Please join me in congratulating my father, Raim Regelson, on his 90th birthday today!
This photo, taken at a Kidpower conference when he was 75, captures my father’s powerful fighting spirit. And at age 90, Raim’s enormous energy, exuberant joy in life, courage, passion for making our world a better place, deep connection to nature, and perseverance are still going strong.
Throughout his life, Raim has been a warrior against injustice. He was ahead of our culture in being committed to treating all people with respect and dignity. Just after World War II, in 1946, Raim worked for the Thunderstorm Project. He was setting up weather stations around Florida and led a work crew of an African American Army unit.
Although he had money to pay for their lunches, at first no restaurant in the small town they were working in would serve African Americans. Finally, my father picked the restaurant he thought was the best and told the owner that he would tell the Army and all the people in the Thunderstorm Project to give them NO business unless they served his work crew.
There were too many to serve inside, so the restaurant set up tables and chairs outside. My father insisted that, just like the other customers, these men would have their choice of whatever they wanted on the menu. For many of these men, this was the first time they had been able to order food off a menu. Raim refused to sit in the restaurant and stayed outside to eat with his crew.
The was the same year that Raim proposed to my mother, Lily, telling her that he wanted a partner in life, not a traditional housewife. They have been married for 67 years!
Kidpower is filled with the lessons my father and mother gave me as a child, such as confidence, persistence, and getting centered in an emergency.
Raim taught me how to “lift the heavy end” in carrying a load, – and how to lift my head and “walk in like you own the place” when facing new situations.
Raim taught me how to persevere, even when I felt like I couldn’t keep going a second longer. I remember our first hike up Mt. Whitney, a 26-mile round trip that we took in one day up a 14,000 foot peak when I was 12 years old.
I was longing to get to the top but felt ready to give up from altitude and exhaustion. My father patiently held my hand and coached me to take “old lady steps” dragging one foot after the other, until suddenly, there we were, on top of the whole world! I looked down at the dramatic view below and felt immortal.
Raim taught me how to stay calm instead of panicking. I remember once as a young adult, when I made the mistake of taking a shortcut while driving home from work in a snowstorm in Nebraska. I couldn’t see the road and felt the car slipping.
There were no mobile phones in those days, and no one knew where I was. As the road dwindled to a tiny track in my headlights, I felt terrified. Suddenly, even though he was over 1,000 miles away, I could hear my father’s voice in my head saying calmly, “Don’t edge. Stay in the middle. Keep it steady.” I could even feel his large, warm, firm hands over my cold, shaky ones, guiding the steering wheel until I got safely back to the main road.
This week, Raim and Lily will be celebrating his 90th birthday with their friends and family, including their three children and our families. Please join us in wishing my parents continued good health and happiness in their golden years!