February 14, 2008

It was a blast!

Filed under: Family,Fatherhood — schroder @ 2:15 pm

Every year I try to take my son and daughter on a trip somewhere fun. We live in three different cities and work in three different industries, so it’s a time to catch up. Last year, I took individual trips, but this year I booked a weekend with me and Sally and Thomas (Jan was in Savannah with 20 classmates celebrating their, ahem, recent noteworthybirthdays).

My history of trips with my kids is slightly legendary. We used to have one major mishap each trip, a mishap that we go over with fond memories on successive trips – including this one. There was the time we flew out West for two weeks of camping (and some motels) from the Grand Canyon to Yellowstone … the first night we arrived at Coral Pink Sand Dunes in Utah, unloaded all the tent and camping equipment – only to learn I left the tent poles back in Atlanta. We scrounged around a dump and found some scrap metal for the first night or two, later buying poles at a camping store.

There was the time we drove a rental car to the top of Mount Tamalpais (Mt. Tam) outside San Francisco and drove all the way to the top, only to realize we were very low on gas … we coasted in neutral all the way back down the hill to a gas station.

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Or the time we were in France and I misunderstood the instructions of the rental car guy who didn’t speak English and I later filled the tank with the wrong kind of gas … forcing us to sputter to a stop at the side of the highway at night, but just a few feet from a tow truck who was just finishing service on another car. He towed us back to his house and drained our tank and refilled the fuel lines with the proper fuel. We drove off happily late in the night back to the chateau in Vendome.

So this time, I gave the kids a choice … big city, small town, out West, New York, Miami? Or maybe a cruise. They voted cruise. I checked the dates and found the one line that worked for our calendar was a Disney cruise heading to Nassau and Disney’s private island. I read the online comments and even adult kids had great times on Disney cruises. So, why risk my record? I decided to leave it all to Disney. So Sally flew from Charlotte, I flew from Atlanta and Thomas flew from Raleigh. We all landed in Orlando at the same time, grabbed a rental car and drove to Port Canaveral, where we hopped on board with unusual ease.

We were greeted on deck with an adult beverage and the countdown for the Shuttle blastoff – just a mile away. We had a great view from the deck of the Wonder. It brought back memories from 1992, when we went to Disney World and realized there was a Shuttle blast on Monday. We stayed an extra day to see that. And this was another beautiful bonus to yet another great trip.

Disney did a great job … food was great, the cabins were very nice, shows were well done and we all especially loved Castaway Cay, their private island. Sally and Thomas got enough sun to show some burn when they headed back to the office on Monday. This time, it was a perfect trip and we all left with fond memories to talk about in future years.

Photo: Sally and Thomas on the deck on the Disney Wonder with the Shuttle blasting off between them on February 7, 2008.

January 8, 2008

Hank Payne: A Treasure Passes On

Filed under: Atlanta — schroder @ 12:40 pm

I just heard that Dr. Hank Payne died yesterday. Our city has lost a true treasure.

Hank was a remarkable man … humble, brilliant, inspiring, self-effacing and an excellent golfer. He was a devoted family man, proud of his wife, Deborah and two sons. As president of Woodward Academy since 2000, Hank brought extraordinary experience to one of the oldest academic institutions in the metro area. His previous experience as president of Hamilton and Williams colleges was exactly was Woodward was looking for when it embarked on a $100 million expansion.

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Hank not only helped raise funding dramatically, he raised the standing and stature of Woodward throughout the community. He also challenged the College Park school to build new buildings sustainably … with the environment foremost in mind. Woodward hired our client, Perkins+Will, the leading sustainable architecture firm in the world, to design buildings on its campus that saved energy and water usage, employed recycled materials, planted native vegetation and took advantage of the sun’s radiant energy. Some of Woodward’s buildings were constructed by another client, SG Contracting.

I first met Hank when my buddy, Tom Murphy of Murphy’s Restaurant was selected to introduce Hank to his fellow classmates in Leadership Midtown. Tom was not only fearful of giving speeches, he was intimidated by Hank’s intellect and record. He asked me to help with his speech. The next day I called Tom with an idea he couldn’t refuse: “What if you just stood up in front of Leadership Midtown and pressed the Play button on a DVD player and sat down?” I asked. “Sold!” Tom said – and thus began Schroder PR’s new venture into video work. I called my friend Larry Matré and together we produced a short video featuring Tom and Hank, poking a little fun at both.

The video, and the bloopers, were a hit, bringing down the house at Leadership Midtown. You can view the video on our website (just scroll down to the bottom of the video page). I later invited Hank to speak at the Inquiry Club, a group begun by Ralph McGill, one of my childhood heroes. I asked Hank, a northerner, historian and insightful analyst of Atlanta’s strengths and weaknesses, to speak about the growth of Atlanta and to critique its development. It was a fascinating evening, with Hank describing how downtown Atlanta was originally built on a grid to serve its railway-hub origins and how we’ve had trouble meeting our urban-planning and growth needs ever since. Hank walked in the room to speak to the Inquiry Club, looked around, noticed video equipment set up and said, “You’re not showing the video again, are you?” “Well, Hank,” I said. “I wanted to introduce you in the most clever way I could!” He was a great sport, again.

Hank was kind enough to invite me to play golf a few times with him at Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Creek course, an old-style “links” course with very challenging roughs. In the roughs were where I spent a good part of my days with Hank, while he smoothly glided down the middle of the fairways on his way to the speedy greens and another birdie or par. As we played, he talked his stewardship of Woodward, dealing with donors, challenging his faculty and staff, or soothing parents whose kids might have to be expelled for disciplinary reasons.

Recently, Tom Murphy and I were having dinner in Virginia-Highland, when Hank and Deborah walked through the restaurant. They stopped at our table and talked for a long while, and we all giggled as Hank told a few of his many, funny stories.

Atlanta was richer for Woodward having brought Hank to town. We’ll be a bit poorer for his leaving us, way too early. The term is often used loosely these days, but Hank Payne was truly one of the finest examples I ever knew of “a gentleman and a scholar.” I’ll miss him and so will Atlanta.

Photo: Hank Payne, scholar and gentleman.

November 27, 2007

Memorial for Doug Marlette

Filed under: Media — schroder @ 1:19 pm

Last summer, I was shocked to read the news that Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Doug Marlette was killed in a one-car accident in which he was a passenger near Oxford, Mississippi. I had worked with Doug at the Charlotte Observer in the 1980s and later visited with him when I was interviewing for a position I later took at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In today’s world of instant Internet news delivery, I quickly navigated to the Observer website and read a touching tribute to Doug posted by his longtime friend and one-time boss, Ed Williams, who manages the editorial page. Doug’s creative personality was both endearing and, at times, challengingly provocative, and Ed summed it up well and quickly. Reading about Doug’s life brought back a flood of memories of my own and I wrote Ed and traveled to Charlotte on August 8 for a memorial service. Ed’s latest column on Doug published just two days ago.

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I first met Doug in the first few weeks of what turned out to be a very stressful job. You’d think being the manager of 28 creative writers and designers and event-planning employees would be a fun job and, at times, it was. But it was also difficult to please my clients, who were the paper’s editor, circulation manager and advertising director. They each fought for control of my department and our resources. I felt a kinship with Teddy Kollek, then the mayor of Jerusalem who was featured on 60 Minutes as a peacemaker in a city claimed for and whose control was aggressively sought by three major religions: Christians, Jews and Muslims. Teddy did a much better job managing Jerusalem than I did with the Observer promotion department, but I was only 29 when I took the job and I was soon locked in a battle with seasoned veterans.

After one of my early squabbles with all three “religions” at the paper, I wandered back to my office and found Doug Marlette sitting in a chair, a pile of books in his hand. He quickly straightened me out. My main job at the Observer, I soon learned, was to promote Doug! Soon my department was designing and publishing promotional ads in our paper that highlighted Doug’s talents and offered his books for sale. A few weeks later in January 1986, when the Challenger exploded, Doug drove back to the office and penned a cartoon that published the next day.

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The morning it ran, our phone started ringing. Readers wanted to order copies of the cartoon. We ran an ad the next day offering them to readers for the cost of postage. We were flooded with their responses. People who might have canceled their subscriptions because of their ire over one of Doug’s previous controversial cartoons were now seeking five or 10 copies for their friends and families. My secretary tried to keep up, to no avail. Soon carts of mail were being hauled into our offices and all of our employees were having to fill the orders. Doug was very happy. In all, we fulfilled 70,000 orders for reprints.

Later, when my parents were celebrating their 50th anniversary, I produced a special commemorative newspaper and asked Doug for a cartoon. He adapted one for the occasion, with Popeye and Olive Oil in a marriage counselor’s office, with Popeye saying, “I suppose I am who I am and you am who you am too!” It was a big hit with my family.

Eventually Doug left the Observer for bigger markets, including Atlanta and New York. When I visited him in his office at the AJC shortly after he joined that staff, he was already restless and, he felt, under-appreciated. He was extremely talented, as soon proven by the Pulitzer Prize he won for his work at both the Observer and the AJC. Later, he wrote novels and this past summer, when he was in Mississippi, he was working with a high school drama class that was going to perform a musical in Edinburgh Fringe Festival based on his popular comic strip, Kudzu.

The evening of his memorial, several hundred Doug-lovers gathered at a church in Charlotte and told the old stories, read passages from his work and showed a slide show of his more controversial cartoons. We were all saddened to know his voice had been stilled, but all were richer for having known this creative genius of a man.

Photos: Doug Marlette and the Challenger cartoon that was reprinted 70,000 times in 1986 and again today, on websites all over cyberspace.

November 21, 2007

Gang’s All Here

Filed under: Spirituality — schroder @ 7:14 am

Catherine Butsch arrived home last night from sophomore year at college. She’s been at Duke for more than three months, so her younger brother, Chris Butsch, was the happiest of all to see her back in Atlanta. (Jan, her mom, and I spent a weekend with her in October at Durham, while also visiting my son Thomas in Raleigh.)

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Chris and Catherine are especially close siblings and get along beautifully. They are both smart, motivated students who, amazingly, provide their parents with a relatively stress-free teenage existence. I remind Jan often how lucky she is to have struck gold twice in a row.

Chris and Catherine walked up to Blockbuster moments after she arrived, grabbed some DVDs and returned home to watch and laugh late into the night. Jan and I are less than two years from an empty nest, so it’s especially nice to hear the sounds of family bouncing around the kitchen at holiday time. I imagine this scene is being repeated in millions of households all across the country today and tomorrow, as families gather for this most traditional of American holidays. I know Thanksgivings can be tense for some families, but we are blessed with only warmth on all sides of our family.

Tomorrow, Jan and I will head to north Georgia to spend the holiday with my Mom, brothers and sisters. Chris and Catherine will join their dad, Tom, serving a turkey dinner to the homeless and downtrodden at the Hosea Williams Feed the Hungry community kitchen. My two children, Sally and Thomas, will be in Charlotte with their mom, stepdad and his children and friends.

No matter where we all are, we’ll be spiritually connected to each other and to our fellow Americans, giving thanks to God for all the blessings He’s chosen to bestow on our families and our nation. Happy Thanskgiving.

Photos: Chris and Catherine Butsch at her graduation from Westminster in May 2006.

November 20, 2007

Breakfast with Bo

Filed under: Family,Public Relations — schroder @ 10:08 am

I am blessed with a large family, with dozens of cousins all over Atlanta. One I try to keep in regular contact with is my cousin Bo Spalding, who is just two years older. We had breakfast this morning to catch up on our respective families and firms.

Bo is a prince of man, with a dry wit and keen insight into media and PR. He comes by his intellect and charm naturally, being the fourth in a line of three gentlemen before him, each of whom was a managing partner of the law firm, King & Spalding. (We share the same great-grandfather, who co-founded the law firm in 1885.) We went to Georgetown Prep together for a year or two together.

Six years ago, when I left the newspaper business, Bo asked me to lunch at Colony Square in Atlanta, where his and Glen Jackson’s firm, Jackson Spalding, was then located. I had just sold my newspaper business to my business partner, Tom Cousins, and I was trying to figure out what to do “when I grew up.” Bo asked what plans I had.

“I’m not quite sure,” I told Bo over lunch at Houlihans. “I may start another publication, I may start an ad agency or maybe I’ll move to the coast and write a book.”

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Bo thought for a second about those choices and said, definitively, “I have two words for you, son … Public Relations.”

“Public Relations,” I said. “I never thought about that.” My only contact with PR firms had been on the receiving end of numerous phone calls to my newspapers from young members at larger firms, asking me if we “had received the press release” they had faxed us recently. That’s one of those calls that editors do not enjoy (more about that some other time).

“It’s a great business,” Bo said. “And you’d be a natural. Of course, I can’t hire you, you’re a cousin, but I’d be happy to refer you to other PR executives in town who could give you a feel for the business and maybe they’ll hire you.”

And thus began my transition to PR. I spent a year working freelance for other firms and, after a four-month stint as general manager for one small firm, I thought I had gathered enough experience to start taking on my own clients. So next month marks the fifth anniversary of my firm, Schroder Public Relations, and I suppose I owe it all to Bo. While I had worked for newspapers in a number of jobs, from reporter to editor to marketing and in-house PR, I had never worked inside a firm.

Bo was right, it is a great business. I enjoy the creativity, the writing, but mostly I enjoy being a business partner to our clients and a counselor on a whole range of issues, from media relations to communication to an Internet strategy. And the business model is a lot more successful these days than newspapers, I’m sad to say. I love newspapers, read numerous ones each day and I sometimes miss being on the planning end of a great issue, so it’s hard to watch the shrinking of that industry. But I can work in PR for years to come, even past the normal retirement age, should I – and my clients – so choose.

And, I hope, to continue to enjoy occasional breakfasts and lunches from my cousin and mentor, Bo.

Photo: PR Executive, and cousin, Bo Spalding

November 16, 2007

The Reluctant Speaker

Filed under: Atlanta,Media,Public Relations — schroder @ 9:07 pm

A few weeks back, when I read the email from the Atlanta Press Club that John Huey, editor-in-chief of Time, Inc., was coming to speak today, I immediately signed up for three tickets. Not just because John oversees 140 different magazines and has one of the most interesting media jobs in the world, but because he grew up on East Wesley Road next door to Tom Murphy.

Tom is an old friend whose family I knew back in the old elementary school days at Christ the King. Many years later, when I started a neighborhood newspaper called Atlanta 30306 in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood (later renamed Atlanta Intown), Tom was one of the first people I visited to try to convince to advertise in the start-up. He did, for many years. In the process, we renewed our friendship and became best buddies.

A few years ago, I was having a beer with Tom when he was discussing the upcoming 25th anniversary of his restaurant. I suggested he publish a book, recounting his many entrepreneurial adventures, but he was reluctant, wanting instead to print a book of recipes. I kept pushing him. “This will brand you in ways you’ll never predict,” I said. “The very fact that you have a book about your restaurant will elevate your brand, but it will be a great book because you have so many great stories. Besides, I know the perfect writer.”

Murphys

So thus began the long journey of Tom and my former editor and later bride, Jan Butsch Schroder, of compiling the book now known as Murphy’s, 25 Years of Recipes and Memories. The book published to great acclaim and a large, front-page story on the front of the AJC Living section. It is full of great recipes, photos and, most of all, stories … stories about being embezzled, robbed, about having to fire his wife after she threw a wet towel at him when a patron kissed Tom on the cheek, about the many great chefs who got their start at Murphy’s.

Tom, like Jan, is a private person, whose nature is not to step in the spotlight. And he hates public speaking. Once, when he had to introduce Hank Payne, president of Woodward Academy, Tom was too intimidated by the thought of standing in front of fellow classmates at Leadership Midtown and introducing the former college president. So when I suggested producing a video instead, Tom jumped at the chance.

As a child, Tom also had the distinction of growing up next door to John Huey in Garden Hills in Atlanta. As Tom tells the story, John grew up in a nice Southern Baptist household, but next door were the wild and crazy New York/Irish Catholic Murphys, with five children. Not only that, Tom’s parents also housed unwed mothers and, later, when Castro took over Cuba, dozens of Cuban refugee families. People were coming and going at all hours of the night at the Murphy household. John would look out his window and just shake his head at all the activity.

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So when Jan began to assemble the book, getting quotes from celebrities who once ate there was one of her many tasks. Katie Couric, a frequent visitor to Murphy’s when she worked in Atlanta, was a non-starter. Her office said she was contractually obligated not to endorse restaurants. John Huey, after a number of emails, wrote back a wonderful quote that we included on page 10 of the book: “I grew up next door to the Murphy family. They were an exotic family, to say the least. Dad ran a cheese business out of the back yard and did a lot of ministering to the poor. Mom was a nurse and there were lots and lots of kids. Tom, or Tommy, as we knew him, was always my favorite because of that personality he still has today. My most vivid memory of him is as a young child, standing down by the curb of East Wesley Road, selling hot dogs from a little stand he had cobbled together. As you might expect, they were good. And they sold. So maybe Murphy’s is really a lot older than 25.”

One thing Jan tried to secure was a photo of John. But she couldn’t find one on the Internet and his assistant said, “There are no photos of John.” So we published the book without one, one of many loose ends we were never able to tie up before printing.

So, two years later, when I saw John was to speak to the press club, I bought tickets to the luncheon and VIP reception for me, Jan and Tom.

When the big day arrived, today, we drove down to the Commerce Club and took the elevator to the 18th floor reception. I brought along a copy of the book. We had sent one to John’s office, but we were always unsure if he ever received it. When he recognized “Tommy” and shook his hand and started telling old stories, we asked if he had ever seen his quote in the book. He said he didn’t. I said we weren’t able to get his photo to publish and John said in his dry humor, “No, there are no photos of me.” So we showed the book to him, gave him the autographed copy and walked away. I then saw Spark St. Jude, a photographer snapping away at the reception, so I went over and asked her to shoot a photo of the two boyhood neighbors, holding the book. She was able to take one or two, when an alarm went off.

The fire alarms went off in the Commerce Club, so we all had to walk down 18 flights of old dirty stairs to the street. A crowd of people stood on Broad Street downtown until the firemen came and inspected each floor. We were finally later able to get back to the 16th floor for the luncheon and the speech by John Huey, which was hilarious.

“Normally that fire drill trick works so I don’t have to give a speech,” John dead-panned. “In New York, if people walk down that many flights of stairs, they just go on back to work and the speech never happens. It didn’t work here.

“When the Atlanta Press Club invited me to speak, I said ‘no.’ (pause) I still feel that way,” he said to great laughter. He went on to tell many great stories of growing up in Atlanta, working for The Atlanta Constitution, and working with Alexis Scott, now publisher of the Atlanta Daily World. John claimed he had been duped into giving the speech after turning it down, when Alexis called to ask him to give a toast at the 10th anniversary of her being named publisher. Next thing he knew, he said, he was being promoted as giving the press club speech. So he proceeded to give Alexis her well-deserved toast, as well as talk about other aspects of journalism and Atlanta today.

At the end of his speech, John reached down and grabbed the Murphy’s book and told the crowd to buy it, as it contained “many great stories about Tom’s excellent restaurant in Virginia-Highland … and a quote from me on page 10.”

And there, many years later, I felt my prediction had been reinforced in spades, that Tom’s book would help brand him and his restaurant. For here Tom was being endorsed from the podium to a sell-out crowd at the Atlanta Press Club by the editor-in-chief of Time, Inc.

Now, if I can just get that photograph …

Photos: The book and the co-authors at earlier Atlanta Press Club Author’s Party, Jan and Tom

November 14, 2007

PR Prayer Breakfast

Filed under: Media,Public Relations,Spirituality — schroder @ 12:00 pm

This morning my staff attended the first annual Atlanta Public Relations Interfaith Breakfast at Twelve at Atlantic Station. Organized by a committee of several PR firms, the vision for the breakfast came from Glen Jackson, a partner in Jackson Spalding, one of the largest independent firms in town. Glen’s partner is my third cousin, Bo Spalding.

Atlanta has a number of annual interfaith breakfasts and the tradition goes back decades to our city’s legacy as a beacon of civility during the turmoil of the Civil Rights struggle in the 1960s. One of the most successful of these is the Atlanta Rotary Club’s Prayer Breakfast, which I attended for the second year in a row this year. The speakers are always inspirational, but I especially look forward to the dramatic presentation by Tom Key of the Theatrical Outfit, one of the great treasures of this city. Glen happened to chair this year’s Rotary breakfast and I congratulated him afterwards. He told me about the planned PR breakfast, so I quickly bought a table.

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Another successful industry prayer breakfast is the Real Estate Prayer Breakfast, which we also support with the purchase of a table. This one was originally started in honor of the life of Mark Christopher, an amazing man of faith who battled cancer in 1996 and whose optimism and daily recorded inspirational messages of hope through the last months of his life touched many lives. He was scheduled to speak at the first RE prayer breakfast in May 1998, but he died that month. I knew Mark from my Friday Morning Men’s Fellowship and we visited him in the hospital once. We all went to support him, but he, instead, supported those of us crowded in his room.

This year’s PR Prayer Breakfast was highlighted by wonderful music by Third Day, several members of which flew the red eye from LA to participate. The most touching moment, though, was when Brenda Wood, a local TV anchor for 11 Alive, gave a very transparent testimony of the value of faith and prayer in her life. Interviewed by Beth Bragg of the DeMoss Group, she had the sold-out room riveted silently listening to her having been “broken” several times and how God and her faith saved her. Her facial expressions and body language were amazingly mesmerizing, as much as actress of stage or screen. Yet she’s a TV anchor here in Atlanta, and a great one – and a jewel of a role model of faith for the rest of us.

In addition to my staff, I invited Jae Stephenson of Resource Real Estate Marketing, and Sharon Goldmacher of Communications 21, who have recently referred business and offered advice to our five-year-old firm.

Jennifer Sheran, our general manager, my wife Jan and I were excited to invite our staff to the table. For many of our young team members, this event broke the ice of discussing faith at work. It’s always a delicate balance, knowing when to profess your faith and when to run a “strictly professional” firm. Thanks to Glen and the organizing committee for this and other breakfasts in Atlanta, who have set the table for those discussions to continue into the day, well after the warmth of the breakfasts have begun to wane.

Photo of our staff at the PR Interfaith Prayer Breakfast, from left: Evelyn Anne Johnston, Devin Releford, Reid Childers, Jan Butsch Schroder, Mary Martin, Lila Campbell, Jennifer Sheran and me, Chris Schroder.

November 13, 2007

Suzanne and the Candy-stripers

Filed under: Family — schroder @ 5:47 pm

Saturday will be my sister Suzanne’s birthday. In honor of her, I thought it would be most appropriate to share the article about Suzanne and her friends that ran in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month. The mother mentioned in the article is ours, Van Spalding Schroder. Enjoy.

Candy-stripers reunite after 50 years

By Gracie Bonds Staples, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 10/24/07

Suzanne Cronk has long wanted to re-create the moment captured in the old black-and-white photograph. It represented two of the best years of her life, shared with her closest friends. They were eighth-graders in 1952, a girl clique of 11- and 12-year-olds, some smiling, some holding hands, all in their striped pinafores. The six of them have remained friends for more than 50 years.

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They called themselves the “Mission Belles” but the truth is they had no mission except togetherness. They attended the same Catholic school, the Cathedral of Christ the King. They lived in the same Atlanta-area neighborhoods. They spent the night together, walked to Buckhead after school or to Wender & Roberts Drug Store for a Coke.

One day, one of their mothers gently informed them they needed to do something with purpose. Arrangements were made for the girls to stop in for a talk with an administrator at St. Joseph’s Infirmary. The Mission Belles soon were calling themselves St. Joe’s Little Helpers, getting to work at 8:30 a.m. as newly minted candy-stripers.

They traded sleeping time for visiting patients, filling water pitchers, delivering flowers and making beds. They came face to face with poverty and suffering and death for the first time in their young lives. They never forgot the four boys injured in the car accident; the 18-month-old baby revived after her heart stopped; or the little girl badly burned in a house fire.

“We were glad the hospital wanted us,” Cronk said in a newspaper interview in 1954.

By then, high school course work and a slew of extra-curricular activities were taking more of their time. Volunteering at St. Joseph took a back seat. In 1957, they graduated from Christ the King High School and, for the first time since they started school, went their separate ways. They went off to college. They married. All but one of them had children and grandchildren.

Three of them became registered nurses: Cronk, who now lives in Jasper, and Betty Lou Brennan Douglas and Julie Paquette Smith, both of Florida. Catherine Lehner Hallighan, of Chamblee, has retired from teaching in the DeKalb County public schools. Carol Schnurr Connolly of Pawleys Island, S.C., was an avid volunteer. And Patricia Harrison Robert of New York, worked 13 years as director of communications for Radio City Music Hall, then traveled with the Moscow circus, doing advertising and public relations.

Although they mostly lived in different states, Douglas said they stayed in touch “thanks largely to Suzanne.” They talked on the phone. Some got together occasionally for a game of bridge. And every five years, without fail, as many as possible returned to Christ the King for a class reunion. In April, they gathered for their 50th, the first time in 25 years all of them were able to attend.

Cronk knew this was perhaps her last chance to get a photo of them in the same line-up as they were all those years ago. They gathered for the photo, a girl clique of 67- and 68-year-olds. Forever friends.

Their years at St. Joe, Cronk said, made their relationship richer. Having that old photograph kept it alive. The new one makes it immortal.

Top photo: Pictured in 1952 from left are Julie Paquette Smith, Carol Schnurr Connolly, Patricia Harrison Robert, Suzanne Schroder Cronk, Betty Lou Brennan Douglas and Catherine Lehner Hallighan, who called themselves St. Joe’s Little Helpers.

Second photo: Suzanne Schroder Cronk, fourth from left, waited 25 years but she finally got her friends together for a photo at their 50th class reunion. With her from left, are Julie Paquette Smith, Carol Schnurr Connolly, Patricia Harrison Robert, Betty Lou Brennan Douglas and Catherine Lehner Hallighan

November 5, 2007

Thomas and Friends

Filed under: Family,Fatherhood,Spirituality — schroder @ 7:00 pm

This morning my son Thomas called in a panic, a rarity. He handles life so well and is such a dear soul that when he’s calls to report “good news and bad news,” something’s really wrong. Today, his dog, Huntly, and furry roommate Magnolia, slipped out the deck gate of their house in Raleigh, NC, and went for a long, unsupervised run through the city streets while Thomas was at work. Thomas found out from his roommate, who called to say the dogs were missing.

Thomas found Huntly, an Australian Shepherd, on the Internet while he was working a summer internship in Bangkok, Thailand. He emailed me Huntly’s photo and announced he wanted to buy him upon his return to the States, right before he completed his senior year at UNC-Chapel Hill. Despite the advice of his parents to the contrary, Thomas followed through on his purchase and kept Huntly at school and later took him to Raleigh for his new job after graduation. We counseled Thomas that he may be just feeling a little homesick after a semester abroad at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and a summer internship halfway around the world, but Thomas was not to be denied. He knew what he wanted, a sweet, affectionate, high-energy dog that he could train to chase and catch the frisbee.

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Thomas has always been a loyal friend. Even though as a child, he lived in Charlotte and Atlanta, he has tried to keep ties with friends in each city and those he developed during his journeys around the world. Of course, Thomas’ closest friend is his girlfriend, Amanda Brown, whom he met at a high school basketball game in April 2001 when they were both sophomores. They’ve been inseparable ever since, surviving the surefire test of going to colleges halfway across North Carolina from each other. She graduates next month from Appalachian State with two degrees and she may join Thomas in Raleigh, depending on job offers. They have an amazingly stable and close relationship, drawn even tighter from their semester together in Edinburgh (Amanda went to another college across town that semester).

But his closest buddy these days is Huntly. Thomas works only a mile from his house in Raleigh, so he’s able to go home at lunch and play with him. But today, the playful dogs bounced their way out of the gate, which may have been left unlocked by a weekend visitor. Thomas tried to keep his mind on his job as a stock market investor, but he was having trouble. About 45 minutes after first getting word of their escape, Thomas’ cell phone rang. A neighborhood veterinarian from Crossroads Veterinary in Raleigh happened to be driving down a busy street, when she saw Magnolia and Huntly run out in the traffic. Magnolia slipped away, but Huntly was hit by a passing car in front of the vet, who stopped, grabbed Huntly and took him to her hospital for treatment.

Luckily, Huntly only suffered bruising and some sore ribs, as the X-rays showed no broken bones or serious internal damage. I tried to explain to Thomas how the angel on his shoulder was watching after him again, with the vet being right on the scene, but Thomas of course was very shook up by the trauma and most concerned about Huntly’s health.

Huntly will be home healing soon. They secured the gate at Thomas’ house so the mishap won’t be repeated. Thomas is back at work and we’re all thankful it wasn’t worse than it was.

I tried to remind Thomas of the blessing this day really brought … that God allowed Huntly to only be nicked by one car and He sent an alert neighborhood vet in the next.

Oh yeah, and the good news Thomas was calling about … he was promoted, along with four or five others in his freshman class of 24 at a new Raleigh office, a division of a New York investment firm. The firm enlarged Thomas’ ability to trade or option larger blocks of stock during the day.

So, today, Thomas’ job awarded him larger parameters. Huntly and Magnolia tried to enlarge theirs. I’m hoping everyone in Raleigh – as well as the good Lord – keep their eyes on those dogs, just to ensure they don’t try it again anytime soon.

Photos: Thomas Schroder with Huntly, left, and Magnolia in October 2007; with Amanda at St. Simons Island a few years ago.

November 2, 2007

Sally’s 25

Filed under: Family,Fatherhood — schroder @ 10:27 pm

My bride Jan and I drove to Charlotte this afternoon to have dinner with my daughter Sally on her 25th birthday. Fortuitously, we reserved a room at the Doubletree Inn at SouthPark, which turned out to be a few steps across the street from Bricktops, a restaurant Sally later selected for dinner with us and her mom and stepdad Jim.

Things are going well for Sally now. She’s working as a business account executive in a Charlotte IT and telecom consulting firm. She has friends, a few too many cats and a supportive family. She also has a new car, an Acura 3.2, of which she is quite proud.

Sally_and_cake

Sally_and_car_2

I brought the traditional family cake from Atlanta, a double caramel bar cake from Rhodes Bakery on Cheshire Bridge Road. My family’s been eating these cakes since I can remember. Old photos of my brothers and me blowing out candles atop Rhodes cakes fill our family scrapbooks. Here’s a shot of Sally with hers, apologies for the flash not working!

Callender has been a great mother to Sally and, now, after a few years of struggle, the two are close friends, having lunch most every week. Jim has been a terrific stepdad to my son Thomas and Sally. We had a couple of issues in the early years, but I have nothing but thanks and appreciation for the job he and Callender have done shepherding my kids. Until Sally and Thomas began driving at age 16, Callender and I would meet every other weekend, halfway between Charlotte and Atlanta, in Greenville, SC and exchange kids and luggage. All that driving has kept my relationship close with both my children. Now Jan and I and Callender and Jim get along like old friends at dinner – and I’m particularly thankful for that.

Photos: Sally Schroder at dinner with the Rhodes caramel cake, and with her new Acura, showing off those leather seats she looked so long to find.

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