Letter from Karl Zimmerman to Craig A. Newton

Craig:  You have been a constant & enduring blessing throughout most of my life. We were friends for 49 years, longer than I knew my own father. I was a painfully shy history major from the sticks and you were an urbane & approachable history professor. I can’t, to this day, put my finger on exactly what it was that drew me to you; your ‘openness’ is the best way I can express it. I only knew that as far as my limitations allowed, I wanted to be like you. I guess I was lonely; I had few friends & I found that I could talk to you. And bless you, you were kind enough to listen to me. You had much to do; you were writing a book, had classes, curated the local historical society and yet you made time to listen to my ramblings–even about girlfriends. I followed you from class to class like a child following the Pied Piper, even though most of your lectures were over my head. I loved military history; you hated it & skipped over it– a constant source of frustration for me, but still I followed you. You helped me become more tolerant. You were patient & understanding; when I let you & the History Department down by abruptly dropping out of grad school, it was you who gave me a second chance for the Master’s degree by supporting my efforts to obtain it during active duty in North Dakota. On the day of my orals, my car broke down; you drove miles out of your way to get me there. Without your help, no Master’s, no ROTC assignment, & no Air Force Academy professorship; in other words, any professional happiness & fulfillment that I managed to achieve over the years would have never happened had it not been for you. What I most loved during my military career was advising cadets; I was merely giving them what you gave me. Your friendship to me as an undergraduate led me to pursue a second degree in academic counseling–all of this was my attempt to be like you and pass on what you gave me to others.

After you retired from teaching, you continued to serve others by becoming a pastor and a volunteer hospice chaplain. You retired for good at 80. Little by little, you slowed down. We spent our last years together watching Philadelphia sports–which aged us both considerably (you were born the year the A’s won their last pennant). I let you down sometimes over these last years; I’m sorry I didn’t do better. You rescued me from the rural working class. You were my second father.

So, farewell for the present, my friend, my father. I’m sure you remember that Biblical verse about the mansions. Find one for me? Make sure it has a garden, OK?

love, Karl