Monday, July 13, 2009

So Stinkin' Cute

Latest Column

Here's my latest column at Blue Mountain Moments. Enjoy!

Everyone is Interesting, A Series:

This Month: Joe Marzen, In the Nuts and Bolts of a Community

When I announced I was heading to the hardware store to conduct an interview, my 4-year-old son blocked the door. Furiously waving his toolbox through the air, Haven petitioned to come along. I agreed on the condition he help ask a few questions. Haven gladly complied.

"How can we keep bunnies out of our garden?" my son asked a smiling Joe Marzen as the doorbell at Marzen's Hardware Store in Jim Thorpe clamored again and again on a breezy afternoon.

Joe answered with a variety of solutions from fencing to a new herbal spray designed to keep rabbits and deer at bay.

"What about a scarecrow?" Haven asked, his hands up in claws beside his scowling face.

Joe chuckled, ruffling my sons curls and said he thought one would work just fine.

As Haven and I conducted our "interview," locals filed in and out of the store. Summer yard work showed muddy on their boots as they hollered off cheerful "hello's" and "hey there's" to their flannel-clad friend, Joe Marzen. A sudden wave of customers swept Haven and I over to check out the flashlights while the 2nd generation hardware store co-owner tended to his customers’ many needs. [Joe and his brother Bob share the business since partnering along side their father, also Bob Marzen, who worked late into his 60’s before retiring. Bob Marzen Sr. originally purchased the store in 1951, which at the time and since its 1898 inception in a local’s living room was known as G.M. Genshart’s Hardware.]

As I was wrestling a ratchet out of my tot’s clenched fists, a neighbor stopped by to pick up a new mailbox. He nodded curiously at the notepad tucked under my arm. When I told him I was writing a feature on Joe, he paused thoughtfully and said: "You know you're dealing with a pillar, right?"

And even though I'm relatively new in town, I nodded astutely so as to let the friend know I'd cover the two-term Borough Council Member, proprietor, and father of four with all the dutiful moxie I could muster while smacking my son's hands away from socket wrenches and paint spinners.

The crowd thinned and Joe made his way back to the counter with a photo in hand. "Here are my kids," he beamed.

Joe went on to tell me about Lee -- "a local cop who was even involved the recent drug bust;" Melissa -- "a full-time mom with two little ones and another on the way; " Joey -- "very smart -- a meteorologist;" and Eric "just a great kid who's busy with his own career but still manages to help out around the store."

Then after a bit of prodding, as this quiet man is obviously more keen on listening to others than he is talking about himself, Joe shared a bit about the difficult time he had when his children were young. He told me about how his kids lost their mother in a tragic car accident when the oldest was not even yet a teenager.

"But look at them," Joe said proudly, admiring the portrait, "They all turned out beautifully -- just beautifully."

Joe never remarried but explained how his mother and extended Marzen family -- a clan with roots dating back to the mid-1800's in these parts -- "pitched in" with childrearing.

Since his kids grew up and left home, Joe’s filled his time with hard work -- “it’s nothing to stick around this place till 8 or 9 p.m. a few nights a week”; church -- he’s a lector and an usher at St. Joe’s where his family has been active for generations; and community service -- appointed to fill a vacancy on the Borough Council in 2002, Joe was reelected for a second term in 2007 and cites “personal service, not politics” as his daily motivation.

As our time together was quickly encroaching on my tot’s nap, I wrapped things up with a few heavy hitters.

“So tell me the truth,” I cut to the quick, “Would you have rather been born into a Nascar family? I mean if you could have done anything else in the world as a profession, what would it have been?”

Of course, Joe grinned. And of course his eyes twinkled. He then looked down thoughtfully and took a minute before he answered.

“Just this,” he said as he tapped a worn counter with the palm of his hand, “I like it here,” glancing up at the ceiling and around the room, “I wouldn’t have done anything else. I would have done just this.”

Wanna know more about a particular local? Email Sarah at to recommend someone for the next Everyone is Interesting column because … Everyone. Is. Interesting.

Friday, July 3, 2009

"Shot a' Tabasco?"

Happy Birthday Choppy! (short for "Manchop" for those of you who don't know)

You are our SPARK and the SPRING IN OUR STEP.

This little family would be lost without you.

As long as I blog, I'll link to the story of your treacherous beginning (below).

I'll do this because there is nothing today, except for a little scar on your neck, to remind us that you are GRACE. You are MERCY.

You're also a whirlwind of 3 -year-old manpower, and we adore you.

Happy Birthday, Gus!