Caring gestures give us all many reasons to smile

<p>Boy Scout Hayden Fleegle, 13, of Dorrance Township, salutes the passing funeral procession of World War II veteran Dalton Drake as he stands along South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre with his mother, Rachel Fleegle; sister Seraphina Fleegle, and grandparents Herb and Beverly Cruikshank of Mountain Top. The funeral procession was on its way to Oak Lawn Cemetery in Hanover Township.</p>
                                 <p>Mark Guydish | Times Leader </p>

Boy Scout Hayden Fleegle, 13, of Dorrance Township, salutes the passing funeral procession of World War II veteran Dalton Drake as he stands along South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre with his mother, Rachel Fleegle; sister Seraphina Fleegle, and grandparents Herb and Beverly Cruikshank of Mountain Top. The funeral procession was on its way to Oak Lawn Cemetery in Hanover Township.

Mark Guydish | Times Leader

<p>Coughlin High School teacher Genelle Hoban-Sedon shares a laugh with student Noemi Galeno on the porch of Galeno’s home on April 24. Hoban-Sedon decided to hand deliver personalized cards and a donut to the seniors in her class, believing they deserved a little treat to sweeten the remote learning lessons they are getting with schools closed by the COVID-19 pandemic.</p>
                                 <p>Mark Guydish | Times Leader </p>

Coughlin High School teacher Genelle Hoban-Sedon shares a laugh with student Noemi Galeno on the porch of Galeno’s home on April 24. Hoban-Sedon decided to hand deliver personalized cards and a donut to the seniors in her class, believing they deserved a little treat to sweeten the remote learning lessons they are getting with schools closed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mark Guydish | Times Leader

<p>The patriotic scene last Saturday included many people who carried flags and lined the streets to honor World War II veteran Dalton Drake as his funeral procession passed.</p>
                                 <p>Mark Guydish | Times Leader </p>

The patriotic scene last Saturday included many people who carried flags and lined the streets to honor World War II veteran Dalton Drake as his funeral procession passed.

Mark Guydish | Times Leader

<p>Coughlin High School senior Daniel Driya opened the door of his home to find his teacher, Genelle Hoban-Sedon, had brought him a doughnut and inspirational card.</p>
                                 <p>Mark Guydish | Times Leader </p>

Coughlin High School senior Daniel Driya opened the door of his home to find his teacher, Genelle Hoban-Sedon, had brought him a doughnut and inspirational card.

Mark Guydish | Times Leader

<p>Mary Therese Biebel</p>
                                <p>First Person</p>

Mary Therese Biebel

First Person

Hayden Fleegle and his family caught my eye last Saturday as the teen-age Boy Scout saluted a passing funeral procession.

Hundreds of people came out that day to line the route between Snowdon Funeral Home in Shavertown and Oak Lawn Cemetery in Hanover Township, and honor the memory of World War II veteran Dalton Drake.

The deceased was a 98-year-old Navy veteran, and coronavirus restrictions denied him typical military honors. But that didn’t stop many people, old and young, from paying tribute.

Thirteen-year-old Hayden, wearing his Scout uniform and giving the Scout salute, looked like someone Norman Rockwell would like to paint — if the famous painter was still around to celebrate American life with his art.

Adding to the picture were Hayden’s 4-year-old sister, Seraphina, who was holding a little flag; his mom, Rachel Fleegle, who placed her hand over her heart, and his grandparents Beverly and Herb Cruikshank, of Mountain Top, who held a larger flag.

The little family group stood in a church parking lot near the border of Wilkes-Barre and Hanover Township, flanked by city residents who had stepped off their nearby porches as well as visitors to the neighborhood who arrived by motorcycle.

Beverly Cruikshank told me later the family was honoring not only the memory of Mr. Drake, whom they had not known, but of all military veterans, including Beverly’s father, Floyd Hayden Ruth, who had served in the Army during World War II.

Mr. Ruth, who fought in Algeria, French Morocco, Rome, Arno, Sicily and Tunisia, passed away in 2006, so he never met Hayden and Seraphina.

But I think he would be proud of his great-grandchildren, and the effort they made last Saturday.

I know their sincere tribute to veterans made me smile — and it was far from the only scene that has gladdened my heart over the past few days.

Also on that list is the effort of Genelle Hoban-Sedon, a teacher at Coughlin High School who, years ago, worked for the Times Leader. We were lucky to have her on our newsroom team then. Coughlin students are fortunate to have her teaching them now.

Last Friday she went to Curry Donuts in Downtown Wilkes-Barre and bought 10 doughnuts, each packed into an individual bag, and set out to deliver them to her senior English as a Second Language students, young people who have let her know their next steps in life will be to Luzerne County Community College, King’s College and the Armed Forces.

The teacher invited Times Leader reporter Mark Guydish to cover her journey through several streets, mostly in North Wilkes-Barre, and since I am his wife as well as colleague, I volunteered to be his driver.

Genelle’s husband was her driver, and she hopped out of their car to make her deliveries on porches and I drove Mark, who hopped out of our car to shoot photos. The drive around town felt like a merry, madcap adventure and, even from a distance, I could tell the kids who answered the doors were thrilled.

Donuts aren’t very expensive; a caring teacher is priceless.

Two other things also recently brightened my week.

One was the sight of Wilkes-Barre resident Terry Pahler who was single-handedly cleaning storm drains near the intersection of Gilligan and Spruce streets when I encountered her.

She did it in honor of Earth Day, which was last Wednesday. She did it because it would cut down on the likelihood of street flooding. She did it because she cares about her community, just as Genelle cares about her students and Hayden and Seraphina care about veterans.

I only regret that Terry did not want me to publish her photograph, claiming she did not quite look presentable that day. In my opinion, the flushed face and windblown hair of a person who is working outside to do a good deed make that person look beautifully energetic and invigorated.

Yet another moment that had me smiling this week was a phone call from local community leader and all-around nice person Essy Davidowitz of Kingston, who read my recent Test Kitchen story about borscht and happily reminisced about her 70th birthday party at the Woodlands, which is where I had my first taste of delicious red beet soup.

Essy said that in these trying times she was glad to be reminded of a happy occasion, one that had been attended by 70 friends.

And I just couldn’t stop smiling.