After I published last week’s article about the 60th anniversary of the Barbie doll, my mom called me on my cell phone. I wasn’t available when she called, so she left a message. In the message, she said that she had read my article and that in addition to her concern about her daughters’ self-images being affected by the Barbie doll, she was also concerned that with the introduction of a teenage, sexualized version of a doll, there would never be a return to the days when young girls were encouraged to play with baby dolls.
While I was preparing to write this article, I went to YouTube and watched the opening theme of a weekly TV show that aired on NBC from 1966 to 1968. When the show began in 1966, I was nine years old. I’m referring to Tarzan, a TV show that I watched with my younger brothers every Friday night.
I ordinarily attend daily Mass at Sacred Heart Church in downtown Peoria. Last Monday (March 25), I saw my parents at noon Mass and talked to them after the Mass. My mom told me that it was the 58th anniversary of her consecration to the Mother of God. I knew that she had made her consecration years ago, but I was not aware of the actual date.
He also allowed me to use his secretary to prepare legal documents in exchange for an agreed-upon hourly rate for her services. It was a great deal for me because I did not have to endure the financial burden of paying a full-time staff person and other office-related expenses.
I rented from that first lawyer until the fall of 1984. That’s when his lease expired, and he and his family moved to Colorado. I then rented an office from a group of four lawyers who had recently formed a partnership.
My agreement with the lawyers was the same as the first lawyer. I paid a flat monthly rent in exchange for an office and telephone answering, and I paid an hourly rate for the use of one of their secretaries. That relationship ended in the fall of 2006, after the four lawyers decided that they didn’t like each other anymore and terminated their partnership.
At that point in my career, I felt as though I had enough legal work and cash flow to sign a lease and rent my own office space. I ended up working out a deal with a landlord who had recently renovated an old building in downtown Peoria. The man that I rented from — I’ll call him Larry — owned several businesses and had recently purchased the building that he had remodeled. He had 10 employees who occupied a large office suite on the first floor of the building.
Larry agreed to allow me to do the same thing that I had done with the first two offices that I had rented — install my telephone system so that one phone was in the area where his receptionist answered his phones, and a telephone in the office that I was renting in another part of the building. Larry had recently hired a woman — her name was Geri Abele — who was in her mid-thirties.
She had previously worked for one of the top trial lawyers in Peoria. She had stopped working for the lawyer when she was pregnant with her first daughter. A couple of years after her daughter was born, she had a second daughter. She took care of her two daughters until they were in school, and then decided that it was time to get back into the workforce. That’s when Larry hired her to work full time for him.
Because Larry did not have enough work to keep Geri busy on a full-time basis, he offered me the opportunity to have Geri worked for me for 20 hours a week. He agreed to take care of her payroll taxes, and I agreed to pay him a set hourly rate for the time that Geri worked for me.
During the 20 hours that she worked for me, Geri sat in the reception area of my office and worked. During the 20 hours that she worked for Larry, she sat in the reception area of his office and worked for him. While she worked in his office, she continued to answer the telephone that I had set up in his office.
After about 18 months, I was at the point where I needed Geri to work for me full time. She liked the type of work that she was doing for me and preferred my office to Larry’s office. I offered her a full-time position, and she accepted on the condition that I would work everything out with Larry.
It just so happened that at that time a couple of Larry’s businesses had slowed down, and he didn’t need Geri for the 20 hours a week that she was working for him. I talked to Larry and it was obvious that he was irritated with me for “stealing” his employee, but he took it all in good stride because he realized that it was going to ultimately benefit him to have one less person on his payroll.
It was a great blessing for me that I was able to ease Geri into a full-time position with my office. When I started my law practice, I had made the Mother of God my “silent partner” and I had asked her to guide me in the operation of my law practice and career. I’ve always felt that it was my “partner” who always saw to it that I was able to find top-rate employees for my law practice.
Over the next several years, Geri took on more and more responsibility and eventually became my office manager. At one point, I had two lawyers working for me and eight other employees. Geri worked for me for a total of 26 years. She retired in 2013, at the age of 65. By then, her daughters were married and had children of their own, and Geri had made the decision that she wanted to spend more time with her grandchildren.
On Wednesday, March 13, 2019, I received a text message from one of Geri’s daughters. The message said that Geri had passed away. She was 71. I had learned a few months earlier that Geri had been diagnosed with cancer that had spread through her spine and into her brain. The cancer was so advanced that treatment didn’t do her any good.
When I found out about Geri’s cancer diagnosis, I called her husband Ray and set up a time for me to stop by their house to see Geri. When I arrived at the house, Geri was sitting in the living room. When I walked over to her, she said, “Hi Harry, I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’ll be able to come into the office tomorrow.” I immediately responded, “Yes, I know, but I wish you could come to work tomorrow. We could really use your help.”
She looked as though she was wishing she could turn back the clock. She knew exactly what she was saying when she said she wasn’t going to be able to come into the office. It was her way of using humor to break the ice and make light of the fact that she was dying.
I then handed her a framed color picture of the Divine Mercy. When she looked at the picture, her face lit up, and she said, “Last weekend I was looking for a picture like this — a picture which showed the heart of Jesus.” While the Divine Mercy picture does not show Jesus’s heart, it does show His left hand touching His chest where His heart is located. Where He is touching, there are two rays of light streaming from his heart — a red ray and a white ray.
The red ray represents the blood that He shed for our sins and the white ray represents the salvation that He won for each of us by His death on the cross. Geri had not been able to find the picture she was looking for. She told me that the picture that I gave her was an answer to her prayers.
We visited for about 30 minutes. She was fully aware of the fact that she did not have very long to live, and she told me that she was looking forward to meeting our Lord. We talked about her family and my family. It was like old times. She, of course, had the same mannerisms and lively sense of humor that she always had. While there were a few times when she lost her train of thought, she was very much aware of what she was saying and in tune with our conversation.
I asked her if anyone had contacted her parish priest to come to her house to give her the Sacrament of the Sick, and she said no. She was an only child who had been raised Catholic. I offered to contact her priest and make the arrangements for him to come to her house. She was grateful for the offer, and I later contacted the priest and arranged to pick him up and take him to Geri’s house.
In all the years that Geri worked for me, she rarely made any mistakes. She was whip-smart, a term that is normally used to describe a person who is highly intelligent, quick-witted, and has the ability to quickly and succinctly respond to questions and situations that come up.
By the time she started working for me, she had mastered several office-related computer software programs. As a young secretary, she had learned how to take shorthand, so anytime I asked her to do something she was able to quickly write down notes of everything I said. In addition to her mastery of secretarial skills, she had strong interpersonal skills. She did great with my clients and the employees that she supervised. One of the primary reasons she was so good at dealing with other people was because she was genuinely concerned about the well-being of everyone.
She was also a fun person to be around because she was spontaneous, upbeat, enthusiastic, optimistic, generous, and warm. She generally treated everyone as a friend except for those who crossed her. She was proud of her Irish heritage and didn’t like it when someone tried to pull the wool over her eyes.
One day, after she had worked for me for several years, while I was trying to convince her about something she didn’t agree with, she suddenly blurted out, “Oh, don’t give me that Lebanese blarney!” The word “blarney” is an Irish term that means, “to charm, pleasantly flatter, or persuade.” She put the word “Lebanese” in front of the word “blarney” to add additional impact to her statement. She apparently thought that I was going way too far in trying to use my “Lebanese charm” to get her to agree on something that she wasn’t willing to agree to.
There’s an old Irish joke that I never had a chance to tell Geri: “Do you know what Irish Alzheimer’s is? It’s when you forget everything but the grudges.” If you’re offended by that joke, you shouldn’t be. I heard it from a full-blooded Irish man who was proud of the fact that he held grudges, and every Irish person I’ve ever told the joke to has laughed out loud in agreement.
There was one occasion in 1990 when I was assisting another lawyer with a lawsuit that involved the City of Peoria. The lawyer was from out of town and while he was also whip-smart, he had a habit of bullying and intimidating people when he wasn’t getting his way. Since we were working together on the case, the lawyer frequently had contact with Geri to assist in scheduling meetings and court hearings.
On one occasion, he asked Geri to take care of something for him. When he called back a few days later, she had not yet had the opportunity to handle the matter for him. He got upset with her and said, “Listen here, little lady. When I ask you to do something, I don’t want you making any excuses as to why you didn’t get it done. You need to just hop to it and get it done.”
In her own professional way, Geri made it clear to the attorney that she had other things of higher priority and that he had nothing to worry about. She told him that she would eventually get the task done without jeopardizing any of his plans.
I was not in the office when Geri talked to the attorney, but when I returned, she said, “No man talks to me that way! He has no idea who he’s dealing with!” From then on, anytime the attorney called or stopped by the office, while Geri behaved professionally in his presence, she was no longer willing to accommodate him in the same way that he had become accustomed to.
Years later, the “little (Irish) lady” still bristled every time she heard his name. And yes, it was okay with me that she held a grudge against him.
If Geri had any weakness, it was that when I was critical of something she had done (which was not very often), she took the criticism extremely personal, which caused her to sometimes ignore and attempt to escape from the situation rather than to face it head-on. I think that one of the reasons for this was because she had such high expectations of herself that when she was criticized, she tended to be too hard on herself and would then do what she could do to avoid discussing the matter any further.
Geri had a tremendous love for life, her family, and her friends. Her two daughters worked for my law firm while they were in high school and college. They were model employees who minded their own business and were always well-dressed and well-behaved. My six daughters also worked for my law firm while they were in high school and college. Geri was the first supervisor each of them had as paid employees, and they benefited greatly from her experience, wisdom, and kindness.
I’m sharing Geri’s life with you because I wanted to honor her and remind myself of what a great blessing she was to me, my employees, my children, and my clients. If I could pick 25 people that I’ve known throughout my life who could live healthy lives to the age of 150, Geri would be one of them. Why? Because she was down to earth, generous, kind, warmhearted, and had a tremendous love for life. The world would be a much better place if there were more people like Geri Abele.
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her…
As I walked out of the doctor’s office, my mind flashed back to the mid-1980s, when I taught Business Law at ICC. I spent a lot of time preparing for that class, but it was worth it. The young, fresh-faced students were captivated by the stories I told about my experience as a lawyer. To make the class more interesting, I intentionally wove stories throughout the material I presented to them. This made an otherwise boring class into an adventure into the inner workings of our justice system.
One of the things that I taught my students was the four basic elements that are required before a contract can be legally binding between two parties. The four elements are:
1. Offer – a promise to act or refrain from acting.
During the years that he counseled couples, Chapman had discovered that there were similarities in the way that couples expressed their love toward each other. Over time, he developed a framework for the different “love languages” that individuals use to express their love toward each other. He eventually settled on five different ways that people express and experience love. He called them the “five love languages.” Here are Chapman’s five love languages:
• Words of Affirmation
When I was a teenager, there was an ad that frequently appeared in the comic books that promoted the “Charles Atlas Bodybuilding Course.” The ad was written in comic-strip format. The first frame of the ad showed a young man who was a “97-pound weakling” being humiliated in front of his date by a bully kicking sand in his face.
The next frame of the ad showed the young man in his home kicking a chair and sending away for the Atlas body building course. The ad then showed the man receiving the course and building up his muscles. The last frame of the ad showed the man on the beach punching the bully in the face. He was then identified as the “Hero of the beach,” while a beautiful girl standing next to him declared, “Mac! You are a real man!”
Back then, teenage boys wanted to be just like the man in the ad — tough, muscular, and admired by pretty girls. At that time, to me, real men were warriors who didn’t back down from bullies. That’s the way my dad and my grandfather, Tom Williams, were while I was growing up. They were tough, strong, and ready to do battle if it ever became necessary.
As I grew older, I realized that being a real man wasn’t just about being tough and strong. There were more important qualities that real men possessed. Those qualities included a man’s loyalty and devotion to his wife and children, his work ethic, his resiliency, his industriousness, his confidence, and most importantly, his strong faith in God. Fortunately for me, I was able to learn about those qualities from the example of my dad and my grandfather.
If you think about it, those same qualities have been found in real men since the beginning of time. The men of the Old Testament — including Abraham, King Solomon, and Moses — had those qualities. The Son of God and His foster father, Saint Joseph, had those qualities. And, of course, all of our Lord’s followers — including St. Peter, St. John, St. Stephen, and St. Paul — possessed those qualities.
Today, in America, there is an unprecedented attempt by what I call the “power brokers” to silence and eradicate men who possess those qualities. Such men have been branded as being toxic and harmful to society. The word “masculine” has become a bad word — a word that is associated with bullying, arrogance, and sexual abuse.
Who are the power brokers? In most cases, they are the men and women who are in control of Hollywood, the mainstream media, the institutions of higher education, the public school system, the multinational corporations, the high-tech companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Netflix, and our federal, state, and local governments.
The power brokers have perfected the practice of lumping certain individuals into cleverly named, all-inclusive evil categories. After coming up with a clever name for a particular group of individuals, the power brokers proceed to silence and restrain those individuals by slandering, berating, demeaning, and bullying them into submission. The power brokers use every tool at their disposal to accomplish their goal. They are masters at using social media and the court system to get their way.
What do the power brokers have in common? They are all evil to their very core. As a society, we are often surprised by the behavior of someone who is truly evil. Unfortunately, we don’t really have any predictable ways of recognizing and dealing with individuals before it becomes obvious that they are evil.
So what makes a person evil? From a Catholic perspective, a person becomes evil when he either (1) allows himself to be consumed by one or more of the seven capital sins, or (2) intentionally chooses to engage in and embrace sinful behavior. (As a reminder, the seven capital sins are pride, lust, anger, avarice, envy, gluttony, and sloth.)
When a person surrenders to sinful behavior, he becomes an agent of the devil. It is at that point when evil metastasizes inside the person’s soul and begins to spread like cancer. And like cancer, the evil does not usually reveal itself until it has gotten out of control and has destroyed the conscience of the person.
Whether they know it or not, at a spiritual and subconscious level, the power brokers are agents of the devil who are committed to one primary goal — the complete silencing and, if necessary, the destruction of every person who is a reminder to them that their sinful behavior is an abomination, and that they must either repent or they will burn in Hell for all eternity.
Who is it that is a reminder to the power brokers, by word and example, that their sinful behavior is an abomination? The answer is, real men.
What is it about real men that is a threat to the power brokers? It’s their deeply held belief and faith in God, His Church, and His commandments. The real men that I’m referring to are those men who are devout Christians or Jews. Their lives are governed by the Judeo-Christian values and beliefs that have been the foundation of all successful civil societies since the beginning of time — values and beliefs that reject sinful behavior while promoting virtuous behavior.
If you pay any attention to the news, you know about what happened to Nicholas Sandmann, a 16-year-old Catholic boy who attended the pro-life March for Life in Washington DC on Friday, January 18, 2019. Sandmann and several of his classmates from Covington Catholic High School attended the march.
Sandmann was ruthlessly attacked by the power brokers after a three-minute video was posted on Twitter by a member of a radical group. The video allegedly showed that Sandmann was being disrespectful and confrontational with a so-called “Native American Elder.” After the video was posted, Sandman was savaged by the media, members of Hollywood, government officials, and even members of his own church. There were multiple instances where people made death threats against Sandmann and his family.
It wasn’t until a second, two-hour long video was released that the true facts of what actually occurred were revealed. That video showed that it was the native American protester who walked over to Sandmann, lifted up his drum until it was close to Sandmann’s face, and then began beating on the drum in an attempt to get a negative reaction from Sandmann. While the protester was attempting to get Sandmann to become confrontational, Sandmann simply smiled and stared at the protester.
Despite what was revealed in the two-hour video, the power brokers have continued to attempt to destroy the good name and reputation of Sandmann and his fellow students at Covington Catholic High School. Why? Because to the power brokers, Sandmann, his classmates, and his church are toxic.
To the power brokers, toxicity is synonymous with belief and faith in God.
To my delight, Sandmann’s father is a real man who is not going to let the evil power brokers get away with trashing his son’s and his family’s good name and reputation. He has hired the top libel and slander attorney in the country to go after the power brokers. I hope that the Sandmann family and their attorney obtain a multi-million dollar court verdict against the power brokers.
There is a spiritual war that is going on in our country. On one side are the evil power brokers who want to silence and eradicate the real men who they believe are a threat to their sinful way of life. On the other side are the real men and their families who believe in and are faithful to God — men who do their best to lead virtuous, holy lives.
Make no mistake about it. This is a war that is raging between good and evil and it’s up to you and me to do everything in our power to be victorious (with the assistance of our Lord and our Lady).
Our Savior warned us that we would be hated by His enemies. His enemies not only hate us but they also genuinely believe that we are toxic and poisonous to their beliefs and way of life.
All the more reason to stand tall like real men and defeat the enemies of God.