By Bill Taylor
It seems to me that we are seeing lots of memorials these days. Some are impromptu displays of flowers or stuffed animals at the scene of a fatal crash; others may consist of some kind of formal gathering or monument to memorialize an event or individuals. There’s one local memorial, however, that’s a bit different in that it is a memorial, a tribute, to both an individual as well as a symbol of a cause.
I’ve written several times about the life and death of “Mike the Barber”, a lifelong resident of this county. Mike was known for several things. He once told me he had likely cut the hair of half the men in the county and I tend to think that may well be true because he could complete a haircut faster than anyone I ever knew. His clientele was generational, that is, he cut the hair of generation after generation of guys – and was recognized as the best barber in county-wide competition. But Mike was known for something else not involved with barbering.
Every year Mike planted a nice-sized triangular plot of sunflowers in front of his shop. When I asked him why he did this, he told me he simply liked sunflowers and wanted to share their beauty with others. He certainly was successful in his objective as, for years, folks driving by enjoyed seeing Mike’s sunflowers.
Mike’s been gone for several years now – a victim of prostate cancer which he was unaware of until he was informed it had progressed to Stage Four and had spread throughout his body. He asked me to tell his story and urge men to insist on prostate cancer screening before they suffered the same fate. I’ve done that a number of times and plan to continue my personal crusade against prostate cancer both in response to Mike’s request and because I’m one of the fortunate prostate cancer survivors myself – but let’s move on.
All this leads us to Mike’s memorial. His wife, Adele, has told me she and the family have continued his practice of the sunflower patch as a sort of living memorial to Mike. I drove by the plot the other day and the plants look healthy and are growing very nicely but the flowers themselves won’t be showing for some weeks yet. By late August or September we should be seeing these spectacular flowers and the timing is significant. Here’s why.
For the first time ever, there will be an event hereabouts dedicated to prostate cancer awareness and to raise funds for the cause. Yep, the Dayton Physicians Network is hosting a Prostate Cancer Run/Walk at the Greater Dayton Cancer Center in Kettering, OH, on Saturday, September 24, 2016 at 9:00 a.m. The occasion is billed as “… a family-friendly event that raises awareness and funds for prostate cancer research, early detection, and advocacy in local communities and nationally.” There’s even a Dash-for-Dads for the youngsters.
This activity is part of the ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk movement – a growing, nationwide series established in 2007 that “… attracts patients, survivors, family members, friends, medical professionals, and athletes who come together as a community to save lives, keep families together, raise significant funding and awareness, build local prostate cancer communities, and end prostate cancer.” And to think this will be held just as Mike’s memorial sunflower patch is in full bloom. How about them apples? Kinda symbolic, isn’t it?
For years prostate cancer has been largely ignored by the public even though it is second among cancer-related deaths for men – trailing only lung cancer. Fundraising has been totally non-existent around here as has been recognition of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in September. Well all that is slowly changing – even to the extent that local governments are officially proclaiming September as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month – another first.
The last I heard there were about twenty sponsors for this event, over $40,000 already committed in cash or pledges, and quite a number of participants signed up. Not bad considering the publicity campaign hasn’t really started yet. Sure would be nice to see a truly successful happening.
Well, as I drive by Mike’s sunflower patch I can’t help but think how this living memorial will be showing its beautiful colors at the same time the prostate cancer awareness campaign is on. The coincidence sure is striking. At least that’s how it seems to me.