Happy Birthday America: Part 1, Good Neighbors

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2012, Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD
The Face of America Project
All Rights Reserved

The genius of the United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures, nor in its ambassadors or authors or college presidents, or churches, or parlors, nor even in its newspapers or inventors, but always most in its common people.Sinclair Lewis

When I think about the heart and soul of America, I think about the people Kitch and I meet at the ground level as we continue our search for examples of the Face of America on its best day. These people are not rich or famous.  They are not influential or powerful. Their names do not appear in the headlines and they do not make the evening news. Their stories do not go viral on You Tube.

These Americans are happy being who they are, doing what they do. They are grateful for the opportunities they have.  The core of their lives and their beliefs is deeply rooted in service to others. They are good neighbors, loyal friends, and decent human beings.

Good Neighbors

Close to home, they are people like Bob Type and Theresa Evans.  Bob is a Vietnam veteran. He retired this year from a blue collar job. Bob is quiet and unassuming by nature.  He is a person who willingly helps his neighbors. After the autumn storm downed trees in our neighborhood, Bob picked up his pole saw, and he used it to help his neighbors cut down storm damaged trees. Kitch ad I were beneficiaries of Bob’s kindness.

When Theresa Evans was five years old, she spent five months living in a crowded boxcar of a train operated by the Nazis. Once a day the train stopped and she and others were permitted to get out of the boxcar and forage for food.  When the train eventually came to a stop, she spent another 13 months in virtual captivity. Several years later, she came to America.  She married a U.S. soldier she met in Germany, and she became a successful real estate broker.  

Theresa is a kind, thoughtful neighbor.  When Kitch was sick, she did everything she could to lift her spirits. Several times her husband Terry brought her trademark homemade Apfel Kuchen to our door. It was more than a delicious dessert; it was a mark of her caring heart.

Parents with Purpose

In our home away from home, North Plainfield, N.J., Chris and Wanda Blue are teaching their three children to believe in their country, and behave in a way that will enable them to take full advantage of the blessings of liberty.

Both Chris and Wanda have high expectations for their son and two daughters. They are active participants in their lives.  They attend school events.  Wanda is a school bus driver and a member of the PTO.  Together they visited Shanksville with us. They attended screenings at the high school, and recently Wanda was a chaperone for our Gettysburg project. The Blues are involved and invested in caring and helpful ways in the lives of their children because they want a better tomorrow for them. The Blues believe in the American dream, and they are doing what it takes to make it happen.


During a visit to the Visitor Center at the Gettysburg National Military Park, I met  Bonnie Orlando. She was volunteering at the Information Desk. I had a question. She had the answer and a business card that introduced me to the wonderful world of living history.

Bonnie and her husband Frank are retired teachers. They decided to spend the Indian summer of their life in Gettysburg helping people of all ages better understand the legacy of General and Mrs. Robert E. Lee. They do it with dignity, class and grace.

They teach lessons of forgiveness and reconciliation.

They give the story of the greatest battle in North America depth and understanding.

They give graciously and generously of their time and talent to anyone who wants to go behind the lines of this horrible conflict into the heart and soul of one of America’s greatest generals, and one of the premier families of the South. 

They teach by example one of the essential characteristics of America at its best.  They give more because they want to be more and do more for the people they serve.

The words Robert E. Lee wrote to his sons apply:

“Be kind, and generous, and pray earnestly to God to enable you to keep His commandments and walk in the same all the days of your life.”

Happy Birthday America.

(To be continued)

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