John Smalley: It's a wonderful life over on Steinies Drive

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Posted by on March 02, 2009 at 18:12:42:

John Smalley: It's a wonderful life over on Steinies Drive

SAT., FEB 28, 2009 - 11:03 AM

One of the best things about coming to Madison a couple months ago — new city slogan: It Snows Every Day in December! — and working at the State Journal has been the chance to catch up with old friends, some of whom I hadn’t connected with since my childhood days in Evansville, just a few miles down Highway 14.

Another treat has been hearing from friends I didn’t even know I had. Case in point: Sharon Locke, who lives on Steinies Drive in Madison, the street where my family lived for a couple years after I was born.

Sharon, who turned 75 earlier this month, sent me a wonderful congratulatory card awhile back, shortly after she read in the paper that I had been named editor at the State Journal. She also included a type-written, one-page letter. If it’s possible to nominate a single letter as the best representation of the American dream, an American tragedy and an American love story, all rolled into one, I’d put this note up against any other.

Maybe her letter struck such a chord with me because my family is in transition mode now, working on selling a house in La Crosse and finding a house to buy here. Everything is unsettled for us. On Steinies Drive, in the Locke house, everything is settled. And has been settled since the mid-1950s. Sharon shared with me that she and her husband Bill moved into the Steinies house on Madison’s East Side on Dec. 20, 1955. Which means they just went past their 53-year anniversary there.

"There are only three couples left on Steinies that moved in when the houses were new," she wrote. "Everyone has moved on to bigger houses in other areas. We stayed, raised all five of our kids in a one-bathroom house with three bedrooms. (The kids) all turned out normal, not having their own room, own telephone, own TV, etc.

"People ask us all the time, ‘How did you raise such a big family in this small house?’ I just laugh because it is so obvious.

"Neither Bill nor I ever had a home before ... and I thought I was a queen when I moved into the house on Steinies and I still do."

The pursuit of happiness? Talk to Sharon, she’ll tell you all about it.

But life has not been all smooth on Steinies. Almost 14 years ago Sharon and Bill lost their daughter, Sue, to breast cancer. Sue left behind a husband and two small girls, with whom the Lockes are still close today.

The year after Sue died, Bill had a massive stroke. He was in the hospital for four months, and then Sharon brought him home to Steinies Drive and has cared for him there ever since. "Some people thought I was foolish, but I am a person who believes in the old wedding vows — till death do us part," Sharon wrote.

And then this, in summary: "Our life has changed a lot but we have a wonderful, close-knit family that appreciates all of the good that life has to offer."

As my wife and I continue to look for the perfect home in the perfect neighborhood at the perfect price, I cannot escape Sharon’s message. Regardless of the size of the house, or the neighborhood, or the price, it’s the people inside who make it perfect.

Thanks, Sharon, for that timely reminder.

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