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, August 21, 2015

An unexpected gift that continues to get better over time

When I wrote two weeks ago about the treasure trove of jazz recordings given me by Rich Jordan of Munson Township, he said that, in all fairness, I should mention the kind-hearted individual who had given the collection to him.
As an aside, he lives in Munson Township even though his mailing address is Chardon. If I had a street directory of Geauga County, I could have looked up Twin Mills Lane and discovered that it is located in Munson. However, I do not have the luxury of such reference materials at my fingertips, so I did not make that discovery until I phoned him. But I digress.
“You really should tell the people the identity of the person who gave me the records,” he said. That may not be an exact quote, but it is close enough to make my point.
That is called paraphrasing, and I do a lot of it out of necessity because I do not take notes on conversations, nor do I make recordings of them because to do so might be an infringement on somebody’s right to privacy — either his or mine. I am not sure which.
“Fine,” I said, paraphrasing once again. “Who gave them to you?”
“His name is Don Nemeth,” Rich responded.
“What?” I virtually shouted over the phone.
“Don Nemeth,” he repeated.
“No,” I said. “I didn’t mean that I didn’t hear you. I meant, how in the world do you happen to know Don Nemeth?”
Rich said he does business with him. I inquired only superficially what kind of business it is. My recollection is that one of them either makes or manufactures something, and whatever it happens to be is of value or at least some interest to the other.
I pursued the issue because I wanted to make sure we were talking about the same Don Nemeth, since Rich had said he knew him quite well.
“Is his wife’s name Sue?” I asked in pursuing the questioning, because, I reasoned, how many Don Nemeths can there be who have wives named Sue?
He assured me that her name indeed is Sue.
“I can’t believe it!” I exclaimed, necessitating the use of an exclamation point following the previous rejoinder.
“I know Don Nemeth and his wife Sue very well,”  I said. “He is a long-time member of the Willoughby Rotary Club. Not only that, he is a past-president of the club. (I believe the year was 1997).”
Don sits in the same seat every Monday at noon at the former Mounds Club, which is now the LaVera Party Center, in Willoughby Hills.
Without fail, he sits next to his buddy, Dan Ruminski, who is not only the tallest member of the club (Dan claims to be 6-6, but I think he is at least 6-8), but Dan is a man of distinction in his own right.
He is an outstanding story-teller, perhaps one of the best in the country, and two weeks ago I heard him give an hour-long presentation about the nefarious ladies of Millionaire’s Row in Cleveland back at the turn of the century — not this century, the previous century.
It was a riveting talk, presented at a picnic in the back yard of John and Dianne Vanas’ home in Mentor. Dan does a superb job, without notes of course, and the money he raises goes to the Rotary’s Club autism project, which provides I-Pads for autistic children.
That may be slightly beside the point I began with, but I thought it was worth mentioning because the project is so worthwhile and so well-received.
If you have never heard one of Dan’s fascinating, hour-long stories about Cleveland in the 1890s, or the polo farms along the Chagrin River, you should make an effort to do so.
And if you are asked to put in a couple bucks for the autism project, remember, it is well worth it.
Let’s see, where were we?
Oh, yes. Rich was given that marvelous Smithsonian collection of jazz recordings by Don Nemeth because, presumably, Don had no interest in them. And furthermore, Rich likes all kinds of music but thought he would give the collection to someone who would appreciate it even more.
Thus I was on the receiving end. All I can say is, “Wow!”
I stopped and talked with Don and Dan at Rotary the other Monday, and Don told me that it was Sue, not he, who was the jazz fan.
“So you should thank Sue, not me, for the records,” he said.
As I do, Don calls them “records” when they are actually CDs. But who cares? The big difference is that I can play CDs in the car whereas I can’t play records while I am driving.
And there is music on only one side of CDs. But that is splitting hairs. One more thing — the lady of the house also likes all kinds of music, so we can plug in anything we wish and enjoy ourselves on the open highway.
I grew up on big bands and jazz (Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman and their ilk) and before long I was hooked on bebop.
One of my conversion projects was one of my best friends at Fort Hood, Texas.
His name was David Caperton Craighead, and he was the son of a Baptist minister in Waco. That is what they call Hard-Shell Baptist Country, meaning there is probably very little bebop, if any, played at church services. I once went to a Thursday evening service with Dave at his dad’s church when we were on a three-day pass.
Well, I got Dave to liking bop so much that every morning he walked into the office at Fort Hood whistling “Godchild,” which is a Miles Davis tune which you may remember.
Dave had the melody down to perfection. In fact, I taught him so much bop that he mistakenly thought the tune was written by Gerry Mulligan when in fact he only had a solo on the original recording by Miles.
Those were the days. I even had our boss, 1st Lt. Dick Fowler, whistling Charlie Parker tunes from his “Strings” album.
To bring us quickly up to date, I am deeply indebted to Sue Nemeth for those treasured jazz recordings.
If she has any more she’s trying to get rid of, I know of just the repository for them.

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