In 1838, John Estaugh Hopkins was digging in a marl pit (on a small tributary of the Cooper River in Haddonfield, New Jersey, and part of the Campanian-age Woodbury Formation) when he uncovered large bones, putting them on display at his home, also in Haddonfield. In 1858, these bones sparked the interest of a visitor, William Parker Foulke. The skeleton was dug out from the marl pit in 1858 by Foulke. The excavation site, known as the Hadrosaurus foulkii Leidy site, is now a National Historic Landmark. Foulke contacted paleontologist Joseph Leidy, and together they recovered an almost complete set of limbs, along with a pelvis, several parts of the feet, 28 vertebrae (including 18 from the tail), eight teeth and two small parts of the jaw. Foulke and Leidy studied the fossils together, and in 1858, Leidy formally described and named Hadrosaurus foulkii in honor of his collaborator.[




When I started writing this weekly feature, it was my intention that I would not only feature famous women, but forgotten women, and also the everyday hero women.

My young friend Matt Koehling wrote the following story on his blog, Something In The Wudder, www.somethinginthewudder.com, about his much loved grandmother.  This is a perfect example of an everyday woman living a hero’s life.

What follows is a enchanting Valentine from a grandson to a grandmother.  Every grandmother everywhere hopes to be loved this much.valentine_heart_vector_graphic_557137

98 Degrees: Words of Wisdom & Tales of Tenacity From My 98-Year-Old Nana

Ann Rhoads, better known as Mom to her six children, or Nana to her eleven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, turned 98 on December 8th.
This puts her in a very special “one percent” club, among the world’s citizens.
It places her just twenty-two months shy of the Century Club.

It brings her about twenty-two years short of a hand-shake/hug-and-kiss agreement that she entered into with her eldest grandson, yours truly. I continually remind her of our deal, which has her remaining with us in physical form until age 120. At that point, as I tell her, we can sit back down at the table to re-negotiate, based upon her quality of life at that time.

One of the more recent occasions I reiterated this agreement was the day after her birthday, which was spent at a local South Jersey rehabilitation center, following a spell earlier in the month at the hospital with bronchial pneumonia, where she gamely once again fought off Father Time. During this visit, Nana sprung some preliminary negotiations of her own on me. The least nagging or judgmental person I’ve been blessed to have met in this world yet, inserted a new clause of her own. The pitch? If she holds up her end of the bargain, her secretly-favorite grandchild (see what I did there cuzzes?) must give up smoking on 12/8/28 if he hasn’t previously done so.

I took the deal on the spot.
My Aunt Ellen and I wheeled her out of the rehab center the next day, while Nana rode shotgun as I drove us home.
Since then, Nana has been rehabbing and improving at a gradual pace, because nothing moves too fast when you’re 98, besides perhaps the grains of sand through time’s hour glass.
It takes a village to raise a child, as the famous phrase goes.
But it also takes a lot of love, along with the help of a bevy of family, friends, physical therapists and physicians, to keep a near-centenarian running. Or walking. Or in this case, walking with the assistance of a walker, on occasion, along with requiring a designated “lifter” for the big ups-and-downs. While Nana certainly appreciates any displays of love, which in my humble opinion despite all our combined best efforts still doesn’t quite equate to the incredible amount of it she doles out, I know that a fate my grandmother likely fears worse than dying is being a “burden” on the family she has been the long-standing matriarch of, along with the receivers and beneficiaries of so much of the love she’s given.
It might occasionally take one of these folks, particularly when it’s one of her beloved grandchildren, to remind her to snap out of it with any talk of that burden nonsense. It’s also usually while in the presence of one of them, her own personal cheering section, that Nana sets a higher bar in her physical therapy sessions of doing leg exercises, or walker exercises around the apartment.
Age, along with two artificial hips, have rendered Nana’s mobility a perpetual work in progress.
Macular degeneration, has rendered Nana’s eyesight in a perpetual state of decline.
But she still has a love of life, a fighting spirit, and the considerable faculties of her sharp mind.
It’s a mind with a level of recall, that can usually call up the names of the seemingly impossible amount of someone’s, that she’s known at some point over the course of her incredibly long life.
Nana has long had a tendency to speak fast while mumbling occasionally, as well as being prone to diversions or conversational off-roads, at times taking a circuitous route to the end of a story.
These are two traits that some who know me would say I’ve inherited, either by nature, nurture, or some combination of both. At 98, this might mean her companion will have to sometimes lean in a bit closer, to figure out what she’s saying, or where she’s going, but for those of us skilled in the practice of absorbing what Nana gives, her words consider to disperse jewels and bear fruit. I’ve learned a lot from her, just in the six months since returning from Los Angeles to the town where she raised her family and her middle daughter raised mine.
The bottom line, as we try to tell my grandmother all the time, is that we like having her around. She’s enough of a people-person to pick up on when would truly be the appropriate time to leave the party. But for now, Nana’s got more work left to do. Like getting back into her optimal 98 shape following this recent setback, getting her name announced by Al Roker on the ‘Today’ show once she reaches 100, or just making sure two decades later, that her eldest grandson has indeed smoked his last Newport 100.
“If you are a good reader. Your imagination goes along with you.”-Nana, 2017

Ann Hannigan, eventually to be known as Ann Rhoads, then Mom and now Nana, was born on a farm in Olean, New York, just outside of Buffalo. It is a North Eastern, often cold part of the United States, particularly in the winter. The above picture is the only known photo she has from the early years of her life, raised on the family farm.
“Despite the winters, we always had apples and grew our own vegetables. One Sunday when the snow was too high to get the car out, we took a sled to church, pulled by a horse.”
Nana was once the baby of the bunch. The two oldest were her two sisters, the oldest Betty, followed by Helen. After that came her brother Bud, the closest to her in age. He was her idol, as well as best friend, growing up.

“Bud always went to bat for me, he taught me how to dance when we were teenagers. He was very patient, I was a pretty good follower as a dancer, Bud was more the showman. He played the clarinet too, he could play “Sweetie Sue” very well at the dances. But if a football game started outside, he would miss practice.  Bud was always polite and nice at home, but then he would sneak out the side window to go out. I never told on him. We were buddies.”

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Musing About The Last Week Of Summer

The last week before school starts.  The streets in the Haddons are so very still.  No buses and vans transporting children to school.  Just the background musicians of summer – crickets and cicadas.

As I took my morning walks this week, I became aware once again of the beauty of our Haddon region.  The abundance of flowers, the intensity of their colors, and the sweet smell of honeysuckle remind me that this is truly a week to savor.

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One of my favorite things this week has been to observe the change in the sunlight.  Our morning light is still pregnant with moisture and I am looking forward to the return of crispness that reveals all this beauty with a sharp contrast of light and  shadow.

Alas, I came upon the precursors of the end of this peaceful, beautiful season –  LEAF

Enjoy the week – hustle and her friend bustle are just around the corner.

“it’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip of wine … it’s summertime!”
― Kenny Chesney





This week again it was hard to move my soul to celebration.  But, once more, I think that I am getting this idea of celebrating wrong.  I am concentrating on the grand moments of life.  The blow out the candle and make a wish moments and not realizing that these glorious moments are built on celebrating the ordinary moments of my life.

One of the consistent ordinary moments of my life is my morning walk.  This week there has been much to celebrate about my my morning ambulations.

The first is the beauty of my little town all decked out and waiting for the holiness of Christmas and the fun of Santa.

The second ordinary moments on my walks I celebrate this week has been the amazing balmy December weather we have been enjoying this December in New Jersey.

And this third ordinary moment I captured was this poor, little, confused pussy willow trying to bloom for Christmas:


I felt like he was the Little Drummer Boy of the the tree world this week.  Trying to show some flourish up against all those big pines full of lights and colored ornaments.

Wishing you a week filled with ordinary moments worth celebrating,



On Friday’s I like to write about women who have made a difference in our world.  Today I would like to introduce you to Dr. Joan Gault.  Not only did Joan become a Doctor at a time when it was very difficult for a woman to do so but in her retirement she continued to help people.  She is the founder in Haddonfield of an organization called Interfaith Caregivers.

Dr. Gault was born in England, grew up in Haddonfield, graduated from Haddonfield Memorial HS in 1932, from Wilson College in 1936 and John Hopkins Medical School in 1940, where she was one of five women in her graduating class. She interned at Philadelphia General Hospital and continued her residency and career at Temple. In 1954 she went to Scotland and furthered her medical education at the Univ. of Edinburgh. She returned in 1956 and joined Temple Medical School as a Professor of Physiology until her retirement in 1990 at the age of 75.

After Dr. Gault retired, she founded Interfaith Caregivers in Haddonfield, an organization that helps the elderly or disabled live independently.

Setting out to meet the needs of isolated senior citizens, Dr. Gault elicited support from Haddonfield churches and community groups, formed a Board of Trustees, and organized the first training session for volunteers. In its first year of operation, Interfaith Caregivers served 80 clients with the help of 62 volunteers. While Caregivers has evolved quite a bit from its grass roots beginnings over the years – it now employs an executive director and serves over 300 clients through a corps of nearly 300 volunteers – its basic mission of neighbors helping neighbors through simple kindnesses hasn’t changed.  (Information obtained from the Interfaith Caregivers web site.)


Dr. Joan Gault tipped the scales for the Town of Haddonfield.





Thirteen years ago the Andrew I knew and loved stopped existing.  In his place I was given a new Andrew who I also love very much.

Many of you follow me because of Andrew and I know would like to have news of him. So, today for the first time in 13 years, I am posting a picture of him.

andrew 2015

As you can see, there is still that certain Andrew smile and spark in existence. I hope you can get past the sadness and probably horror this picture makes you feel and really look at the smile on his face.  If you ever have a minute, please stop in and visit him.  When I mention his friend’s names, his face lights up.

Mrs. Lag



Thirteen years ago, my son, Andrew, walked out my door never to return.  In those thirteen years I have had to struggle with an avalanche of emotions.

One of the hardest acts for me is to accept the new Andrew.  I spent so much of the last 13 years not accepting this tragedy and denying that I was left with a new person.

The anniversary of losing the first Andrew is October 12.  This past week when I visited Andrew, I saw that someone had taken this picture of him –

andrew 2015

Usually, I take these pictures and rip them up.  When I destroy those pictures on some level I am destroying the evidence of my loss.

This is the first time I have saved a picture of him and posted it.  I am celebrating this because I think I may have turned a corner and I am walking into the comforting arms of acceptance.

Thanks for listening,





For the past several years, I have had the pleasure of living next door to a series of Philadelphia Flyers.

Living next door to a member of the team is great on many different levels.  Our family has become more personally engaged in the success of the team and we have had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world.

But last week the pleasure of living next door to a Flyer was taken to a higher level.  After work one night last week, this lovely young woman with her little girl rang my door bell.  She introduced herself as my new neighbor and handed me a present.  I was completely dumbfounded and not a little more than embarrassed that I hadn’t been the one extending the welcome to the neighborhood.

Isn’t it amazing when someone new can completely surprise you with their graceful attitude toward life?  So welcome to the neighborhood Downie’s.

So gentle readers, take some time to cheer for the Flyer’s this week and Haddonfield’s new residents, the Downie Family.




Last Friday I was sitting in the chair of my favorite psychiatrist – Esther, my hairdresser for 25 plus years.

For some reason we started talking about a mutual friend, Marilyn.  Marilyn died eight years ago from Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Now you might think our conversation was depressing but Esther and I were having wonderful time remembering Marilyn.

We talked about her quirky sense of humor.  Our conversation honored that humor because Marilyn kept it in the face of many challenges during her too short life – ending a marriage, entering into a same sex relationship and finally Lou Gehrig’s disease.

We also talked about her compassion and how she had the ability to make anyone she talked to feel that they had a special place in her life.

I met Marilyn because we both had children in Haddonfield schools.  After the children grew up, my son Andrew and Marilyn’s son Mike stayed friends.

Andrew went away to school for a few years and then boomeranged home.  That first Thanksgiving home, he beat feet right to Marilyn’s home.  A few months later, Andrew overdosed.  He survived but is now a quadriplegic and has massive brain damage.

Some time after Andrew’s overdose,  I was going through his possessions and came upon a paper Indian headdress.  He had saved it from that Thanksgiving visit with the Marilyn’s family.

Time passed and I ran into Marilyn.  I told her about her son Mike calling Andrew faithfully for months after the overdose to offer support for his recovery.  Then I mentioned finding the Indian headdress.  Marilyn gave me a big smile and said that at her family’s Thanksgiving  you were either a Pilgrim or an Indian.  And if you were an Indian, it meant you were family.

Not an easy woman to forget, right?

The next day after my conversation with Esther was a glorious fall Saturday.  I had the privilege of spending the day with my grandson, Lucas.

Lucas’s favorite place in Haddonfield is the playground behind the Presbyterian Church.  While at the playground he became the temporary best friend of a beautiful blond little guy.

They played happily for most of an hour under the supervision of the little boy’s Mom.  When she was leaving she kindly made a point of telling me how much she had enjoyed Lucas.  She said he looked so familiar and asked about his parents.  When I told her his last name, she introduced herself as Pilar.

Again, another name from the past.  I knew Pilar’s mom from PTA and Pilar and Kelly also went to Haddonfield schools  with my children.

Well by now you must be wondering what all this has to do with synchronicity.  The last time I saw Pilar was when she spoke so touchingly at Marilyn’s funeral.

I haven’t figured out why this synchronastic event happened to me but I’m glad it did.

“I learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelu

Have a great weekend.