Off the Wall, February 4,

There are always going to be people in this world who will call you their friend. Some will stick by your side, but the majority of those so-called ‘true-bluers’ will fade out of one’s existence never to be heard from again.

I can honestly say Michael was one of those guys who started out to be one of my regular customers when I had my store, Pee Vee’s Fishing Lures and Tackle, and not only patronized my business on a regular basis, but invited to go fishing with him on a regular basis.

Back then, others invited me to do the same, because they knew if they did so, they would get free bait, such as crawlers or minnows. I didn’t mind. It was my way of paying them back since I don’t drive due to having epilepsy.

I can understand many people not inviting me to go anywhere. Not understanding that the disease has been controlled through medication is fearful, at best, and a normal reaction. After all, it’s only human nature to fear what one does not comprehend.

Anyway getting back to Michael.

He would bring his sons along with us as we ventured to the various lakes in the area. He had his favorite place to go and I had mine. Most the time we would end up at his only because I gave in to his questioning. Since he invited me to go along, I concluded mentally to give into his thoughts that I hoped would add to the day’s excursion.

Many times we would go to Loyalhanna Lake. We’d tease each other, because he always stated on every trip, “I always catch the biggest and you the most.” And that’s usually the way it went. And the funny thing about it is we both liked it that way and laughed about it each time we started out our trips once we pushed his Jon boat away from a dock or land.

The Greensburg resident loved to use bass plugs. He would cast them anywhere he thought a fish might be lingering. There was only one problem with his technique. Many times he would get them stuck on objects below and use precious time maneuvering his ten-foot apple picker down along his line until he could retrieve his lure and continue fishing with it. I didn’t mind. After all, as a true friend to him, I had to be patient. That is what true friendship is all about.

On the other hand, I love to jig using a line connected with several hooks as taught to me by Latrobe’s Frank Moff, who invented the world-popular ‘BobberWithABrain.’ Did I ever catch fish, and lots of them, may I add.

Now, you might think that this is a fishing column, but it really isn’t. I think it’s always important to let readers know how I met people before getting into the guts of my story.

You see, Michael, now deceased, was Jewish by faith. I, a conservative staunch Christian, believe that we were paired for a reason, to learn about each other’s faith. I respected him all the while listening to his teachings. There was so much I wanted and had to learn.

One day, he asked me if I minded if he could invite a friend. It so happened that the person was from the Jehovah Witness denomination. Can you just imagine the fun we had? When I tell of the three of us in one boat, the same question always arises, “OK, what the punch line?” to which I respond, “There is none,” other than to say, “We all respected each others’ philosophy.”

One evening, he saw to it that I visit a class that was being taught to other Jews in a synagogue in Greensburg. I’ll never forget what Michael said to the person in charge, “Don’t worry, he’s one of us.” That made me feel at ease and accepted.

The sad thing is my friend used to relate to me the many things Christians did to him that left a bitter taste in his mouth, so to speak. One of them was that he tried to better his education at St. Vincent College and was given such a hard time he had to leave. Doesn’t sound like a good Christian tactic to me.

I can honestly say Michael was a true friend, and I think about him a lot and miss him. I trust he is in God’s hands enjoying heavenly peace.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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