2011: The year of the unexpected; on losing a loved one


What an odd year 2011 has been. The unexpected became seemingly commonplace. The expected, namely in the realm of partisan politics, grew worse.

So much worse, what came to mind was a term that Queen Elizabeth II used in defining 1992, a particularly bad year for the royals: annus horribilis, Latin for "horrible year."

The year was horrible for local college football fans. Who would have thought at the start of 2011 that the proud Ohio State Buckeye football program would draw national attention for a tattoo-for-memorabilia scandal? The scandal cost the team its star quarterback and coach Jim Tressel, among others.

The Penn State football program that many thought of as a model for abiding by the rules was soiled by something seriously worse: allegations of child sexual abuse by a former assistant coach. The scandal cost the team its record-setting head coach, Joe Paterno.

The year was horrible for my family. Early in December, my wife and I made a quick trip to State College, the home of Penn State. We passed some TV trucks and a stand of cameras on the lawn of the university administration building, from which the morning news reports on the latest in the scandal had aired.

We were there for something personally sad. My wife's aunt, Marvie Howarth, had died. Ordinarily, I'd refer to her as Mrs. Howarth. But everybody knew Margaret Beglin Howarth as Marvie, as in Marvelous.

Marvelous she was. My wife and I, and later our two sons, would visit her, an aunt through marriage, at the various homes she and her husband, Gifford Howarth, lived in during his career as an executive for Cargill. There was the home near Ithaca, N.Y. Later, there was the one near Corning, N.Y., in addition to the seasonal home in Chautauqua, N.Y.

For the past 10 years or so, home had been on the outskirts of State College, where she and her husband retired.

At her funeral, women from several of those and other stops along the Howarth family timeline spoke of what a wonderful person Marvie was. Testimony after testimony painted a picture of Marvie as the kind of person others wanted to be with. She made those around her feel welcome, and that in the course of life, they mattered.

As 2011 ends, The Blade and other news media run stories and photos of famous people who passed away during the year. Marvie wasn't famous nationally, but she touched hundreds of lives throughout her 70 years. Her photo won't be included with those of people in the worlds of politics, entertainment, and sports who are no longer with us.

In the body of this column is her photo. Beside it is a blank spot. Marvie is the relative I lost in 2011. The blank spot represents the special person you, the reader, will begin a year without for the first time.

There is hope for a better 2012. Ohio State's football team has a dynamic new leader in Urban Meyer.

The nation might elect many new leaders in the political arena, or the current ones might get a mandate to improve the economy.

Here's hoping that a year from now, in the roll call of those who have died in 2012, your blank spot for a photo will remain empty.

Dennis Bova is a copy editor for The Blade's Pages of Opinion.

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