A Small-World Story

March 7, 2012 at 9:23 am 10 comments

Joe-Paterno-coverYou will either find this tale to be very boring or very cool.

We’ve been getting a lot of calls about our new March-April issue, which is a commemorative issue about Joe Paterno. One such call I fielded today was from a reader in Richmond, Va., who had just gotten the new issue and who wanted to buy two more copies. I put him in touch with our Alumni Store and went back to whatever I had been doing.

A few hours later, he called me back, saying he wanted me to talk to his wife. She had lived in Somerset, Pa.—my hometown—for a number of years, he said, and she knew my family. Naturally I was happy to have him put her on the phone.

Her name is Jolinda Myers, and she knew her stuff: She told me that my brother (a professional photographer in Somerset) had done family portraits for her, and that her daughter had briefly taken a ballet class from my sister. She also knew that my best friend in childhood was Richard Critchfield.

Then she described the location of the house she had lived in—at the corner of Clover Hill Road and Felgar Road, just up the hill from my house. And I said, “You know, I have a childhood memory from that house. Or maybe it was the one next door….” So I told her the memory:

Richard and I had occasion to be at that house for some reason one summer day when we were maybe 9 or 10 years old—I don’t remember the reason, but Richard and I went everywhere on our bikes. I vaguely think I might have been helping him collect on his paper route that day. Someone at that house had a brand-new baby—a boy—and I remember thinking it was cool that the kid’s birth date was June 25. That date is exactly halfway between one Christmas and the next, and my 10-year-old self saw that as the perfect birthdate in terms of maximizing the presents you get.

I don’t know why I remember that, but it’s just one of those very specific childhood memories that has always stuck with me. And over the years I’ve occasionally wondered how old that baby would be today.

Well, Jolinda told me that that she was the woman who had just had that baby. Her son’s name is Christopher and his birthday is indeed June 25. I asked her what year he was born, and it turns out I was off by a year or so—I would have been 11 then.

And when Jolinda’s son grew up and went off to college, he went to—yup—Penn State. Chris was a manager for the football team and was there at the Fiesta Bowl in 1987 when Penn State won its second national championship.

As an added twist, I used to be the nomenclator (a fancy word for name-reader) at the College of Health and Human Development commencement ceremonies, and Jolinda says I read her son’s name at graduation. I, of course, had no idea at the time that he was the infant I had met some 21 years earlier.

Oh, and he now lives in that very same house at the corner of Felgar and Clover Hill.

Tina Hay, editor


Entry filed under: Alumni Association, The Penn Stater Magazine.

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10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Gretchen  |  March 7, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Very nice. Being an Army wife that volunteers for the FRG (Family Readiness Group) and a PSU grad that always sports a PSU hat when volunteering, I have had many similar situations. The most recent being a student that both of my parents plus my husband’s uncle taught in high school. My husband is an Airborne Instructor, he was helping Charlie Company out by doing their Jump Master Inspections on students, when he ran into a kid from Huntingdon, PA. He was from the same small town we both are from. My husband saw his reserve patch and knew it was Huntingdon, PA, so to mess with him he told the student that he wasn’t allowed to wear that patch. Next thing I knew I received a phone call from my husband that is standing next to this person and asking if I knew him because he had my parents in school. I started rolling through year books and found his sister-in-law who got me in contact with his wife. I helped her and their two children get down here to Fort Benning to see him graduate Airborne School. Needless to say, we went to his graduation from Airborne School and my husband pinned his wings on him. To this day, they still stay in touch.

  • 2. Erin Painter  |  March 7, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Thanks for the story…I found it “very cool” especially since this is the first time I have learned who you are and where you are from. I grew up in Rockwood and know of your brother and his photography. My mom was the biology teacher at Rockwood for many years (Katie Miller) and we attended Somerset First Christian Church. I have enjoyed reading your editorials for years and now will enjoy them even more knowing not only are you a member of my Penn State family but a neighbor as well:). Thank you for the excellent issue this month…I have especially loved the tales of the everyday encounters people had with JoePa and only wish I had had one of my own. What a kind and wonderful man he was and what a lovely legacy he has left us of values and life lessons!

  • 3. richard  |  March 7, 2012 at 11:49 am

    heckuva story, for sure.

  • 4. Cindy Shandor Schwendeman  |  March 7, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    It is a small world. Your brother took my wedding photos, and my sister’s (both of us Penn Staters), which are stunningly beautiful. I’ve enjoyed reading your comments about back home in your editor’s page. We grew up in Jenners, my family still lives there.

  • 5. Don Uphouse  |  March 10, 2012 at 1:30 am


    Thanks for supporting Joe.

    Don Uphouse

  • 6. Anonymous  |  March 11, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    So many of the things you post are all about you and it’s quite obnoxious. You seem like the type of person who needs attention and likes the title of your job more than the actual job. As a Penn State alum, your posts here and on Facebook annoy me. Stop posting so many personal things…. You come across as unbelievably smug. I’d also like to suggest a redesign of the magazine. It feels old. If you want to attract younger alums please freshen it up.

  • 7. Anonymous  |  March 11, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    I was visiting my friend tonight and had the pleasure of seeing the article on Joe in the March/April issue of Penn Stater and was wondering if it’s possible I could order a copy.


    John Bailey
    100 Olde Field Dr.
    Lititz, PA 17543

  • 8. Tina Hay  |  March 12, 2012 at 6:51 am

    John — Glad you like the new issue. We are making copies available at this site: http://www.psualumnistore.com/4100c-mag.html

  • 9. Lori Wisniewski Curtis  |  March 12, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Thanks for the address to receive Penn Stater. And do not pay attention to “Anonymous” the boar…I had no idea you were from Somerset, I enjoy your ramblings,(?!)),especially since I now know what area of PA you are from…I enjoyed reading these comments and loved hearing from those who mentioned Somerset, Jenners, and Rockwood…You see, even though I am a suburban ‘burger, I attended summer camp for 6 fun-filled summers in Rockwood. I hiked and camped all around that area and Somerset! yes, Somerset -and the Oakwood Inn might be where we went with our parents on Visiting Sunday…It takes me back and I’ve lived in Orlando, FL for the past 31 years and miss the Laurel Highlands to this day! Thanks for the memories-and it is “a small world after all…”
    P.S. unfortunately, I let my PSAA membership lapse, but the check will be the mail so I can do my part to vote out our illustrious board!!

  • 10. anonymous and polite  |  March 14, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    It’s clear that “anonymous” poster #6 has never met Tina Hay. It’s unfortunate that a Penn State alum could not find a more polite way to post any criticisms and a more positive way to post suggestions. As a fellow western Pennsylvanian before becoming a State College resident, I enjoyed reading this blog entry. It’s also an entry that many can relate to, not matter what the location involved.

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