Holiday golden rule and a daughter who’s made her family very proud

Mark Derry

Violated a holiday golden rule once this week – I hurried out of Nob Hill after having a great deli sandwich lunch with my wife and daughter without putting a penny in the Salvation Army kettle. I’ll double up next time, but it’s a good rule. Don’t pass the kettle and the bell ringer without making a gift.

Penny, Christmas and Salvation Army kettles always brings to mind a favorite ditty that my uncle, Dick Blach, used to sing at Christmas with us kids. “Christmas is a comin’ and the geese are getting fat, please to put a penny in an old man’s hat, if you haven’t got a penny then a ha’penny will do, if you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you.” While all the grown-ups were busy with post dinner chatter, Uncle Dick would watch all the Sunday night Disney movies at my grandfather Derry’s house in the den with the fire burning and the kids gathered about, too.

And every year at Christmas, Auntie Tante, who wasn’t really our aunt but a close family friend, would sing a heartfelt a capella version of an old Irish favorite – either “Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra”, an old song which Bing Crosby recorded, or “Danny Boy.” Either would cause Irish eyes to mist over as her lilting voice brought a hush over the chattering convivial crowd occupying the large living room.

Hope there’s a pub in heaven so my father and his brother, Uncle James Francis Derry, can watch the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team, once again in full glory, play for the national championship for the first time in forever.

Hadn’t seen Bernie Habing in about forever, but he looks great at 80-plus. Bernie stopped by the office and told me a little funeral home history. His father operated what is now the Habing Family Funeral Home (not sure what it was called back then) in Gilroy before he did and wasn’t ready to sell, so Bernie and his wife Ruth bought a funeral home in Soledad and ran it for four years until Dad said it was time to retire. Now, Bernie’s retired, the next generation has taken the reins and the family legacy of caring service during the most difficult of times continues. Nice.

Speaking of family operations, Miss Jenny and I gave the new Old City Hall Restaurant a try the other night and thoroughly enjoyed it. Co-owner and operators Bobby and Fran Beaudet were both on hand during a weeknight and, while they’re still putting it all together, I have to say the steak I had – the “Don Gage” Mayor’s Cut ribeye – was absolutely fabulous. Sometimes, when a meal’s really good, you randomly think about it for a few days afterward. The steak I had qualifies for that status. Our friendly bartender also gave a suggestion to Miss Jenny for a smooth martini – and he delivered one made with his favorite vodka that was as smooth as a jazz trio in a backstreet bar on a rainy Chicago night. And just for fun, try the unique, the tasty, the imaginative lobster corn dogs.

Corny in an extremely sad way, the retort to critics that Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa gave after his damnable – and perhaps illegal – misuse of public funds came to light. Declaring that people might not like him because he’s fat or because he’s a Raiders fan, Shirakawa attempted to deflect the serious questions about his lavish county credit card charges that were the subject of a San Jose Mercury News report. Shirakawa’s response is insulting to the public, which he is sworn to serve. When public officials make serious mistakes there’s a window of opportunity and the choice is really simple: Either contritely apologize or take to the offensive. The latter rarely succeeds because the public can see right through the bombastic arrogance. Twice burned, the public will never forget. Shirakawa should resign immediately. The Board should counsel him to resign, censure him if necessary and, if that does not result in his resignation, hopefully he will be recalled.

On to much happier subjects, our daughter Cayla Marie will be graduating from nursing school very shortly. It’s a very proud moment, of course, for her and our family. Her goal is to work in pediatric oncology. That’s what she did to fulfill her practicum requirement in the hospital, and she liked it. Working with families and children fighting cancer requires a strong inner spirit, thoughtful perspective and a big heart. I think about the many good Gilroy people in our community who helped her along the way, especially teachers like Chris Wheeler and Ron Ayala, and I am thankful. When she gets that nursing pin and crosses that stage, these Irish-Italian eyes will mist just like they did when Auntie Tante sang at Christmas. Cayla’s nursing song has just begun, and what a special gift it will be.

Reach Editor Mark Derry at [email protected]

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