When Life Gets In The Way of Living


Keeping in touch with friends and family is so very important to so many of us. Yet, when life gets in the way of living, we don’t often keep in touch like we expected we would. I don’t know how many times I thought I learned this hard lesson in life. Guess, I was terribly wrong–again!

When two or our three children were growing up we rented apartments in new complexes up and down Pennsylvania Avenue extended, as it was once called. It’s now just called Route 4. Apartment buildings were all the new rage in the area as we were headed for the 1970’s. We lived in as many as five of those complexes (from Suitland to Forestville) before we moved into our home in District Heights, Md.

The good thing about apartment buildings was you got to know your neighbors well–most of the time these relationships grew and we became good friends. In one instance, in particular, we moved across the hallway apartment (that had semi-private backyard terraces), from a couple who was probably 20-25 years older than we were–the Karpinski’s, Ed and Rita. They had four daughters who ranged in ages from elementary school to high school: Mary Jo, Theresa, Patty, and Barbara. Our eldest son, Bobby, started first grade while we lived there and Jeff was still a toddler walking out of his diaper while playing on the terrace lawn. Rita would often come carrying him to me with his body dangling from her outstretched arms. Ed worked at the Suitland Federal Center as a weather forecaster and Rita was an extremely organized and loving mother who cared for her family. She was a great cook (especially her Pennsylvania Dutch gwumpkies (cabbage rolls) and her homemade oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies) which she made often. Her secret to well rounded and high-rising cookies was to make the cookie dough the night before and refrigerate until ready to bake the next day or so. Rita also helped me improve my sewing skills so much so that I wore my handmade outfits to my office also at the Suitland Federal Center.

Ed was a fun loving guy just like Bob and they got along famously. Our favorite pastime together included playing double-deck pinochle–the guys against the gals. (Can you guess who usually and magically won most of those games?)

Our two year old dachshund, Dee-Dee, gave birth to a litter of five pups and the Karpinski’s were the first to take one–Muffin, they named her, She was the runt of the litter. Unfortunately, Muffin got loose one day and ran out onto the adjacent Route 4 highway just up the hill from our terraces. Jeff grabbed one of the pups from the littler and decided to see if it could swim (in the toilet). Bob had to retrieve it and literally, wring him out, pump his stomach and give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The puppy lived and to my knowledge never again took a swim.

I remember one winter night when I was suffering from symptoms of the flu and my sinuses were stuffy. Bob was sitting next door with Ed on his terrace patio. I walked outside onto ours and saw that Ed was busy paring or grating some kind of raw vegetable. I explained that I wasn’t feeling good and he said, “that’s okay, I’ve got just the thing to fix you up!” I went over to Ed and he said; “All you need to do is to take one sniff of this and everything will open right up.” I sniffed once and didn’t smell anything. Ed said, “You just need to take a bigger sniff and be sure to breathe in deeply.” The joke was on me. Little did I know that Ed was grating horseradish root. In a flash, I smelled the horseradish and it was so very toxic that my lungs burned and the inhaled essence of the root took all of my breath away. I thought I would never catch my breath or breathe ever again. But, in a few minutes, the essence of horseradish dissipated and I could breath. I vowed, then and there, to never try that method again for clearing up any form of stuffiness or flu symptoms.

When Ed and Rita told us Ed was retiring and they were moving back to their home state of Pennsylvania because the cost of living was cheaper, we were crushed. We had become so very close over the couple of years we had shared together as friends and neighbors. In fact, we kept in touch for awhile after they moved and we moved just down “the avenue” to another apartment complex. Oh, we met other young couples and became friends–but, nothing like the close relationship we shared with Ed and Rita and their girls. We visited the Karpinski’s in Allentown and had a great weekend together. In fact, the Karpinski’s are our youngest’s (Jennifer Lynn’s) godparents.

It was on March 28, 1979, when a partial meltdown at Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Harrisburg, Pa. (about 84 miles from Allentown), released radioactive gases and iodine into the atmosphere. While there were no deaths, reports of the incidence of cancers afterward increased in Pennsylvania–with Rita being one of those who required a double mastectomy! And, Rita, also had suffered loss of her vision in at least one of her eyes. This loss had to be exceptionally hard on her because she was an avid reader, seamstress, and crocheter. It was after these incidents that we seemed to lose contact. Initially, I was young, uncomfortable about Rita’s maladies and feared that I might not say the right things.

The years passed, and, unbeknownst to us, Ed passed away on March 9, 2018–just one week before my mom passed. I have checked with the Knopp Funeral Home that handled Ed’s services and they told me that they believe Rita may still be living in the Allentown area. I also reached out via Facebook messenger to their eldest daughter Mary Jo. I’m hoping she visits Facebook soon and will my message to her.

Meanwhile, for those of you who might have known the Karpinski’s from their years in Suitland and at the Suitland Federal Census Center, here’s a copy of Ed’s obituary. Although we lost contact long ago, our memories are still loving ones and will ever remain with us. Those Karpinski’s were a great family!

OBITUARY: Edmund A. Karpinski, 89

Edmund A. Karpinski, 89, of Salisbury Township, passed away on Friday, March 9, 2018 in Above and Beyond at Mountainview, Allentown. Born in Sugarnotch, PA, he was the son of the late Anthony J. and Helen (Organek) Karpinski. Ed was the loving husband of Mary Rita (Schmitt) Karpinski with whom he would have shared 66 years of marriage in May of this year. He served his country honorably in the the Air Force during the Vietnam war. Ed was a weather forecaster for the National Weather Service at the former ABE Airport for 17 years retiring in 1985. Prior to that, he was a weather forecaster in the Air Force for 20 years from 1947-1967. Ed was a member of St. Paul’s R.C. Church, Allentown as well as the L.V. Assembly #931 4th Degree, the International Order of Alhambra Valencia #138, the Howard L. Peter American Legion Post #576, and the former St. Paul’s Knights of Columbus Council 10922. He was also an avid bowler. Ed was a member of the Clowns of America and was known as “Freckles the Klown”. In this role, Freckles enjoyed organizing parties for children with special needs. Survivors: In addition to his wife, Mary Rita; Daughters, Mary Jo Warmkessel and husband Richard of Allentown, Theresa Madrara and husband Manny of Alburtis, Patricia Gralski and husband Stanley of Wescosville, Barbara Epstein and husband Thomas of Macungie; 6 Grandchildren; 8 Great Grandchildren. Ed was predeceased by two brothers, Henry and Leonard Karpinski. Services: A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10AM Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at St. Paul’s R.C. Church, 920 S. 2nd St., Allentown, where a viewing for family and friends will be held from 9 AM until the Mass. Interment will follow at St. Mark’s Cemetery, Allentown along with full military honors. Arrangements entrusted to the K.V.Knopp Funeral Home Inc., Allentown. In lieu of flowers: Memorial Contributions may be made to the Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic, 223 N. Lime St., Lancaster, Pa. 17602.

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