Sunday, March 24, 2002

Looking behind the headlines

        It's selfish, I suppose, to turn my back on the real world. Even for a little while. To stop thinking about women who drown their babies. To ignore priests who prey on children. To stop, even momentarily, trying to sort out the racial divide. This is where I live, and I love it here. But I've about had it with the bad news.

        So I admit I jumped at the chance to have breakfast with Harry Adler Sr. He likes to get started early, he says. Habit of a lifetime. Harry works seven days a week at the company he owns, Camargo Construction. Among other things, he has built every White Castle in Cincinnati.

        This is a successful guy who was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He quit Hughes High School his senior year for an opportunity to work at a Piggly Wiggly in Hartwell. This was after caddying and shoveling coal and selling newspapers.

        But this is not about Harry. It's about his grandson.

        Greg Young was working in his backyard in June of 2000 when he smacked his head on the roof of his kids' playhouse. A couple of days later, he noticed a problem with his peripheral vision. His optometrist sent him to a specialist who ordered an MRI. It found something that had been there before he bumped his head.

        The test showed a brain tumor about the size of a golf ball, “a Titleist IV,” Greg jokes. Laughter is very good medicine, as most doctors will tell you. But mustering up a smile must have been tough.

"I'm so proud'

        His wife of 10 years, Renee, says, “It was like having the carpet ripped out from under you.” The kids, Jessica. 5, and Eric, 2, can't say glioblastoma. But now Jessica knows the word “cancer.”

        Surgery. Radiation. Then a problem with scar tissue sent Greg back into surgery again in February of this year. Employed for the past 12 years by the City of Madeira in its public works department, Greg had used up all his sick days.

        So his co-workers threw theirs into the pot. And for good measure, they donated their Christmas bonuses. “I'm so proud of the people here,” says city manager Tom Moeller. As well he might be. Police officers, clerical workers, people who drive the snow plow and cut the grass in this community — dozens of city employees helped out.

        Meanwhile, at Bethesda Oak Hospital where Renee works, they were revving up the casserole patrol. “Prayers,” Greg says. “Please don't forget to mention how grateful we are for people's prayers.”

        His grandfather says, “We sure wish we could find a way to thank everybody who has been so nice.” I am guessing Harry is not used to being on the receiving end. Quietly generous, he has raised tens of thousands of dollars for Hope House, wears a Shriner's pin, is a mainstay of Kenwood Baptist Church. He has been married to the same woman for 64 years, went to night school when he could — “not for degrees, just for the knowledge” — and has spent every one of his 84 years in this community.

        And I am thinking maybe this is the real world after all.

        E-mail Past columns at


3 organizations united in boycott
BRONSON: Roach report best chance for Cincinnati's healing
AMOS: Ohio working to end lead paint woes
- PULFER: Looking behind the headlines
Ohio to study Internet sales tax
State money plentiful for some schools
Ohio to repay U.S. for misspent foster care
Christmas-gift robber to serve nine months
Cincinnatians can aid Afghan schoolchildren
Local Digest
NYC firefighter to talk at fund-raiser
Seminar inspires career change
Good News: Groups help Taft athletes
Dayton hires fired police chief
Covington selects city planner
CROWLEY: Shuffling candidacy deck
Suspect, no motive in Covington killing