Touching lives one reader at a time


Years ago, I received a card in the mail from a Farm and Dairy reader, wishing my daughter well. This gentleman had read my column, and said it touched his heart in a way that he could not quite explain.
A gift. He asked a friend to help him choose a gift to send to Caroline. It was a small stuffed doll, which arrived a few days after his initial card. It was to be the first of many.
Bill Choma was a sweet, shy man, who befriended us because of the words I had shared in this newspaper. I wrote back, sensing his loneliness and his genuine, heartfelt concern.
It was obvious to me that it was out of character for this introverted man to do anything which would draw attention to himself, but I also knew, without a doubt, that it was not the first time he had performed kind gestures for others.
Long friendship. This was the beginning of a long, quiet friendship. I wrote to Bill weekly, sometimes two or three times a week, and we looked forward to his surprise packages, often filled with homemade Hungarian pastries and a wide variety of books, chosen with each member of my family in mind.
Bill drove here to visit, bringing us budding starts to two lilac bushes from his family farm, and a beautiful rose bush.
He said the trip took him three hours one-way and wore him out, and though he wanted to visit more often, he realized it was too much for him.
First visit. But, on that initial visit, he spent part of the day at the local ballpark with us, watching our kids enjoy a great summer day of fun.
My husband visited Bill several times when he was in his area on business and took him out for lunch.
Bill’s friend, Jack, kindly drove Bill here to visit us on various occasions, and we once met at a restaurant at about midpoint for both of us, and we snapped pictures to mark the day.
One day, the notes and packages from Bill stopped coming. I continued to write, hoping that he enjoyed seeing updated pictures of my children, and pictures of the farm that would soon be our new home.
Lost a friend. I received word this past week that our friend Bill passed away. He had been in failing health for a time, which would explain why my last letter from him had arrived several months back.
I missed his weekly cards and updates, his comments on the latest events of our lives and his own. His will, we are told, describes us as part of his family.
I am touched to know that he considered us in this way, and it goes without saying that we will never, ever forget this good man and his generous, giving heart.
Touching lives. This speaks well of the strength and power of the Farm and Dairy, and of the written word. Lives were entwined in a wonderful way, and loneliness was held at bay, at least for a time, as caring words were exchanged over the span of space and time.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.