Donna O'Donnell Figurski's Blog

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TidBits About Donna #32 Old Friends/Fast Friends

It started a long time ago in 1969. That’s when David and I moved to Rochester, NY. He began graduate school at the University of Rochester. There we met life-long friends, Jeroo Kotval and Philip Matsumura.

David and Jeroo both studied in Dr. Roger Christensen’s lab. They worked on bacteriophage T1 genetics. Who knows what that is!  Phil Matsumura was down the hall in another lab working with Dr. Bob Marquis on some other unpronounceable project. That’s what those scientists did.

Around 1974, David, Jeroo, and Phil, with Ph.D.s in hand, left Rochester to go their separate ways. Jeroo started her scientific career in Stanford, California. Phil and David headed to the Department of Microbiology at UCSD, the University of California in San Diego, California.

We spent four glorious years in the San Diego area. For two of them we lived in Cardiff-by-the-Sea in an apartment overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We continued our daily relationship with Phil. He lived across the alley from us. Unfortunately distance hampered our daily doings with Jeroo, but the friendship was not severed. It was just on hold.

When David finished his postdoctoral work we left Phil behind. Phil spent his career at the University of Illinois in Chicago. David and I with our two children in tow moved on to New Jersey, a bedroom suburb of New York City. David joined the faculty of Columbia University with an appointment on their faculty in the department of Microbiology as an Assistant Professor. More than thirty years later, he still holds his Columbia post – now as a full professor and a one time Dean of Graduate Students.

Rare phone calls and occasional emails were the glue that held the friendships of David, Phil, and Jeroo together. Jeroo eventually married Dr. Harry Taber, who was a professor in the Micro Department at the University of Rochester. Their careers took them to Albany, New York. Harry rounds out the band from Rochester.

Recently we reconnected with Jeroo and Harry at the unhappy event of their daughter, Shanaz’s, death. We’ve had happy occasions with Phil and his spouse, Dr. Marion Hulett, when they visited us at our home in New Jersey a few years ago and then more recently when we attended Phil’s retirement symposium in Chicago in June of 2010.

These meetings spurred each of us to promise to get together – to renew our friendships – to see each other and share good times more often. This weekend we sealed that promise.

With the aid of a flurry of email, we concocted a plan. Phil and Marion hopped a plane from Chicago to stay at our home from Thursday, July 29th until Monday, August 2nd. It has been amazing and relaxing visit – catching up on old times. Every meal, breakfast, lunch, and dinner has been enjoyed under the trees in our “garden” at the side of our house. Though the temperatures hovered in the 90s, the gentle breezes made the days perfect.

On Saturday morning we climbed into the car and headed to Leeds, New York to visit Jeroo and Harry. We spent a lovely afternoon and well into evening sitting on the edge of the forest that abuts their home. Jeroo and Harry were gracious hosts and it seemed the food never stopped coming. For lunch Jeroo prepared a steelhead trout accompanied with a creamy scalloped potato casserole and salad and rolls. It was delicious. A carrot/potato/onion soup started off our dinner that began at 9:00pm under the stars. Grilled chicken – hot off the grill – was complimented by roasted zucchini and peppers and a Tex-Mex bean and corn salad. Chocolate banana bread ended our meal … and our day. With hugs and vows to exchange visits again really soon, Phil, Marion, David, and I headed to the Bavarian Inn, a bed and breakfast only minutes away in Purling, New York.

The next morning, we had a lovely breakfast at the Inn’s restaurant before we made the trek home – laughing, talking, and sharing stories the whole way.

It’s been a weekend of reconnecting with old friends/fast friends – proving that time only makes friendships grow stronger.

(Photos compliments of me.)

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August 2, 2010 - Posted by | Anything Writing, TidBits About Donna | , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. What a cool story, and you know, I believe I remember Phil from my time in Cardiff.

    Comment by Sanner | August 2, 2010 | Reply

  2. No doubt that you do. He was around.

    Comment by donnaodonnellfigurski | August 2, 2010 | Reply


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