Craig Palmer, owner of Jensen-Reiche Plumbing on West Highland Avenue in Ravenna, is in the process of making an enormous change in his life.
He is going to sell his business. Then, he and his wife, Jackie, will become missionaries in Chad, an impoverished nation in West Africa. Sponsored by Grace Baptist Church, the Palmers will be stationed in Mondou, a city of approximately 140,000 in southern Chad not far from its borders with Cameroon and the Central African Republic.
Having taken advantage of Craig's excellent plumbing services over the years in the Record-Courier's Ravenna offices, as well as in our home, I was surprised by his announcement, but I am happy for Craig if that is what he wants.
The material he shared with me indicates the Palmers will serve in a support function for the Grace Baptist mission team in Chad, where he will be active in the repair and maintenance of Encompass World Partner property in Mondou. The Palmers also will help mobilize partnerships by hosting short-term teams and visitors. As they learn the local language and culture of their host country, Craig will attempt to begin a small group discipleship through vocational training. Jackie will also disciple while teaching English as a second language to Chadian women.
The Palmers need to raise most of the money to support their mission work, so they are appealing for donations, which they said should go to Encompass World Partners, in the City of Industry, Calif.
"It'll be different, but I am excited about it," he said. In Craig, the Encompass World Partner mission has found a skilled tradesman of integrity, who will be missed by his customers.
Remembering Joe Gorman
Cleveland industrial titan Joe Gorman, who died a week ago today, spent a few of his formative years in Kent after his father, Burton Gorman, was hired by Kent State University to head up what was in the 1950s known as the Department of Education (now the College of Education).
A talented basketball player, Joe played forward for the Theodore Roosevelt High School Rough Riders for a year when they had some of those great teams coached by Harold Andreas. Obtaining his bachelor's degree at KSU, he then received his law degree from Yale and returned to the Cleveland area, eventually becoming general counsel for TRW and then its president.
The last time I saw Joe in Kent, he was semi-retired and a venture capitalist. In that context, he was helping open Kent's Five Guys, Burgers and Fries. Joe had acquired the franchise rights for that premier hamburger operation for a number of communities in Northeastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. An optimist, Joe quipped, when I asked him, that Five Guys, Burgers and Fries might turn out to be one of the best investments he'd ever made.
My lifelong buddy, Bob Griffin, who now lives in Hawaii, emailed me that Joe, who was four or five years older than we were, gave Bob in his early teens his first real job: Parking cars at Lot Owners Beach at Twin Lakes when Joe was its head lifeguard.
Joe was dating a very attractive young lady at the time and the guys working at Lot Owners Beach looked forward to her daily visits, Bob wrote.
Foot Polichene's Refrigerator Bowl role
Two weeks ago in "Along the Way," I recalled partly through the memories of retired business executive, Dick Kotis, the three Kent State University football teams that appeared in postseason bowl games. Dick, in 1954, was an assistant coach for the first of the three bowl games, the Refrigerator Bowl held in Evansville, Ind. The bowl got that name because Evansville called itself "The World's Refrigerator Capital." General Electric, the bowl game's sponsor, manufactured its refrigerators in Evansville in those days.
In the 1954 Refrigerator Bowl, the center for the Golden Flashes was the late Nunzio "Foot" Polichene, who became an educator and head football coach in the Ravenna Schools. A Korean War veteran, Polichene was two or three years older than most of the players on that team and Dick said it showed in his maturity.
"He was a good leader and fun to coach," Dick said, "because when you said something, he understood what you meant and why you said it." Polichene, Dick said, was a good communicator, "and I think that contributed to his success later as an educator and head football coach at Ravenna High School."
His continued loyalty to Kent State and KSU sports following his graduation was very much appreciated, Dick said.
"When we had a Varsity K event, Foot always helped out and the two of us usually ended up being golfing partners at fundraisers for Kent State sports," he said.
All of the players in that bowl game were given Refrigerator Bowl jackets. Ann Polichene, the former Ravenna City Council president, said she gave her husband's game jacket to their grandson, Jake, who lives with his parents, Joel and Karen Polichene, in the Baltimore area.
GE's exit from Ravenna
In "Jack: Straight from the Gut," the best-selling autobiography of Jack Welch, the legendary chairman and CEO at General Electric from 1981 to 2001 wrote that GE should probably get out of the light bulb business.
That came to mind with this past week's announcement that GE will close its light bulb plant in Ravenna, where for four decades light bulbs have been manufactured, some of them for specialty purposes such as illuminating the Statute of Liberty.
Welch's point was that light bulb manufacturing was becoming a commodity that any company could do and commodities are low-profit operations. While running GE, Welch acquired a fearsome, but highly respected reputation, as he sold off low-profit divisions and added new more profitable businesses to the GE portfolio.
During his first four years at the helm of GE, 112,000 people lost their jobs. That led to his nickname, "Neutron Jack." As he acquired new businesses, however, the number of employees went up, profits soared and Welch was regularly cited as a corporate leader of vision and superb execution.
Ravenna's GE plant in its heyday employed more than 500. Its closing is sad for the community, but not entirely unanticipated. Three years ago, I gave Don Schedahl, the industrial geographer, a tour of Ravenna and when we passed by the GE light bulb plant, he remarked, "You better tell the mayor to come up with Plan B for when it closes."
Don saw it coming.
A future landmark for Kent
The panel that will select a finalist from the four architectural plans unveiled at Cartwright Hall a week ago Thursday, faces a daunting assignment, I think, because all four appear to meet the specifications KSU set, including energy efficiency and a building that will stand the test of time as a landmark that helps bridge the campus with Kent's downtown.
The new building will be located on the Esplanade, the land bridge linking the campus and the downtown. Models of the four designs are on display at the KSU Library for the public to see.
Hundreds of students and faculty, with a generous portion of townies sprinkled in, turned out for the unveiling event, which did KSU proud.