Memorial Day

Memorial Day and every day, thank you, Dad, and all who served our nation in time of war.

Music Under the Stars

The annual summer experience of String Band music under the stars begins this evening on the Mummers Museum grounds.   The Museum is at 2nd and Washington in South Philadelphia.

Quaker City String Band will lead off the season. The evening begins as early 6 o’clock with food and drink and the music usually starts around 8 p.m. and lasts till 10.

Each week bands will rotate through the season.  It’s a great way to spend a few hours with friends, get the weekend started early and support the Mummers Museum.  Plan to make a few dates this season.

If you can, start tonight with Quaker and the Mummers Museum summer concerts!

Remembering Auggie

I last saw “Auggie” last month on the night Woodland String Band celebrated its first prize finish.  He had had surgery the same day and still showed up.  You knew he wasn’t feeling great and used a wheelchair to get about, but, as usual, he made everybody laugh, everybody smile, everybody feel better.  Frank “Auggie” Roberts had this effect on me and I knew him the least of all the hundreds of people in the room.  Maybe it’s what you should expect from someone born on St. Patrick’s Day.

Losing someone who loved life so much and losing them so young is difficult for those close to him.  Auggie was only 50 when he passed away on May 7th.   My condolences to Franny, Annie and Jessie and the Woodland String Band family.

courtesy Tom Loomis

Auggie was at the heart of Woodland String Band and you could argue, what Mummery is all about. He was a Mummer through and through. As his friends tell you, even as he fought cancer, he just kept winning, and making others happier.  He was a show-stopper and scene-stealer and you loved every minute of it.  And, if this wasn’t all so damn serious, you’d half expect him to walk, or roll, through the door tomorrow and say, “You didn’t really think I’d left, did you?”

courtesy Tom Loomis

Woodland String Band President, Tom Loomis, said it best Monday night when he wrote, “This evening, the world of Mummery, the Woodland String Band and the Roberts family lost a true champion. A fighter until the end.  We love you, Frank “Auggie” Roberts. Rest in Peace, brother, and thank you for all that you have given us and the great memories you left behind. One Heart-One Spirit!!!”

The first viewing for Frank “Auggie” Roberts will begin Friday evening at 6:00 p.m. at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church on Moyamensing Avenue in South Philadelphia.  A second viewing will take place Saturday morning at 8:00, followed by the Funeral Mass at 9:45 a.m.  There will be a proud Mummers send-off.

Thank you and farewell, Frank “Auggie” Roberts.  Everyone who knew you is singing, “We’ll Meet Again.”

25th Ride for Life

The 25th annual Ride for Life benefiting the Muscular Dystrophy Association was a rumbling, rousing success this weekend in Bethlehem.  As the weekend got underway, endless rows of Harleys filled a lot on Saturday at Steel Stacks, a marvelous venue centered on the behemoth of an old blast furnace.  The big ride was Sunday.

All sorts of good entertainment filled much of the weekend, led of course by the Bacon Brothers concert Saturday  night. Among the high points was MDA National Goodwill Ambassador Abbey Umali singing  “Lean On Me”  with Kevin and Michael Bacon. Fans of the Mummers were on hand to also hear, “Son of a Mummer.” The Bacon Brothers Band is ending its latest tour. They’ve begun work on a new CD and performed a song from it, “493 Miles.”

The weekend was a great anniversary fundraiser and spirit lifter. Many MDA families were there and of course, more than a thousand Harley owners and riders. For two and a half decades, Harley Davidson dealerships and Harley owners have been riding to raise money for research into neuromuscular diseases and support the services provided by MDA. They continue to set the pace and, provide hope and their goodwill is yielding success.Thanks to all the riders from Atlantic City to Harrisburg, the Poconos to Delaware, who joined in the celebration.This year’s MDA “Show of Strength” will again be on PHl17 Labor Day weekend.

Elaine’s Laces of Hope

I talked the other day to an impressive young man,15-year-old Nicholas Celenza. Nick and his siblings have sold more than a thousand pairs of pink shoelaces in memory of their mother, Elaine Brown Celenza, who died February 24, 2012, after a long, inspirational struggle with breast cancer.

I met Nick, his brother, 18-year-old Anthony, and their sister, 23-year-old Erica, in their Haddonfield, New Jersey, home as they all sat around a table covered in pink shoelaces.  They were pairing them up so they could be sold. They were quite a trio this past week, when I saw them laboring together to work through their loss and live as their mother would want. Dad, Anthony, Jr., is in awe of them.

The laces idea was Nick’s.  Dad, who is also Captain of of the Joseph A. Ferko String Band, said do it and off it went. The proceeds will benefit the Komen Philadelphia Race for the Cure. The Celenza’s story is being shown on PHl17 in the 10pm Newscast tonight and on NBC10’s weekend morning news.                                                                                                                                                                                                           

When you talk to people who knew Elaine, from the Brown family to the Celenzas to her friends, they say many images will always come to mind. The smile, the willingness to help, and her loving her family are probably the most frequent. Many will also remember the extraordinarily long line of mourners at her viewing. Erica, Anthony and Nicholas were everything to admire as they patiently and warmly greeted all who came to express their sorrow in February.  As sorrowful as it was, it also felt right to talk and be somewhat upbeat. The line took on the personality of Elaine.

At the Celenza home this week, Anthony told me the story of how Elaine would sneak out and drive somebody to the doctor. Elaine was not supposed to be driving at that point, but somebody needed help and she did it. He talks of how tough she was in fighting the illness. Elaine apparently saw a dire prognosis as something to be proven wrong. Anthony says she was always the peacemaker of the family, briniging the family together. She’s still doing it.

Still pairing those laces, Nicholas, Anthony III and Erica want to raise awareness about preventing breast cancer and about early detection. They want to raise money for research. All this so that other families will not have to go through what they have gone through. The next step can begin with a pair of pink shoelaces. Check out