Thursday, October 23, 2014

The women in my life

Original Post: 23 October 2014
Updated: 21 July 2015

Ah, the women in my life! What would I be without them? What would they be without me I cannot say.

Mother: Ruth Clawson (Kregg) Kovalenko  
Born in Thatcher, Arizona Territory, 30 Aug 1910; died 2003 in Salt Lake City, Utah

Mother with brother Virgil (L) and me, circa 1951

LDS Primary sisters, Ruth Stapely,  Lottie Sorenson, Phebie Openshaw

Vonda S:  1949-1953

Betty F:  1954-1965

Kaye  R:  summer 1965

Susan L: fall 1965

Lawrene B: 1966-1969

Marianne F; 1970-72

Lynn F: summer 1972

Diane K: 1973-1978
Diane, a long-ago Ukrainian girlfriend/fiance, played a major part in my middle years. Had I been professionally stable back then, as was she at the Los Angeles Times, we might have married. But that did not happen. Despite this disappointment, I want to honor her significant impact on my life.

She and I first became acquainted when Diane's brother Steve introduced me to his family during a military weekend pass to his home in southern California in 1953. Diane was then 16. Steve was my best buddy at the US Army Language School at the Presidio of Monterey, where we were fellow Russian language students in 1953-54. 

Years later, when we had become good friends, Diane taught me the only Ukrainian song I know. She also helped me translate that song into a poetic form such that the English words exactly matched the Ukrainian words at the same musical point in the song. Unfortunately, I managed to accomplish this translation match only with the first verse. Despite this limitation, this song and its translation was to open many social, cultural and business doors to me,

The first door the song opened was to the Soviet Consulate in San Francisco in summer 1973, when I sang it for Consul General Alexander Zinchuk, a Ukrainian. Diane was with me and this led to the formation of the Northwest-Soviet Liaison Corporation (NWSLC).

The second door the song opened was when I sang it for a group of Soviet artists in Moscow during my first business trip to the Soviet Union as president of NWSLC in September 1973. Upon hearing this song, one of the artists, writer Nikolai Bogdanov, declared ",,. You must sing this song on Shevchenko's grave and all Ukrainians will cry!" 

Bogdanov planted a seed idea in my mind and heart, which came to fruition in May 1988. This happened when I was invited by the mayor of Kanev during a US-USSR Sister Cities project to sing this song on the grave of Ukrainian national hero Taras Shevchenko during the millennial celebration of the Christian conversion of the Russian empire. And all the Ukrainians present cried!

Diane is the only living person who witnessed my two Christian baptisms, both of which occurred in 1975. The first was performed by an active Presbyterian elder in mid May in the Colorado River amid the bowels of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The second was performed by my 17-year-old Mormon priest son Nick on July 25 in the Pacific Ocean under overlooking cliffs in Laguna Beach, California.

Diane introduced me to "Brother" Taylor, a black Pentecostal preacher from south-central (Watts) Los Angeles, on 17 Nov 75 to hear me sing. Upon my singing a Negro Spiritual, he hired me on the spot to sing such spirituals on his regularly scheduled Sunday radio broadcast from his church in Watts. Months later he would chuckle and say to me, that except for the members of his congregation "They never knew it was a white guy singin'!"

Diane also helped me develop my first dream work classes at UCLA in 1976 after I had worked with a small group of psychologically and socially aware church members at Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles.

Then, in September 1976 Diane introduced me to Birgitta, her childhood friend from Sweden, who eventually became my present wife and with whose blessing I am writing this recollection.

Barbara A: 1979-1990

Leena P: 1990-1992

Birgitta S: 1993-present

To be continued...

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