It's been a wonderful opportunity and privilege to meet facinating Novato folk and write their stories for the Novato Patch in 2011.
Early last year, for example, I met , the mother of Frankie Poulos, a Novato teenager who died 18 years ago at the age of 18. Writing about her family's heartbreak, perserverence and fortitude as they endure the endless, tragic loss of their son was deeply moving — and also inspiring. Out of their pain and tireless campaigning, a concrete medium was built between the 10-mile stretch of Highway 37 formerly known as Blood Alley.
, the outstanding basketball star — and one of the first Patch Whiz Kids — took us all on a wild ride with the rest of his San Marin High School basketball team as the Mustangs scaled heights never seen by a Mustang squad.
There was the incredible , the octogenerian teacher and tutor still working harder than most of us and meeting her son, Novato teacher and musician Rob Sundberg, every week for a 6 a.m. coffee at Peet's.
What about the good food in our Novato public schools crusader, , who joined the Tour of Novato this year toting 50 pounds of sugar on his bike for 50 miles to make a point? The man is a gem and works hard in collaboration with Marin Organics and was recently featured on the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution Newsletter.
Speaking of biking and sugar, former self-described couch potato transformed himself in just a few years from an out-of-shape middle-schooler to a world-class level mountain biker, riding strong for the San Marin High team and at various state and national competitions.
A personal favorite was the , the 50-something saxophone player born with cystic fibrosis who recovered from a heart and double lung transplant in enough time to blow off the faces of the happy crowd at Pacheco Plaza for the first summer concert of the season.
More recently, on Veteran's Day as a matter of fact, it was a thrill to meet the real-life G.I. Jane, Novato resident , and compare notes with her reality and the popular film based on her real-life experiences starring Demi Moore and Viggo Mortensen.
But, in the end, the person who was the most amazing story to me of 2011, has to be . This long-time Novato resident came to my attention as I prepared a story for last year's Martin Luther King Jr. program and celebration at the . During the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Fred Muse was a platoon sergeant whose job was to lead his troops (both black and white men) in their mandate to guard the safety of the marchers over a five-day period as they trudged more than 50 miles by day and camped in the dark woods on the side of the two-lane highway for four long nights for the purpose of securing voting rights. Harrassment was virtually non-stop but the soldiers' allegience to their mission never wavered and marchers and the military made it the whole way without any serious injury.
As Sergeant Muse recalled, during the fourth and last night of camping, he and his men proudly stood guard "at rest" in front of makeshift stages while Tony Bennett, Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis Jr., Nina Simone and Peter, Paul and Mary all performed at a “Stars for Freedom” rally.
To meet someone who played an important yet everyman sort of role in such a pivotal moment of our national history; someone who was called up in the middle of the night, in secret, to do his duty; someone who was stressed and scared but who nonetheless inspired his men and provided leadership and aid to the marchers; and someone you and I might run into at the neighborhood gas station or the produce section of Safeway in my own town, well, it just doesn't get any better than that.