When people hit a certain age, it is said, they turn to newspaper obituary pages first. Well, I didn’t expect it to happen quite so quickly on the heels of my 60th birthday but Friday, Saturday, Sunday and today all seem to be pointing to this phenomenon.
On Friday, I got an email from MPM HR putting me in touch with an old friend/colleague from the museum (first time I’ve had a communication with official MPM except for misc. questions in fall of 2005 and my request last month about retiring from their employ and beginning to receive a pension. Floyd tracked me down to see if I might know where Irene Mitkus had lived when she worked on contract as a hand-bookbinder and restorer for the MPM Library and Archives; she had also worked on Floyd’s personal library.
Where some people like to keep Bibles or other inspirational works, or dictionaries and thesauri close at had, I keep my address book. Irene’s address was still in there. She hadn’t moved from the lovely flat cum workshop in the not-so-lovely Concordia neighborhood she’d moved to in the 1980′s. Nearly a decade ago, now, I’d sadly noted deceased next to her name but hadn’t erased or lined out the info. I guess I was thinking that if anybody ever tried to use my address book to notify people of my passing, I didn’t want to mislead them.
On Saturday, I found an example of Irene’s work (see preceding blog entry for photo) and emailed it to Floyd. I know I have several more of these notecards she made and used for a variety of purposes.One of these days I’ll open the right box in storage and find them. Aided by the address from the past, Floyd was able to attend Irene’s memorial service and on Sunday sent me another email about the experience. Irne was too young to die, and very likely, would not have passed away as she did, if she had health care insurance or access to goodbut affordable health care but she worked on contract and had to take the risk.
On Monday, I logged on to Facebook only to be greeted by a note from another MPM colleague about the death over the weekend of Dr. Lazar Brkich who had been born in 1927 and had gathered several lifetimes’ worth of experiences over his 83 years. I never realized Lazar was one year younger than my father. Lazar’s magnificent contribution to civic pride and ethnic heritage in Milwaukee, the European Village exhibit @ MPM, opened a couple of days after I gave birth to my first child — we used to joke about which event would happen first – and my one regret with the timing was that I missed that exhibit opening.
Naturally I had to search for a link to Lazar’s obit to publish on my wall and, while doing so, stumbled across another MPM-connected obituary – for Kenneth MacArthur who had passed away at the age of 97. Ken was in the process of getting ready for his retirement and wrapping things up as Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at MPM when I started working there in July 1974. I am delighted to report than Ken went on to enjoy 36 years of a retirement that sounded like it was fuller and more satisfying than his working years had been. Way to go, Ken!
Irene, I wish you could have been granted a fuller share of years which you would have turned into aesthetic delights via your creative and knowledgeable skills.