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Lemonade Memories and a Summer Cookie Recipe


National Lemonade Day, My Aunt Lydia’s Lemonade, and Her Sugar Cookie Recipe


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Are you ready to toast the summer with a glass of lemonade?  National Lemonade Day is August 20; however, when I think of lemonade, I recall my Aunt Lydia, one of my mother’s older sisters.  Born on August 9, 1912, Aunt Lydia–her energy, enthusiasm, and caring–come to my mind as I realize that tomorrow will mark the 106th anniversary of her birth.  For all the times, she had a pitcher of homemade lemonade ready to share with guests at the farm on hot summer days, I should toast my dear aunt’s birthday with a glass of lemonade.


Of my seven aunts who have blessed my life, only my Aunt Lydia did not work outside her home.  Living on the farm throughout her married life, Aunt Lydia was always busy as a farmer’s wife and mother of three children; nevertheless, I remember that each time we went to the farm for a summer’s day or evening visit, she welcomed us with a big glass pitcher of homemade lemonade, in which were floating lemon halves, whose juice and pulp had been squeezed away to make one of my favorite summer beverages.  Additionally, Aunt Lydia always had a ceramic cookie jar filled with homemade sugar cookies—which , I thought, made the trip to the east-central Illinois farm worthwhile.  Yes, we could see the rich and flat farmland, chickens, pigs, cattle,; we could sit on the swing or gather around the kitchen table.  We could enjoy the sharing of news and laughter or play cards; however, her special cookies were a highlight of the visit—a wonderful and memorable treat.


Although I have made my Aunt Lydia’s Sugar Cookie recipe more times than I could count and although the recipe always turned out very well, the sugar cookies that I made never tasted exactly the same as Aunt Lydia’s special, homemade  treats.  To honor the memory of my dear Aunt Lydia ( August 9, 1912-March 2, 2006), I share with you her basic, versatile, and delicious cookie recipe.  Remember to serve the cookies with lemonade on August 20–National Lemonade Day!



Aunt Lydia’s Sugar Cookies


  1. Preheat oven to 375 or 400 degrees.
  2. Cream together one-fourth cup shortening, one-fourth cup softened (or, my preference, melted) margarine, and three-fourths cup sugar.
  3. Add one egg, one tablespoon milk, and one-half or one teaspoon vanilla to creamed mixture. (Variations:  You may substitute almond extract, peppermint extract, anise extract, or other flavorings for the vanilla.)
  4. Gradually add one and three-fourths cups flour, three-fourths teaspoon cream of tartar, three-fourths teaspoon baking soda, and one-fourth teaspoon salt.
  5. Using a tablespoon of dough, roll dough into a ball (about the size of a walnut) and place onto an ungreased baking sheet.
  6. After balls of dough are evenly spaced on the cookie sheet, use a fork to create a

crisscross pattern on each ball of dough to result in a slightly flattened shape.

  1. Bake at 375 to 400 degrees for eight to ten minutes (until edges are slightly browned).
  2. After removing the cookie sheet from the oven, let the cookies stand on the baking sheet for one to two minutes until cookies are no longer soft; then, move the cookies to a flat tray. Enjoy!
  3. To store cookies for a longer period of time, place cooled cookies into either a tin or plastic (airtight) container.


HOLIDAY VARIATION:  Instead of rolling each tablespoon of dough into a ball, roll each ball of dough into a four-inch log.  After placing each log on an ungreased baking sheet, gently turn one end to form a candy-cane shape.  Brush each candy cane with milk; then, top with red sprinkles.  Bake as noted above.  Jolly Holidays!


What are your lemonade memories–with or without cookies?


POST-SCRIPT:  Congratulations to my friend Jenna who won eight ribbons at the Wisconsin State Fair for her cookies and other baked goods!


Happy National Lemonade Day!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


August 8, 2018, Wednesday

BOOKNOTE:  In addition to this WORDWALK blog, you are always welcome to visit my author’s web page at:

for articles related to my book, The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season.



Double Invitation: Christmas in July!


Double Invitation:  Christmas in July!


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Author, artist, retired professor of Geneva College (Pennsylvania), and blogger Lynda McKinney Lambert invited me to be one of the authors whom she is featuring on her blog SCAN, each Saturday.  Her special series is entitled “Saturday Is for Sharing”; and very early this morning, Ms. Lambert posted the article/interview concerning my book The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season, my guide dogs, and me.  I am delighted to be the fourth in this series through which Lynda demonstrates her support of fellow writers.  After clicking on the following link to read “Saturday Is For Sharing” for July 28, I hope that you will return to Lynda Lambert’s blog for this series and other special features which she posts on other days of the week.


The second invitation is to you!  You are cordially invited to read much more about “‘Tis the Season for Christmas in July.”  Additionally, you may view three photos and read a sample of my book, The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season, by clicking on the following link:

Saturday is for Sharing – Alice Jane-Marie Massa


Many thanks to Lynda for this opportunity, and

Happy Christmas in July to all!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


July 28, 2018, Saturday


Summer’s Shining Memories: Visiting Paris


Summer’s Shining Memories:  Visiting Paris (Illinois)


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



From my family’s hometown of Blanford, Indiana, which was directly on the Central Indiana-Illinois borderline , a car ride of about fifteen minutes took us to the Hoosier town of Clinton, located on the banks of the Wabash River.  If our car was headed west, a fifteen-minute ride took us to Paris–the county seat of Edgar County, Illinois.  Although we much more often traveled to Clinton for shopping, library, church, events, Aragon Swimming Pool, movie theatres, and high school, we went to Paris, a town serving expansive farming communities, for other reasons.


One reason that we limited our trips to Paris was the “antique” road to arrive there:  one side or lane of the road was made of bricks, and the other was simply a gravel lane.  During my youth of the 1950s and 1960s, the customary practice was that most drivers heading to Paris would drive on the brick side of the road–the wrong side of the road–until spotting an on-coming vehicle.  Then, the movement of the car from the brick lane to the rough gravel always seemed somewhat tricky to me.  Frankly, sitting in the back seat, I found this mode of travel sufficiently nerve-racking and sometimes even frightening.  Thus, there had to be a good reason to go to the “Paris of the Midwest.”


From at least 1962, we took our pet dogs to the Dart and Taylor (later Dart, Taylor, and Climer) Veterinary Clinic.  In downtown Paris, the county courthouse was in the middle of a square with shops and businesses on the outer four sides of the square.  One reason we shopped in Paris was McCoy’s Shoe Store, where through the earlier decades, my parents purchased many pairs of shoes for their two daughters.


With summer memories in mind, the main reason we journeyed to Paris was Twin Lakes Amusement Park, the development of which began in 1895.  Amazingly, on January 7, 1896, “Reservoir Park” opened on the east side of Illinois Route One, at the very north edge of the city.  Charles P. Hitch, the developer, operated two boats on the reservoir:  The City of Paris and The Mary Martha.  After a drought, the second lake, on the east side, was developed.  Thus, Reservoir Park became Twin Lakes (Amusement) Park, containing 163 acres of water and 40 acres of park land.


Watching the Fourth of July fireworks over the lake with my cousin Carole, other family members, and/or friends was a dazzling summer treat.  Of course, some people watched the display in the night sky from their boats.  Although we often went to the fireworks displays at the football stadium of Clinton High School or at the Memorial Stadium in Terre Haute (Indiana), the view of the fireworks over the lake was especially festive with reflections upon the water.


At Twin Lakes Park, we also enjoyed some picnics under the huge shelter and some picnics right along the lake.  At times, the swans and ducks that looked so peaceful on the lake showed another side of their personalities on shore, near our picnic tables.  After years of picnics at Twin Lakes with family, school classes, or the Royal Neighbor Juveniles–my high school friends and I went to the park for picnics and games of miniature golf.  Additionally, we rented paddleboats to venture out onto the lake.  Although the park included a beach, swimming area, arcade, and dance hall–we preferred Clinton’s Aragon Swimming Pool for our swimming.


In earlier years, we took younger cousins to Twin Lakes to enjoy the kiddie rides:  an impressive carousel, a train on an oval track, little cars going round and round on a circular platform, and a relatively small roller coaster.  Another ride for the more daring pre-teens and teenagers was the “High Swings,” a mechanized ride–one my sister and I never tried, but my cousin Carole did.  In the 1980s, when my nephews were quite young, we took them to the park for the rides, miniature golf, and fishing.


One of my clearest recollections of Twin Lakes Park was the stand where cotton candy was sold.  For a number of years, the same lady made and sold the cotton candy.  The hot, humid air of the Illinois summer and the heat from the machine that spun the cotton candy made the face of the worker rosy pink.  With her white and gray hair, white uniform, stainless steel machine, white countertop, and some pink of the stand, the image was a blend of white, pink, and gray.  Her gentle hand formed the cotton candy around a white paper cone–absolutely no plastic bag nor plastic cone was involved.  Her cotton candy was the most delicious I ever tasted.  I cannot imagine eating cotton candy from a plastic bag, as the sweet treat is sold today.  Actually, I cannot imagine eating more than one taste nowadays.  During the four-day Bastille Days Festival in my neighborhood this summer, I could periodically smell the distinctive sweet fragrance of cotton candy; and I immediately thought of the wonderful and pretty cotton candy from Twin Lakes.  The fragrance and memory were enough:  I bought no cotton candy at Milwaukee’s Bastille Days.


Upon leaving the park grounds, we took the winding road around the lake and looked at the lake cottages.  Then, I thought of how neat living so near the lake would be.  At that time, I never imagined that someday I would live just four blocks from the lakefront of Lake Michigan.


If we saved enough room for ice cream, we always stopped at the Dairy Queen [trademark], located just a short drive south on the street (Route One) from the park.


A-a-a-ah, those were happy summer days.


At one point in the 1980s, the merry-go-round was dismantled; and the carousel horses were sold to a park in a southern state.  Fortunately, some of the carousel horses were sold or auctioned individually; and the Edgar County Historical Society acquired the carousel horse named “Chief.”  My dad and I really did want one of those antique carousel horses.  I could just imagine one of the finely sculptured horses on the west end of our large front porch of our Blanford home.  Nevertheless, all I have of these merry-go-round memories is a carousel music box.


A few years ago, when my sister, my Leader Dog Zoe, and I traveled through Illinois and Indiana, we went to Paris to place flowers on the graves of my two pet dogs Chico (a buff-colored Cocker Spaniel) and Chelsea (a white with cinnamon-colored spots Cavalier King Charles Spaniel), as well as for Keller, my first Leader Dog (Golden Retriever) at the pet cemetery of the veterinary clinic.  After that tearful stop, we proceeded to the other side of Paris and drove slowly through Twin Lakes Park to see how much the area had changed.  Currently, Twin Lakes is being rejuvenated with an all-abilities playground and Tiger Falls Splash Park.  Of course, in my summer memories, Twin Lakes appears exactly the same and smells the same as the park did so long ago.


Some people dream of going to the “real” Paris in France or to other European countries, but I hope to someday return to this Paris of the Midwest and my Indiana.


POST-SCRIPT/TRIVIA:  The following states have a city, town, or unincorporated community named Paris:  Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio (two), Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin (two).


Enjoy your summer memories and summer 2018!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


July 25, 2018, Wednesday


A Summer Rerun: Lavender Bicycle Blues


NOTE:  Besides having to contend with regular bicycles, Bublr (correct spelling) Bikes, skateboards, joggers, runners, and construction on the sidewalks of Milwaukee–Willow and I report that as of late June, Bird Scooters have landed in Milwaukee to provide an additional challenge as my Leader Dog Willow aptly and confidently guides me through my neighborhood.


If I had grown up in a city the size of Milwaukee where one is not really allowed to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk, I doubt I would have ever learned how to ride a bike.  However, having grown up in a rural area of Indiana, I did learn to ride a bicycle.  Since this week has been such a busy one, I am sharing with you one of my favorite bicycle memoirs which I posted on WORDWALK almost five years ago (August 7, 2013).  I hope you enjoy the following  summer rerun.


* * *


Lavender Bicycle Blues


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Throughout the years that I worked with sight-loss support groups and worked as a teacher of blind rehabilitation, I frequently heard from students who were adventitiously blind that they most missed driving.  While I could certainly empathize with these adult students, I never had pains of missing driving—I missed being able to ride my bicycle freely.  Yes, I did ride my bicycle long past those early stages of legal blindness and a little past the times I was using my bike more like a bumper car.  Of course, I later learned of special beeping devices which allow a blind or visually impaired person to continue bicycling.  Certainly, I could take the back seat of a tandem bicycle.  However, bicycling in these ways is not for me.  I do enough back-seat driving in a car.  I miss the free-spirit transportation of bicycling. Bicycling in the midst of a budding spring, bicycling on a hot summer morning or evening, and bicycling through the autumnal countryside were pleasures of my earlier life.


When I was six or seven years of age, I learned to ride a blue hand-me-down bike of my older sister; the glorious invention had two relatively fat tires and two training wheels.  The bright red flag of growing up continued to proudly wave when I tried to ride the blue bike without the training wheels.  Naturally, my dad was alongside to help me find a balancing point and to give me a boost for a good start in the rich green grass of our east lawn.  I recall a time when my dad’s older brother, Uncle Charlie, was standing in the lawn and also offering words of encouragement, as well as clapping to applaud my feat.


Gradually, I progressed from riding the blue bicycle in the lawn to riding on our white-rock driveway and then to riding on the rural roads of my hometown of Blanford.  Later, I even rode on Highway 163 and Highway 71 past the Black Diamond Coal Mine’s tipple, to the “Iron Bridge” (located between the small towns of Blanford and St. Bernice, Indiana).  Nevertheless, my most memorable ride was on July 29, 1959, shortly after my ninth birthday.  The pleasant summer evening was temporarily a Norman-Rockwell-painted scene with my older sister riding her bike a few yards in front of me and my parents walking several yards behind us.  When we were very near our driveway, I suddenly lost control of my bicycle in a little gravel alongside the country road.  Quickly, I was down:  my eyeglasses were askew, and blood was flowing from a gash through my left eyebrow.  Perhaps, I was in and out of consciousness for a couple of minutes because I next remember being in the back of our house.  While my dad stayed outwardly calm, my mother became hysterical as she looked at my blood-covered face and swelling eye.  Fortunately, my mother’s older sister, Aunt Zita, had been following us in her big,

black and white Buick.  Next came the funniest moment of the incident:  my aunt threw a pitcher of cold water onto my mother to help calm her down.  Apparently, the cold-water trick worked because I next recall that we were in our car, on the way to the emergency room of the Vermillion County Hospital.  At the time, I was wearing a favorite blouse and short set and distinctly remember being concerned about the blood on my favorite summer outfit.  Many years later, my sister confessed to me that she prayed all the way to the hospital because she thought I was going to die.


Well, I did not die.  I needed only ten stitches through my eyebrow, a new pair of glasses, and a night in the hospital for observation.  However, I was not planning to stay even one night in the Vermillion County Hospital!  Somehow, I, at age nine, began my

not-so-subtle art of persuasion:  I convinced my parents and the doctor that I should be able to go home.  Before my family and I left the hospital, Dr. Loving bestowed his calm and slowly-spoken words of advice. Then, with much love, my parents took me home, put me to bed, and watched me throughout that night.  Then, they continued to hover over me the following day and for days to come.  July rolled into August, but I never went outside.  My eye that had swollen shut and required a salve of some sort significantly improved and appeared almost normal.  Relatives came to quietly visit.  My Aunt Kathy even brought me a very special set of Sleeping Beauty cut-out dolls.  I continued to stay inside the protected confines of our home.


Finally, after too many days had passed, my mother expressed her concern about my not recuperating quickly enough to her older sister—the cold-water-pitching sister.  Aunt Zita to the rescue again!  Since her Italian restaurant was closed for a couple of vacation weeks in August at that time, Aunt Zita came to our house and emphatically informed my mother:  “Janie just needs to get outside.”  So, I put on a nice gray and red plaid dress and went outside and recuperated.


Soon after, much to my parents’ dismay, I returned to riding the slightly scratched blue bike.  Just like falling off a horse, one has to ride again.  After such a fall,

my re-dedicating to bicycling was a lesson which has served me extremely well from that first decade of life through the subsequent decades of my life.  Pick up the pieces and try again.  Cope and conquer.


A couple of years later, my dad presented me with a beautiful and unique lavender and white bicycle for my birthday.  How I loved riding that lavender and white bicycle!  I rode it until I was in my early thirties and would still like to ride it through a Hoosier breeze, alongside a peaceful country road.


POST-SCRIPT:  Although my sister and I took on the sad task of going through all the possessions in our family home and then sadly sold our Blanford house, the lavender and white bicycle lives on—thanks to cousins Carole and Tim who, in 2004, drove a U-Haul truck full of our family’s memorabilia to Colorado, where my bike has been parked in the barn of my sister and brother-in-law for more than a decade.  Perhaps, one of my grandnieces (Emmilyn Alice or Lanie Ann) will ride my lavender and white bicycle someday.


Happy summer biking!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


Slightly revised and re-posted:  July 18, 2018, Wednesday


A Confluence of Family Memories from Cassette Recordings


A Confluence of Family Memories from Cassette Recordings


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



On this July 11, 2018–the 105th anniversary of my dad’s birth–I am, of course, thinking of my extraordinary father.  Last night, I reached into a drawer where I have numerous keepsakes; the first item I took into my hands was a plastic container in which was a cassette, one which I had not listened to for a long time.  I placed the cassette into and old Sony tape player:  amazingly, my dad’s voice (from 1990) sounded beautiful and clear, fresh and vibrant.  Although he was born in 1913–long before the Computer Age–he was reading the directions of a new piece of computerized equipment for me–with expression and understanding of the material.  Most of all, I believe he was reading the manual for me with the understanding of how important making those print words accessible to me was.  Since I cannot see photographs of my father, I do cherish audio recordings of his voice.


Listening to Dad’s recorded voice, I recall how much he enjoyed, during his retirement, calling bingo on Monday evenings for the Men’s Conservation Club, at the Blanford Sportsman’s Clubhouse (beside the fishing pond, between Blanford and Centenary, Indiana).  Besides a social event, the bingo games were a fund-raiser for the Men’s Conservation Club.  All were welcome to attend.  Since Dad’s full and rich baritone voice was so clear and distinct, many bingo players preferred Dad’s calling the numbers and letters of the game.


Not only because of the quality of my dad’s speaking voice, but also because of the quality of the content of what he had to say–people were drawn to what my father had to share in his unassuming manner.  He was admired then and is still admired in memory.


Next, I turned to my green desk–yes, a green desk.  This small desk with four drawers and a width of one yard was one of the most wonderful gifts which my dad and mother gave to me.  I loved writing and doing other projects on this desk which my dad had varnished for me.  After that initial coat of varnish, my dad and I painted the desk green with an antique finish in 1972, when I was preparing for my first job and apartment.  We also did the green antique finish on the desk chair, as well as a set of table and four chairs from my Aunt Zita’s restaurant.  Like memories of my dad, this green desk and chair will be always in my home.


From the top right drawer of my green desk, I pulled out a cassette and listened to the recording of family history which my dad’s youngest brother–my Uncle Jules–made for me on June 22, 2002, when my uncle was 76.  On Tuesday, July 10, 2018, my Uncle Jules passed away in California, at age 91.  As there was a meeting of Massa brothers in Europe during World War II, I do believe there will be a confluence of the four Massa brothers–Charlie, Jimmy, Johnny, and Jules (“Buddy”)–in Heaven.  Perhaps, the four have already reunited on the “Brothers Bridge.”


Listening to the recorded voice of Uncle Jules, I was particularly interested in two of his “brotherly” stories.  As a child, Uncle Jules had to deal with allergies and asthma.  Growing up in a rural, farming community of Klondyke, Indiana, Uncle Jules was especially bothered by ragweed.  A neighbor Mrs. Facino also had allergy and asthma problems.  For the summer of around 1938, Mrs. Facino planned to spend the next three months with her sister in Iron Mountain, Michigan, where conditions were believed to be better for allergy and asthma sufferers.  My grandparents made arrangements for Uncle Jules to join the group going to Iron Mountain.  Buddy had so many qualms about leaving the farm and going to Iron Mountain that his brother Jimmy (my dad), who was thirteen years older, decided that he would accompany Buddy and the four other travelers.  After the long trip from west-central Indiana to Iron Mountain, Michigan, in a 1930s car, my Uncle Jules absolutely did not want to stay.  He did not like the place, the people, nor the food:  most of all, I imagine he just wanted to go back home to his family and farm in Klondyke.  On the recording, my uncle explained, “Well, Jimmy being Jimmy felt sorry for me and said I could go back home with him.”  The two brothers happily made the long trip back home together.


Later, on the recording, my Uncle Jules said that his three older brothers decided that they would buy Uncle Jules a musical instrument.  They chose for their little brother a trumpet and paid one dollar for each of his music lessons.  Unfortunately, the music teacher only had Buddy play scales–never a tune that might be recognized.  Uncle Jules kept playing the scales, but was disappointed with the gift.  What he had really been hoping for was a bicycle.  When his brother Jimmy discovered what his little brother really wanted, Jimmy and their mother found a used bicycle for five dollars.  Despite the bike’s having no fenders, “Buddy” was delighted with this special gift from his mother and his brother Jimmy.  (After World War II, the entire Massa family was immensely proud of Jules for earning a degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University.)


As a brother, son, husband, father, friend, neighbor, and co-worker–James (“Jimmy”) Massa was an understanding and giving person.  After more than two decades since my father’s passing on December 1, 1997, he still gives to me in so many ways.  On the hardest and happiest of days, his memory gives us strength and love.


My dad ended every phone call and every day with saying “I love you.”  His love is especially fondly remembered and endures.


MUSICAL NOTE:  In loving memory of–

James F. Massa (father of Mary Elizabeth and Alice; July 11, 1913-December 1, 1997) and

Jules A. Massa (father of Nancy and Kenny; June 18, 1926-July 10, 2018)–

I share with you a link to the 1954 hit “Oh, My Papa,” as sung by Eddie Fisher.


Blessings to all,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


July 11, 2018, Wednesday


God Bless America and Happy Fourth!


Happy 242nd Birthday, America!


Happy Fourth of July to all!


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



When my paternal grandfather was born in Levone, Italy, on April 12, 1879, the United States of America was almost three months shy of its 103rd birthday.  Like all four of my grandparents, James Massa (SR.) came through Ellis Island in the very early 1900s.  Five days before the Fourth of July celebration of 1910, my grandfather married Elizabeth (Liza) in Indiana.  My paternal grandparents, as well as my maternal grandparents–all from the Levone Valley of Northern Italy–became proud citizens of the United States.


I think they were quite brave and adventuresome to leave their homeland and set sail for a new home in another country.  I do wonder what they were thinking when they sailed by the Statue of Liberty, passed through Ellis Island, and settled in the coal-mining area of Indiana’s Vermillion County.


Much to my dismay, my grandparents and parents–all of whom were bilingual–did not want us of the second generation to learn Italian:  we were to learn English very well.  Since Italian was spoken in our home and their homes, I could understand some of their dialect; however, despite taking an Italian class as an adult, I have never become fluent in Italian.  (Learning more of the Italian language is still on my “bucket list.”)


My grandparents and parents were patriotic citizens of the USA.  One distinct memory which I have of my paternal grandfather is that his favorite song was “God Bless America,” as sung by Kate Smith.


Kathryn Elizabeth Smith was born on May 1, 1907 (or 1909), in Greenville, Virginia.  Known as “The First Lady of Radio,” Kate Smith was a contralto whose career spanned from 1926 through the bicentennial year of the United States.  During her radio program on November 10, 1938, Kate Smith introduced Irving Berlin’s anthem “God Bless America,” which was a hit by 1939.  After a fifty-year career and ten years of retirement, Ms. Smith passed away on June 17, 1986.


I imagine that on the picturesque farm in Klondyke, Indiana, my grandparents, as well as their youngest child (my Aunt Kathy) and youngest of four sons (my Uncle Jules) listened to the radio broadcast of Kate Smith’s performance of “God Bless America” in 1938 and on Independence Days in subsequent years.


Of all the sentiments and wishes on Independence Day, the title of Irving Berlin’s song does express our thoughts in the best way:  “God Bless America.”


MUSICAL NOTE:  On the internet, you can easily find quite a number of versions of “God Bless America,” sung by Kate Smith, as well as other artists.


Hoping you are enjoying a most Happy Independence Day,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


July 4, 2018, Wednesday



Thirty Years Ago Today, Leader Dog Keller Was Born


Thirty Years Ago Today, Leader Dog Keller Was Born


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Thirty years ago–June 27, 1988–a beautiful, little Golden Retriever was born.  Well, I think this was the birthdate of my first Leader Dog whom I received on March 21, 1990.  During that era, Leader Dog School did not share with a student the exact birthdate of the guide dog nor the contact information for the puppy-raiser.  By the time (in 1998) when I trained with my second Leader Dog Heather, I was happy to know my Yellow Labrador’s exact birthday, as well as the address and names of her puppy-raisers.  While I was able to correspond (by postal-service mail) with Mr. and Mrs. Sever and was able to thank them abundantly for raising my second of four Leader Dogs, I have always regretted never knowing precisely whom to thank for my first Leader Dog who most remarkably changed my life, made possible the furthering of my education, and allowed me to re-boot my career.


Since my first trainer at Leader Dog School did tell me the approximate age of Keller, I knew that my Golden Retriever was born in June of 1988.  I chose to celebrate her birthday on June 27 because Helen Keller was born on June 27, 1880.  I thought that if a litter was born on June 27, one of those “Future Leader Dogs” just might have been named Keller.  I loved my first Leader Dog’s name; and as such a remarkable guide dog, Keller gave honor to her name and namesake.


Whether in Milwaukee or back home in Indiana, each year, my family and I celebrated Keller’s birthday with a little party, including a decorated cake with Keller’s name on it and a new toy for the birthday dog.  After cancer took Keller’s beautiful life much too soon, I have continued to fondly remember my first guide dog each 27th of June.


During the initial month of our partnership, the only other bit of information which I learned about my Keller, who was reddish-gold in color, was that a littermate of hers–named Cedar–became a Leader Dog in the class prior to the one which I attended in March to April of 1990.


Although I garnered little information about Keller’s background, I tremendously enjoyed coming to know her throughout the seven years and almost nine months when she was ever at my side.  When I think of all she taught me about working with a guide dog and about enhancing my life, I am immediately filled with emotions and tears for the love and gratitude which I still thoroughly give to my first Leader Dog.


Once when Keller and I were walking over one of the skywalks of Milwaukee Area Technical College’s downtown campus (where I was a full-time instructor for twenty years), another MATC employee told me that she had never seen a happier dog than my Keller.  The woman added, “Your dog’s  tail is always wagging; she loves being a guide dog.”  Oh, yes!  How I loved hearing these words to affirm my belief.  Keller always was eager to slip into her working harness and take me places:  she relished being out and about.  Her most outstanding characteristic was her work ethic:  she was born to be a guide dog.  My Golden worked perfectly for me through the Friday before her passing on Monday, December 15, 1997 (exactly two weeks after the passing of my beloved dad).


Keller was “the teacher dog” for me.  Thanks to her special ways, I was able to work with a much stronger, larger, and more challenging second guide dog.  Then, when my beloved Zoe came into my life, I knew that part of the reason my third Leader Dog was so easy to handle was because of all I had learned from Keller and Heather.  Now my fourth Leader Dog, Willow, and I have been able to worked through many challenging construction areas by following the pawprints of those outstanding three guide dogs who preceded my little Black Labrador.


When I think of how pleased I was to maintain an e-mail correspondence with Zoe’s puppy-raiser Mrs. Baird and how delighted Zoe and I were to meet Mrs. Baird in July of 2012 (three years after receiving Zoe), I do wish I knew the puppy-raiser of Keller to thank this very important person (or persons) for giving up–returning to Leader Dog School–a gorgeous, bright, and loving Golden Retriever.  Keller was so much more than a lifetime gift to me–what this puppy-raiser gave  to me was a miracle.  May we all meet someday on “The Rainbow Bridge.”


To all people and dogs who are celebrating birthdays this summer–BEST WISHES!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


June 27, 2018, Wednesday