Tuesday, March 23, 1999

Two women, jewels and a fur coat

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It was 1924, and the woman's name was Rose Palm, nee Bast. Catholic, born and raised in Price Hill, she showed a little stubborn streak. Her children were raised, and she was in her 70s. “I've gotten along fine for all these years without a mink coat,” she told her daughter.

        So she took the money and spent it on a window.

Mild insurrection
        It is the second stained-glass window on the left as you enter the doors of St. Francis De Sales Church at Madison Road and Woodburn Avenue in East Walnut Hills. About 30 feet high, the scene shows the youthful Jesus with the pharisees.

        Eventually, Mr. Palm noticed that the money was gone but his wife was still wearing a cloth coat. “She told him what she had done,” said Max Palm III, Rose's grandson. “And that was the end of it.” Max Palm, who lives in Finneytown, said that right after his grandmother died in 1929, his grandfather paid his first visit to the church.

        “He was Lutheran,” he explained.

        The first Mr. Max Palm inspected the window, representing many things but among them his wife's mild insurrection. The inscription, in black Gothic lettering at the bottom of the window, reads “Presented by Mr. and Mrs. Max Palm in memory of Mr. and Mrs. John Bast.”

        So, Mrs. Palm used the mink money to finance a tribute to her parents and to shed beautifully colored light onto the heads of worshipers. There is no record of the exact amount of her donation, but archives note that several new stained-glass windows were installed at a cost of $12,000 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of the parish.

        I like to think that upon reflection Mr. Palm believed that his wife had made a very fine decision.

        The fur coat by then, surely would have gone wherever fur coats go when the moths are finished with them. And 75 years later, the window survives. It is particularly beautiful right now, spruced up as part of the church's sesquicentennial.

A "significant birthday'
        Monday, I watched a workman carefully paint the wood trim around the Palm window, which is entitled “The Finding of Jesus in the Temple.” The Holy Family is clustered to the right in the scene.

        Jesus and Mary look serene. And Joseph looks a little worried.

        This made me think of another nice Jewish family.

        And another gift.

        Mickey Kaplan, arts patron and wife of Dr. Stanley Kaplan, was approaching a “significant birthday,” her 70th on March 9. Her husband wanted to give her something special.

        “I thought about jewelry,” she said. Briefly.

        Instead, she asked him to buy a new house. For somebody else. “One of those Habitat for Humanity houses like Jimmy Carter helps build,” she said.

        Habitat for Humanity helps low-income families buy affordable housing. Most of the work is done by volunteers, but they need money for materials and land. Then Habitat offers an interest-free mortgage, plus homeowners work a minimum of 500 hours building the house.

        Mickey's house will have three bedrooms and one bath. It will cost her $45,000.

        She could have had a very fancy necklace. Or, say, a fur coat. But like Mrs. Palm, she chose to do something more important, more lasting.

        Max Palm died six years after his wife, and he never discussed the window with his children or with his grandson. So I suppose we will never know if, in the end, he was proud of the choice Mrs. Palm made.

        But I have spoken with Stanley Kaplan, who said he thinks that his wife made a very fine decision.

        E-mail Laura Pulfer at lpulfer@enquirer.com. She can be heard Mondays on WVXU radio and on National Public Radio's Morning Edition and InterMedia's Northern Kentucky Magazine. Her book, I Beg to Differ, is available at (800) 852-9332.

        Laura Pulfer's column appears in the Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. E-mail her at laurapulfer@enquirer.com