Monday, February 08, 2010

Old Friends

Part One

Many years ago when the world was young, 1960 to be precise, our family moved back from a six month stay in Pennsylvania to what felt like home to me. We left the green grass of Pennsylvania behind and sailed off (it was long enough ago that ships were the cheapest mode of travel) to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Deepest darkest Africa, so my friends thought. To me, home.

I re-entered the school I had left six months earlier -- standard three at Hilside Junior School (which was, being interpreted, Grade Five in North America). I sat down in my new class at my old school beside a new friend, Norgrove Penny. Norgrove and I made friends quickly, as 10 year old boys sometimes do.

The next day Norgrove brought me something from his Dad. An envelope. With a picture inside. "My Dad says to take this to your father." I did.

Part Two

That same year Dr. Cherer Penny, a doctor for the Rhodesian Railways, flew across the oceans from Zimbabwe to the United States. He went to Chicago, to a medical course that would help him stay current with the latest medical practices and improve his skills for his work in Bulawayo. Being a thrifty man, he stayed at the local YMCA, while most of the American doctors attending the course stayed in nicer hotels. But not all. One other man stayed at the Y with him, Dr. Alvin Heise. Dr. Heise and Dr. Penny shared something also, a strong Christian commitment. On the weekend Dr. Heise invited Dr. Penny to his home in Ohio to visit his family and attend church with him. (Below: Drs Heise, left, and Penny, right.)
Dr. Heise's pastor was Rev. Andrew Slagenweit. Andrew and his wife Ruth were delighted to meet this Rhodesian doctor, especially since Andrew's sister, Dorcas, was moving back to Bulawayo with her husband, David Climenhaga.
Part Three
The stories came together. I took the envelope home, all unsuspecting. My Dad asked me what it was. "I don't know. My friend from school gave it to me to give to you." Dad opened the envelope and found a picture of his brother-in-law, Pastor Andrew Slagenweit, taken by Dr. Penny on his visit to Chicago and Ohio not long before. "How did you get this?" Incredulous question. "From my friend, Norgrove." "Who is Norgrove?" "My friend at school." How did he get this ...." You can imagine the questions that flowed, with no answer possible.
My parents and Norgrove's parents got together of course, and all was revealed. Norgrove and I played cricket and soccer and remained friends, but only for two years. Dr. Penny accepted a call from the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada to open a clinic in Hay River in the Northwest Territories of Canada. I suppose all the Canadian doctors knew how far north Hay River is! So he went, and eventually moved to British Columbia. Norgrove may still live there, but that is another story. We have not seen each other since.
I have seen Dr. Heise, though. I married his daughter, Lois. Our stories come together more than 32 years ago -- his encounter with Dr. Penny and mine with Norgrove.


Denise said...

I had not heard this story before. How incredible! I love stories like this that weaves through time and pulls together relationships. Very cool!

KGMom said...

What a cool story...seredipity? Enough to make one a Presbyterian (he he he).
If you google Norgrove Penny, you get quite a few hits, including this:

You should contact him.

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Anonymous said...

I don't check your blogs often. But this snowy afternoon Wednesday Feb. 10 I did. I remember well too that incident, not with detailed clarity but in broad outline. You may remember Verna Mae & I visited Dr. Cherer and Ismelda Penny in 1996 in Victoria B.C. And I know you have had some contact with Norgrove since your childhood years too, even though you haven’t seen him. I remember remarking that with such a prosaic last name they needed such exotic first names. A delightful couple they were. Love, Father “C”.

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