A satisfying sense of closure for Mil Agnor

Mil Agnor 1 by Bruce Stambaugh
Mil Agnor with some of the artwork she brought back from Romania.

By Bruce Stambaugh

You can see it in her eyes, in her smile and in her body language. Mil Agnor finally has closure.

Earlier this year, the 80-year-old former Millersburg, Ohio resident had her two-year term of service with the Peace Corps in Romania unexpectedly interrupted. After a routine physical exam, she was sent back to the United States for more medical work.

Agnor was diagnosed with bladder cancer, underwent surgery and treatment, and was glad to be up and around and physically well. But something was missing in her life. She had to leave her Peace Corps teaching assignment without saying goodbye to her students, cohorts and friends.

“I didn’t have a chance to say thank you and goodbye,” Agnor said. “I didn’t feel like I had closure.”

The self-assured and talented Agnor was determined to correct that situation. Once she got the medical all clear, Agnor began planning a trip back to Romania. She left Oct. 12 and returned to her new home in Stow Oct. 26 a very satisfied person.

Agnor didn’t make the trip alone. She took along 400 refrigerator magnets that she had made at a print shope in Millersburg. She handed them out to her former students, fellow staff, Peace Corps partners, parents, school and government officials, and even to people she met on the street.

“Romanian’s are very friendly,” Agnor said. “They were very appreciative.”

They should have been. The magnet was a photo of Agnor in front of the school where she taught English in Palanca, Romania. The magnets were inscribed in Romanian with heart-felt thanks from Agnor.

Below the U.S. and Romanian flags was the salutation, “For my dear friends in Palanca and Romania. My greatest thanks to you and your good health.” It was a keepsake anyone there would cherish, especially since Agnor had it made herself and personally handed it out.

That’s not all the generous and compassionate woman did. Teacher that she is, Agnor took along another small gift that created a memorable object lesson for her former students. She gave each student a Lincoln Head penny while sharing this little rhyme: “Find a penny, pick it up; all day long you’ll have good luck.”

She also seized the moment to teach the students about Abraham Lincoln, whose profile is on the coin.

“I told them all about Abe Lincoln, one of our most successful presidents,” Agnor said. “Like my students, he had a humble beginning, was honest, worked hard and loved to learn.”

Ribbon cutting by Bruce Stambaugh
As the honored guest, Mil Agnor assisted the school's principal, Dumitru Cojocaru and Palanca's mayor, Adrien Palistan, in cutting the ribbon to the new science lab.
To Agnor’s great delight, her hosts had a nice surprise for her, too. A dedication was held in her honor for the new science lab that Agnor helped create. She wrote a proposal for the lab, which was approved by Peace Corps officials in Romania and the U.S. The project, which included adding water and electricity in the unused room, totaled $9,300.

The local school raised 35 percent of the amount, 10 percent more than what was required, Agnor said. That amount included $275 collected by the students from selling jewelry and food. The balance was raised through donations to the Peace Corps.

The staff and students hustled to complete the science lab while she was visiting. A special celebration was held, requiring Agnor to stay in Palanca an extra day.

County and local officials and school personnel all acknowledged Agnor’s leadership role in helping to instigate and create the lab. Agnor said she felt honored to receive the recognition.

The biggest hit of the science lab was the smart board, which is basically a large interactive computer screen that allows teachers and students to share in researching and displaying projects. In addition, the monies raised help supply the lab with tables and chairs.

“The project had to be sustainable,” Agnor said. “We had to develop something that will be ongoing in the absence of Americans.” She said the Peace Corps would terminate its services in Romania within two years.

Agnor’s service in Romania is completed, but her dedication to helping there is not.

“I’m going to find a way to continue to work in some nonprofit approach here to help my friends in Romania,” she said. Given her commitment and determination, she will likely be successful at that as well.

Mil Agnor quilt by Bruce Stambaugh
Agnor's students gave her a hand print quilt they made. She was also given the summer wedding vest that she is wearing as a thank you gift.

A big day filled with colorful people and events

Sunrise on 201 by Bruce Stambaugh
Sunrise on CR 201.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Avid birders love to do Big Days. Big Days are when a group of dedicated birders sets a goal of seeing as many bird species as possible in a span of 24 hours.

I had a big day recently, too. My big day was a kaleidoscope of activities, some bright and cheery, others light and muted, and a few dark and fearsome. Knowing that this day’s lively landscape would also be an emotional roller coaster, my faithful wife held my hand all along the adventuresome path.

My shifting pattern of colors didn’t involve any feathers, however. Rather, the palette I experienced involved people and their comparative connectedness to me.

After breakfast, my wife and I headed into Berlin, Ohio considered by default the center of the largest Amish population in the world. I surprised Neva with a brief stop at the local coffee shop for mochas. She got decaf, but I needed some caffeine to get me through the day’s busy agenda.

Slurping our coffee, we headed up the stairs to our financial advisor. He wanted us to make some tweaks in some of our monetary investments. But you can only do so much with a $1.95.

From Ohio’s Amish Country, we were off to my hometown, Canton, to see my urologist for a consultation. The previous week I had had a biopsy for prostate cancer. This meeting alone would have qualified as it’s own big day.

But being the thrifty couple that we are, we packed the day with a purposeful assortment of activities and conversations. My good doctor got right to the point. He spent more than an hour with us, mostly reviewing the several choices for treating my cancer.

While the kindly doctor clearly itemized the wide range of options and their side effects for me, Neva furiously took notes. All the while my head swam. We set a follow-up date for deciding which procedure would be best for me, and we were off to our next encounter.

The timing couldn’t have been better. Neva and I each got a one-hour massage. I could actually feel the tension ooze out of my body, and my mind stopped racing about what I had just heard and anticipating what was to come for me.

I had a brief but important business appointment just down the road. With my mind clearer, the meeting went well.

From there, we delivered some furniture we no longer needed to one of Neva’s cousins, who lived just a few miles away. We made our delivery, visited a little and were off to our next rendezvous, dinner with my older brother and his wife.

The date with Craig and Shirley was well-timed, too. A year and a half earlier, Craig had had prostate surgery similar to what my doctor recommended for me. Over absolutely marvelous entrees, we casually discussed my brother’s procedure and other various maladies that seem to be dominating baby boomer lives more and more.

We skipped dessert, and walked a few hundred steps to our son and daughter-in-law’s lovely New York style loft on the square of Wooster, Ohio of all places. Craig and Shirley, whose youngest daughter lives in New York City, were mightily impressed with the stylish apartment and its accompanying minimalist furnishings.

On the 20-minute drive home, the color wheel of events of my big day flashed before me. So did the fear and uncertainty of what lies ahead. But given the loving and colorful characters who surround me, I know all will be well no matter what.

Foggy sunrise by Bruce Stambaugh
Life can be a little tangled and foggy sometimes, but the sun still shines.