Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Green pen trick just as successful as dear friend Art's

Would you call it luck, or would you call it superstition? Either way, it’s been working for me.

It involves a little trick I learned from the late Art Holden. He is one of the greatest men who ever lived. Perhaps you have heard of him. Even better, perhaps you were fortunate enough to have known him.

He is the paradigm of what a philanthropist should be. He has given more to charity than any individual I have ever known. He was truly a giving, caring person.

I cannot begin to enumerate all of his favored charities. He certainly has given much to the Holden Arboretum in Kirtland, although that great institution was not named for him personally, it was named for a member of his family.

He helped raise so much money for Lakeland Community College that the drive around the Armington Clock Tower was named in his honor. It is called the Arthur Holden Circle.

Don’t take my word for it. Drive over there and take a look for yourself.

The new Arlene and Arthur Holden University Center at Lakeland is named for Art and his widow.

One sunny afternoon, many years ago, a program was held on the back porch of the Mooreland Mansion on the campus to honor donors in a fund-raising campaign. Special tribute was offered to honor Arthur.

There were hundreds of folding chairs on the lawn behind the mansion. Arthur was seated on the porch as the emcee extolled his virtues and described how much the community owed to him.

The gentleman seated in front of me, several rows back, was George Hobbs, one of Painesville’s finest citizens, now many years deceased.

As the program went on and on, George leaned back in his chair and said, “Jim, there should be an Art Holden Day in Lake County to honor Arthur.”

I agreed thoroughly. But what could I do? I am just a typist. I don’t set county policy.

But I did the only thing I could do about it. I wrote a column.

Well, the three county commissioners agreed it would be a good idea, even though it was precedent-setting. There had never been a countywide day named for anybody. I understand there was once a Bob Jenks Day in Painesville, but that was citywide.

The ball started rolling, I began putting together a committee, and we decided to have a luncheon at LaMalfa to honor Arthur.

It required a huge committee and months of preparation. I will try to remember some of the committee members, but forgive me if I forget a lot of the names. There were the presidents of both colleges, Lakeland and Lake Erie, plus such sterling individuals as Leonard Skeggs, Gus Gerhing, Dave Siegel, Bill Sanford, George Milbourn and many others I am trying to recall.

I think Bill Stanton was also involved.

We put on what I believe was the largest luncheon in the history of the county. There were 720 people there. There were more than a dozen Gyro Club members, led by Tom Hill, who sang, “Hello Gyro,” to Art.

(Former News-Herald Publisher Joe Cocozzo insists there was once a larger luncheon, a “Meet the Indians” event at LaMalfa sponsored by the newspaper. I am awaiting proof.)

To all those kind and generous people who wanted to give me credit for Art Holden Day, I say it was not I who did it. Give 100 percent of the credit to George Hobbs. He was probably also on the committee. I can’t recall all of them.

So, what is this leading up to (to end a sentence with two prepositions)?

Over the years I got many, many letters from Art Holden requesting money for the YMCA. I always responded with a check.

On each letter was a personal note from Art, always — but always — signed with a green, felt tip pen. And he always said the same thing: “I hope you can help. Art.”

So a few years ago, when the United Way, in particular, Deborah Foley, asked me to sign some letters, I said, “Sure. I will do it with a green, felt tip pen, a la Art Holden.”

Do you know something? It worked! I raised a lot of money in my division — more than had been raised in previous years.

I just finished this year’s chore. Whew! It took hours and hours. I didn’t keep track of how many. Were there hundreds of letters? Yes. Thousands? Probably not.

But I am happy to oblige. Writer’s cramp be dammed.

I only gave up after each signing session when my scribbling became so bad I couldn’t read it.
Do I use Art Holden’s green felt tip pen trick because of luck or superstition? Good question. Who cares? It works. And besides, the United Way needs the money. Remember that if you get one of my letters this year.


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