By Arthur H. Gunther III

Regrets in older life, especially when there is time on the hands that goes to the head and prompts a critical look-back at how things could have gone better, certainly can include holidays. Such as Thanksgiving.

Just about all my youthful ones were spent at our grandparents — the one set of such that we had — and what I thought at age 18 would continue forever abruptly came to a halt when they moved to Florida, a blessing for them since it was so much more affordable than burgeoning suburbia.

For my brother and I there was limbo. And I guess for my parents, too, since the “family” gathering was now reduced to just four, and though there was well-prepared holiday food, the table seemed pretty much the same as any other day of the week. Eventually, we two siblings gave our parents a break — and a gift — and encouraged them to enjoy Thanksgiving with a trip to the race track for some mild betting and mutual entertainment. My brother was off with friends anyhow, and I was independent, so no big deal. We had had 18 or so Thanksgivings of the Norman Rockwell type, and the family could chew on that for a long time, until we both had future families of our own, and other irreplaceable traditions began anew. Limbo was OK.

I had two unexpected reprieves from that, though, when I was invited to a house not far from where I lived. I went, I thoroughly enjoyed the food, especially mince pie that was homemade and which I had never tasted and haven’t since because I’d rather recall the  original flavor. The family made me quite welcome, and the day reminded me of my many Thanksgivings with my grandparents.

What was missing was my own gratefulness and lack of social grace. I brought nothing to these two occasions — no flowers, no candy, no dessert. Didn’t even think of doing that. I also did not say “thank you” to the family.

Excuses are that I was age 20 the first time, but I was 24 the next visit. I had little money the first Thanksgiving, and just a bit more the second, but something could have been arranged. And a “thank you” costs nothing but is worth its weight in gold.

Regrets. Way past my 20s now, and those I should have thanked are long gone, one way or another.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at This essay may be reproduced.



By Arthur H. Gunther III

Thanksgiving — the traditional American one — and any gathering in any nation among any people at any time that seeks to express individual and community gratefulness for their bounty, however small, is affirmation that we do not live by bread alone. That we can celebrate such awareness by breaking bread is further proof of thanks.

When I was a child, my family’s Thanksgiving was simple and as expected in a blue-collar household where Thursday’s holiday was followed by Friday’s work: The day had special significance. That I had just one surviving set of grandparents made the moment even more of an anchor.

The day in Spring Valley, N.Y., at my grandparents’ home, offered the fine, deep smell of slow-cooking turkey, though I never ate that, preferring American cheese, I am afraid. But I enjoyed cranberry sauce, without which there would have been no Thanksgiving, and my Nana’s well-mashed potatoes, which tasted just right, particularly so on this occasion.

The windows, single pane, were clouded by condensed water, for the house was very warm with the oven and the people. My brother and I made circles on the glass and looked up and down the quiet streets of Summit and Ternure, just as my father and his brother had done years before.

After the main course, there would be the homemade apple pie and a cake from Tancos Bakery downtown that my father had picked out for the day. Usually a lemon variety.

The dessert would come a bit later, for dishes had to be cleared and hand washed, and our stomachs were full anyway. I spent the time waiting by getting awfully comfortable in my gramps’ recliner, next to a big standard floor lamp with a bright, 100-watt bulb. The stack of Saturday Evening Post magazines awaited, and I usually got through three.

Dessert came, and while the adults had their usual conversation, I went back to the chair cocoon, happy that I had experienced yet another Thanksgiving in that wonderful 1914 house, in a very small town where my dad grew up, where I went to school, walked to school, where I had friends and where adult cares, challenges and the highs and lows and promise of all that were yet far off.

Like I said, a traditional Thanksgiving, for no matter how you celebrate the day or something like it, no matter where you are, what happened on your “thanksgiving,” especially as a child, if you were so fortunate, eventually makes the man, the woman of you.

But, first, it gave you precious childhood memory.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via

This essay may be reproduced.



By Arthur H. Gunther III

No essays this week, just pictures and the “poetry” that seems to go with each one.




Woods, solitude,
wind whispering

as nature writes

a melody

in a long,

wonderful breath



In their season,

at picking,

the best first

Then the ones

not noticed

but still worthy

The poor ones

gone begging, just
ahead of the drops

Cape Chair


Beach sand

awaiting impression,

particles of glass


Until flesh


Life stamp

before the next

leaves a mark



Asleep, dreams

from the mind’s

collected bits

On a journey

of the fanciful

Alarm sounds,

reality returns

   The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at This may be reproduced.



f1 copy


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Look at the photograph above these words, and what do you see? Is it dawn or dusk? The answer might mean you are an optimist or a pessimist. Or perhaps you like endings better than beginnings.

This image was taken in the morning near Dennis, Cape Cod, off the King’s Highway and near the bay. The tree has survived winter storms and had lost a main trunk, but it has lived. Its fate could have been different if the tree faced the Atlantic across the island at Falmouth. Optimism.

When I shot this photograph some years ago, the brightness of that particular morning, the briskness of it, made me think fall was coming though it was still summer. I suppose that was my early-day optimism, certainly not shared by the beach-goers who would arrive two hours later in high-80s temperature. “Yes, thank you,” they would say to the sun. To me: “Go home, autumn lover.” Optimism began for the vacationers when the bright sun kissed their rental bungalow screens with the beckoning of a full day of light and heat.

On the Cape at least, the setting sun can also mean optimism, for it is the ritual there to gather waterside and clap as the bright orb sets for its nightly nap. It’s like tucking a child in bed, the parent reassured that all is right, and that the promise of growth will continue after a good rest. So, too, with a rising sun on the next new morn. Optimism.

After I made this shot, I headed off for coffee, which is another optimistic time for my mornings. The caffeine rush, the strength of the brew, the childhood recollection of working people in my hometown diner drinking java from green glass cups — all set the day right for me, from the start.

So, on Cape Cod,  in my Blauvelt, N.Y., home, or wherever you are, I hope it’s the freshness of the rising sun that gets you going.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at This essay may be reproduced.


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Many personalities and almost that number in characters passed through my Editorial Page desk at the old Journal-News in Nyack, N.Y., 1978-2006. Like a farmer pleased with a bumper crop, I was always provided with a fertile field of human emotion, accomplishment, sadness and elation for commentary. To a man, to a woman, to a child, all these people’s  stories made you feel humble, for the tales of the human world are life itself, no matter the age, place or time.

So many unknown among us achieve without notice. So many suffer from this ailment or weight upon shoulders but get the job done. And so many do good, paying their own relative fortunes of whatever sort forward. Their stories are largely left untold.

Editorial pages, which may soon no longer exist, the victims of cost management in the shrinking print media, traditionally have heralded the extraordinary who die in office, who have served the people. But the journalist writing those pieces, him(her)self usually a bit jaded by the hoi polloi and more attuned to the common folk, really chew better on testimonials for the ordinary achiever whose praise would otherwise be unsung.

And, so, we come this day to two such people, presented here in appreciation and respect, not on an editorial page but at least in words. While both were Rockland County, N.Y., people upon death, each could have lived anywhere in the world for their kind are in every community.

My first person of note is Albon Platt Man IV of Palisades, a community volunteer and peace activist for most of his 95 years. Albon was a most articulate fellow, precise in speech and manner, and a stickler for correct grammar and word usage. Yet his kindly ways nudged his criticism rather than applying it hammer-like. He spent a total of 45 years in two publishing and editing jobs.

He was a local historian who helped publish books for the Historical Society of Rockland. He volunteered in many community ways, including at a home for the developmentally disabled.

Admiration for Albon Man comes easily, but for me it is anchored by his sacrifice for his beliefs. As a young man and then as a retiree, he opposed war, and he walked the talk by serving three years in prison for refusing induction into the U.S. Army.

When I was asked by the Historical Society to collect 100 of my newspaper essays and Albon and the late Associated Press writer Jules Loh edited them into a book, Albon asked me which was my favorite. “A fraternity of life and death,” I said, which was commentary on the World War II film, “Saving Private Ryan.” Though a pacifist, Albon, a man of dignity and great empathy, also understood “the fraternity of battle death,” of brothers in war but beyond it. In a way, I was talking about the ultimate peace. Albon knew. It is both the warrior and the peace-maker who can end all war and instead concentrate on the good the world can offer.

Albon Man contributed much in his own ways. I have rarely met such a principled, selfless person.

My second person of note is Jean Kathleen Sammes Gardner, a longtime Nyack resident who was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England (what a wonderfully sounding location). “Top girl” at Reigate County School, Jean volunteered in the London Civil Defense Corps, helping manage underground subway stations filled with residents during the Nazi “Blitz” bombings. Later she was in the British Women’s Auxiliary Air Force where she was a radar reader in top-secret work. She met her husband, Harvey C. Gardner, an American, and moved to Nyack in 1953.

Jean was an ardent community activist, fighting particularly for Rockland parkland and the Hudson River.

Our paths met at a stop sign of sorts in the later 1990s when I editorialized that Nyack might remove some of the large oak trees in upper Memorial Park so that the Hudson could be better seen and more directly linked to the village proper.

Jean, in a reply worthy of Winston Churchill’s bulldog stance against the Axis, quickly set me right. The trees had been there since just after World War I, when they were planted, each one of them, in memory of the men fallen in that “War to End All Wars.”

I felt humbled. I felt ashamed. I vowed to research better. And I still stand up straight when I hear Jean Gardner’s name, as if a schoolboy chastened in proper fashion.

What gifts we have on this earth when we meet such people as Albon Man and Jean Gardner.

  The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via This essay may be reproduced.