As I thought about how to start this memoir, I thought of the many aspects of Pa and settled on one. He was always doing.
I guess you might call him a worker bee. Up at 6 am and off to work by 7, we would all be in the kitchen having breakfast…There was inevitably a huge pan of maypo, cream of wheat, or oatmeal on the stove that Ma was stirring. There were cans of frozen orange juice or apple juice being mixed (maybe even diluted a bit and lumps of concentrate mashed into mush and then juice and of course starlack or carnation powdered milk to be mixed by whoever had ‘the week'… )
A cup of coffee and breakfast, and Pa would be almost ready to go… He would empty his pockets of change if we needed 25¢ for lunch or a nickel for milk, and that's what he usually had in his pocket … a handful of loose change. Everything he earned was turned over to Mum, the financial whiz on the team. Not once did I hear him complain about wanting something for himself. He had it all. There's a lesson there. Be happy with everything you have.
So whether he was off to teach, or to NBHS to be a counselor who encouraged all students to do their best, to dream big, or to Carney Academy where he and Dr Waters worked as a team to put in place a pillar of academic excellence in a community where there had been low expectations. They built a culture of high expectations and high performance for staff and students. Talk about a powerhouse team. He enjoyed this partnership. It gave him great satisfaction. Lessons? There are many… Collaboration is deeply satisfying. His collaboration with Joe Barbero was another deeply satisfying experience. They built the foundation for the new school, developed programs, hired the staff and had high expectations for everyone. What a success.
After an 8 hour day, Pa would go directly to the football field or to the Neighborhood Youth Corps, or another second job for several more hours. The years he coached, he enjoyed working with the players and we have memories of Saturday night football parties with day-old donuts and cider for the players at our house, and Sunday afternoons with reels of football games being reviewed by coaches. Sometimes there was even beer, but always there was cheering and excitement. Pa would inevitably watch these with a kid or two on his lap or several playing underfoot. The newspapers referred to his players as Kummer's kids. Lesson, do things that you love.
In the spring the garden would go in. Rows and rows of corn, beans, tomatoescukespeppers… Supper was at five… and Ma fed 11 of us on his modest teacher's salary, and later on his administrator's salary. He would work after supper planting, weeding, thinning the corn, weeding until dark. The mo-sqwee-tos were slapped, the sweat poured. We all worked in the garden and we especially loved picking double rows of beans on Saturday mornings… There were wheelbarrow rides to and from the garden. The return trip had little ones riding on top of the pile of corn.
There was always a chore list and gardening was part of the ritual. We grew the veggies, ate them, sold some, and froze them for the winter. We wrapped tomatoes in old newspapers and stored squash, and onions. We picked berries at Philips Farm, and Lucy Little Rd and blueberries in Acushnet. These were fun times. We raised chickens and pigs to fill the freezer. We slopped the pigs before catching the bus. In the fall, the steam would rise from the slop bucket. Chickens escaped and were rounded up, the pig stye was moved around in the garden to use up the old veggies and they really turned over the plants…like rotartillers. He loved the garden and the fruits of his labor. He never complained, just kept at it, and the work became a strength and a joy. There's a life lesson.
He had a pool for us and a sand pile. He would test the water and put in the chemicals to keep it clean. Once in a while he'd jump in with us and we would all jump on him… Five or six…That's how many of us it took to dunk him. He let us. I can remember being lifted up right out of the water on his massive arm and we'd squeal with glee. Lots of fun in that little pool.
And then there were the trips in the VW buses. To Fairhaven, to New Milford, CT, to North Attleboro and to the cape. There's cape cod again we'd sing. There were lots of car songs (I didn't know there was a radio in any car we ever had)…Benjamin Franklin inventive was he, camp songs, Bible School songs, It's a Hard Knock Life from Annie. He always sang along. He loved to sing around the piano too. There were Rogers and Hammerstein tunes, and other show tunes, classics like Daisy, Daisy, You are my sunshine, and all of the show tunes that the kids were involved with at NBHS. He always sang along or listened. He was always smiling when we sang and played for him. He was proud of us and enjoyed us. Another life lesson. Enjoy the simple things. Pa, you are my sunshine.
He had time for sports events, and band and chorus concerts and the high school plays. He was always there and always had a smile. He was proud of all of us, even when we lost. Life lesson. Be there for those you love.
He made time for friends and there were often friends over for dinner. They'd take turns hosting. Ma is a phenomenal cook and they had a great time. Another lesson… Make time for friends. Keep it simple. That's two (lessons).
At work, Pa would sometimes have baby food on his tie or jacket from feeding someone before or after work. He always wore a suit and tie, and Ma made time to press his pants and iron and starch his shirts. I can recall the smell of the starch and the iron; the sound of the steam. He looked like a million bucks. He worked at the job, often doing the work of several because he had the skills and capacity to get things done. He was a doer. It's amazing what can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit was the mantra in the early years. Give it your all, he'd say.
But Pa, on occasion, and understandably grew weary of those who would take advantage or let him do the bull work on the job. One of the greatest lessons that he shared with me as a young teacher working for him and then as a new administrator was how to find the balance… to spike the ball over the net to avoid being exploited (in Kummer fashion). Kummers pitch in, Kummers do more than our share, Kummers get the important work done, but Kummers don't let others take advantage of you. There is a fine line… Another lesson.
Another lesson on the job, it's ok to crow. Kummers are modest (for the most part) around others. We do a great job of crowing to one another, but when I'd apply for positions he'd remind me to do some crowing Hens do all the work and the rooster takes the credit. Do some crowing for the things that you have accomplished.
Be assertive. Be aggressive. B-e,- agg- ress-ive… There was some of that. (When the going gets tough, the tough get going.)
He coached us in our careers. He coached us as parents. He cried when we cried and he rejoiced and celebrated our successes with us.
Pa was always in our corner, no matter what. He'd let us know if we were off base and we are better because of his honest feedback. No slackers. No whiners ( I sometimes break this one), always do your best, do whatever you need to do to get the job done, to care for your family, to be there for friends, to take on causes, to be a part of your community, to love and cherish your spouse, partner, your children, to be the rock for others, to put others before yourself.
I love you,
What a beautiful tribute to your husband and father...What a privilege to have known him..he will be missed by all but especially by you his loving wife and children
I am very sorry for your loss.. I remember Mr Kummer well.. from Voke.. many years ago... I will keep you all in my prayers
My deepest and heart felt sympathies to the entire family. Mr Kummer was an amazing man and a great leader. He will be remembered fondly..I absolutely loved him..
HARRY KUMMER WAS ONE OF GOD`S GREATEST GIFTS TO THIS WORLD.WOULD THAT WE ARE LEFT BEHIND COULD EMULATE HIS LOVE AND EMPATHY TO OUR FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS.HE WILL BE GREATLY MISSED. ERROL C. BROOKS HOUSTON TEXAS