this small town?” Unsure of what to say, I smiled.

What does he know about me? I’ve lived. Boston, Detroit (old Detroit), Nashville, Indianapolis, Memphis …. Yes, good old Memphis. A stroll down Madison Road after twelve hours of trauma cases. On Beale Street, we danced the evening away and tried to forget the tragedies associated with trauma medicine. It was 1985 and medical technology was not as sophisticated. I felt tears roll down my face. I had not thought about Memphis in twenty-nine years. The last day of my trauma service did me in. A twenty four year old man lost his leg from a motor vehicle accident that day. He asked his girlfriend to find a better man than him. We wept for his loss. I walked down the Mississippi river embankment and wailed like a child. I wiped my tears.

Melancholic Memphis. I remember an old man playing his guitar and singing of heartbreak in Beale Street. Dementia took away his memory but spared his musical skills. He could play guitar and sing blues but could not recognize his family. The price we pay for aging.

In Memphis, when my past began to fade from my mind, I walked to the banks of the river and closed my eyes. The subtle sounds from the Mississippi River took me back to the banks of the river Niger, where I used to belong. Even after you emigrate, your home stays with you. The burden an immigrant faces. Memories of my past.

Early Sunday Morning (October 26, 2014)

On my way home early this morning, driving West on Ohio 62, the golden sun rose. It reflected on yellow and red leaves from trees that lined the road. I rolled my car windows down. Turned my music off. My face welcomed the soothing wind that rushed inside my car. Joy and inner peace took over me. I slowed down from sixty miles per hour, as posted on the road, to forty five miles. I needed more time with my serene environment. Northeast Ohio is beautiful.

It’s a beautiful fall day. Gentle wind teases stubborn autumn leaves. Some defy the gentle wind and sway. A taunting dance. Come with me and look at the magnificence of the last dance.

The wind won. Yellow and red leaves lie lifeless on my green lawn.

‘Love’s Affliction’ will take you to any special place that is yours.

Fidelis O Mkparu