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Reflecting on how I spent my summer

A view of the Big Sur coast, where Joan Arteberry’s friend, Pam Weber, visited this summer as part of her goal to visit every national park.
A view of the Big Sur coast, where Joan Arteberry’s friend, Pam Weber, visited this summer as part of her goal to visit every national park.

The classic essay for students returning to school has the theme of “How I Spent My Summer.”

Since my own summer was uneventful except for a Renaissance jousting event with the local health care systems. Travel was only as far as my wheelchair wheels would take me. So, the search was on for tales more vivid than mine.

That very day, when the noon mail arrived at suppertime, the needed tale arrived in the form of a postcard from a dear friend. 

Pam Weber Waters had been out on her trek to visit each and every national park. Death Valley, this year, was #58. Strictly speaking, the actual count of American National Parks is 59 – not counting the national monuments and other attractions.

Her method is not as methodical as following a checklist. Rather, she follows her heart back to the places that are special to her.

She loves the Canadian parks and always seeks out new adventures, particularly when her longtime travel companion and friend from the old Fourth Street neighborhood in St. Charles travels up from Arkansas to accompany Pam as a travel buddy; and as a back up to Pam who has health risks.
Some may be familiar with Marfan’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the circulatory systems of persons who are especially tall. Undetected, Marfan’s may account for the sudden death of athletes. The tragic loss of her brother, “Kicker,”  was the alert for her family, and she and her son, Cory have had corrective surgery. 

Now Pam carries a handout wherever she travels that she gives to remarkably tall individuals who fit the profile, and who respond to her friendly greeting and gentle inquiry into their knowledge of Marfan’s.

Earlier this summer, the gals visited park #57, Square National Park in California and Big Sur at Carmel by the Sea. A sidestep included a visit with her cousin, Ray Weber, a fine, former local fellow known for his days in the Marines and the local police department as well as his less militaristic days and great big smile. There was a trip to Meramec Caverns, in Missouri for a Waters family reunion. Cory came up from New Orleans where, once again, he battled a hurricane, this time Isaac. 

When Katrina hit, he stayed at his job at a local nursing home and rode out the storm with the stranded ones.

This time, his home served as a haven for friends who were flooded out and lost power. Cory reports that his power was out for only two days – so he had a cool sport for others to gather. His property loss was limited to some much loved live oak trees.

The postcards, actually photographs taken on her old but trusted Kodak, were mounted on cardboard and included typical messages from Pam. Pictured on the front of the card is a mirrored Lake Louise with snow-spotted hills in the background and a bright red canoe at the middle of the lake. The mirror image is a perfect duplication of that stunning image.

Pam writes: “This pic reminds me of LIFE. No matter how hard it gets, there is always another way to look at it. (Just turn the pic upside down and your rescue boat is still there, up out of troubled waters and headed up the mountain!”)

Out of curiosity, I asked Pam what kind of handouts she provides and found out something I hadn’t known.

Eleven years ago, when I wrote my first newspaper column, I wanted to write about someone who was really interesting and had a good story.

Yes, I wrote about Pam. She uses her copies of that column to introduce herself and then chat about Marfan’s – talk about circulation.

Soon she and Carolyn are off to Saguenay Fjords off the St. Lawrence Seaway in Canada. It is reported to be the best mammal site in the world. I can’t wait for the postcards.

– Joan Arteberry is a long-time resident of St. Charles. Her columns are featured in the Kane County Chronicle's Neighbors section every other friday. Write to her at

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