By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan
I don’t want to seem sappy here, but I love living in good ol’ Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
I’ve been here my whole life and would never think of leaving. It’s because of the people.
My neighbor lost his wallet a few winters ago. It apparently fell out on the sidewalk. He said a few days later that there was a knock on his door — a total stranger found the wallet, checked the identification card, and returned it to my neighbor. It had $38 inside when he lost it, and there was $38 in it when it was returned.
That’s Stevens Point.
I learned at a very early age how friendly Stevens Point folks can be. As a kid, I’d knock on the back door of my neighbor Helen Schmidt. She baked cookies almost every Saturday and gave many away to the neighborhood kids, just like clockwork — and she never asked for anything in return.
Over the years, people were always getting me stuff and doing things for me. Jesse Raczek cut down a very troublesome tree in my backyard (for free) when everyone said it couldn’t be done. Tom Razner makes me peanut clusters (delicious) every year. Kris Arendt lets me use her washing machine. Jeff Wenndorf gets me sports books for the holidays, and Jim Billings from Final Score brings me tater tots when I’m announcing softball games.
My neighbor Lisa Grasshoff grows cucumbers and tomatoes for me every year. My neighbor “Minnow” noticed my garbage can was rolling around in the street during a windstorm, then retrieved and put it back. She never said a word about it. Last winter, my neighbor got her car stuck in a snowbank. The first person walking by, a total stranger, dug her car out and went on his merry way. Some years back, my car was also stuck in three feet of snow at the end of the driveway. George Ewen happened to be passing by. He stopped and pulled the car out.
I’ve seen people like Jo Ball and Holly Meshak shovel my icy sidewalk without even being asked to do so. Joe Diedrich gave me a framed photo of Bobby Thomson hitting his historic home run off of Ralph Branca. How cool is that? A few years ago, Mandy Fabich gave me a Milwaukee Brewer bobblehead. I went on Facebook and announced that I was starting a bobblehead collection. The collection now has over 250 bobbleheads. That’s Point for ya.
One day I was out in the yard mowing the lawn. A car drove up. The driver was Derek Toninato, a former UWSP Pointer hockey player who used to live next door. Derek got out and gave me 49er Hall of Famer Jerry Rice’s wristband and linebacker Ken Norton’s gloves. Former Pointer hockey player (and SPASH coach) Wil Nichol would pick me up and drive us to Quandt to shoot basketball.
I was at Trig’s recently. A lady had a full cart of groceries, and a total stranger walked up to her car and helped her load everything into the back. The lady was thrilled and grateful.
Back in the day, I worked at the old Northside IGA and really didn’t knock myself out. Then one day the manager, Eddie Flatoff, called me into his office. It looked like I was about to get the pink slip. Nope. He said, “Hey. Do something. Even if it’s wrong.”
There are so many examples of acts of kindness in town. Not long ago, I was driving on the highway. A total stranger gave me the signal to pull over. He said he noticed gasoline dripping from underneath my car; turned out my gas tank had a hole in it.
Last winter I was driving along and a Point cop pulled me over. He said he was following me and I had a flat tire. He actually escorted me to a service station to get it fixed.
Another thing about cops. All around the country, some law enforcement officers are accused of being “trigger-happy”. You never hear that about Portage Co. cops. Local cops raise money for the vets, are there when you need them, and are known to take kids fishing.
I left a message at the mayor’s office, letting him know that I’d like a button of the Hoover Overpass Dedication. Out of the blue, he showed up at my front door and dropped off three of them. That’s class.
I like to rake leaves for Point people and help my neighbors with their garbage. And anyone can use the “ShoePool”.
A lot of people in Point seem so upbeat. There’s one guy, well, let’s put it this way: if he were on the Titanic, he’d talk about what great swimmers were aboard.
A gentleman came to the door the other day and presented old newspaper clippings that showed that the first over-the-fence home run at Iverson Park was hit on May 29, 1966, by the late Don Kottke of the Flame Bar. The first game ever at Iverson was Willie’s Bar vs. The Flame. The clipping also said that Joe Dernbach hit the first inside-the-park homer at Iverson and that Roy Lambert hit for the first cycle in 1966. The guy also said that Don Rutta had the first hit in Stevens Point Little League history (for the 1952 Kiwanis).
Acts of kindness abound in Stevens Point. This doesn’t mean everything is always rosy around here, but things sure could be worse. A shooting is rare. We don’t have to worry about hurricanes or (usually) floods. The temps seldom reach 100. Many people in town go out of their way to be kind.
It never hurts to think back to nice things. Not that everything was great. I haven’t heard from my ex-girlfriend for 35 years. I wonder if she’s trying to play hard to get.
But just remember: in the end, if you don’t have some fond memories, you have nothing.
The grass isn’t always greener.
I leave now after making a trip to my doctor. He said I needed to watch my drinking so I found a bar with a mirror.