For Pumpa

Harold Meyers Kimball; aka Harry, Hal, Crash Kimball, Dad, Pumpa and yes even Pumpina. It wasn’t until recently that I was made aware that my brother Greg had invented the name Pumpa when he was just learning to speak. I have known him as Pumpa for all of my life, and had assumed that everybody else did as well.

There is some majesty and grandiosity in the name Pumpa. The mere mention of the name invokes so many memories that it is hard to know where to begin. One of my earliest memories of Pumpa was lighting off fireworks in our backyard in Dixon. Of course, these were not garden variety fireworks, he was a Kimball after all! Let me put it this way; they had to bury a 3 inch diameter metal pipe into the ground to launch these suckers. The launching of each mortar was a test of dexterity, resolve and guts. Add what I’m sure was a few brewskies into the mix, and it made for quite an entertaining show!

Each mortar was different; the “regular” mortars had long wicks that would hang out of the pipe. Pumpa would drop the mortar into the pipe while holding onto the fuse then he would light it once it hit bottom. I remember he always ducked a bit while quickly distancing himself from the launcher as if it increased his chances of surviving if something went wrong. Seconds seemed like minutes as the spark slowly crawled up the side of the pipe and then inside. Greg and I would cringe in anticipation of the launch… BOOM and we would arch back to look at the dazzling lights in the sky. Some mortars had shorter fuses which would sometimes require two people to manage, one to hold the fuse and drop it as soon as the other had lit it. As soon as it did light, it always seemed to surprise them both as they scampered away in the opposite direction quickly followed by… BOOM! Occasionally all the fuss over lighting it was followed by silence with Greg and I still cringing, waiting for the tell-tale sound. When seconds did actually turn to minutes Pumpa would declare “we’ve got a dud!” To which Yaya and Mom would immediately respond with “now be careful!!” This was fascinating to us as we never knew what to expect, and there was the imminent risk of somebody getting hurt! Pumpa would approach with much trepidation. He would tap the pipe with his foot as if to encourage it to come out. Ultimately it would require a splash of whatever liquid was handy, usually beer, to quench our fears of a late launcher. But it was always on to the next, no matter the danger of the one prior. The show stopped only when the mortars ran out, or when the neighbors complained that their roof was on fire – seriously.

Pumpa was very much like those mortars, full of enough potential energy to light up the sky with a show of dazzling beauty. Sometimes his fuse was short while other times we would leave disappointed or frustrated. But we would always return for more because this Kimball could sure put on a spectacular show; filling our nights with expertly told ghost stories, our minds with poetry recounted from memory, our eyes with the art which he loved so dearly, our souls with never ending charity, and our hearts with his unconditional love. Pumpa embodied the all the majesty and grandiosity that his name suggests.

These last months that we were fortunate enough to spend with him were his grand finale, far greater than anything he was able to accomplish before. Each day was a test of dexterity, resolve and guts and he faced it all without ever complaining. The spectators came from far and wide, every one of them touched by Pumpa’s life. Every day he would fill our skies with beauty, leaving us with a finale that we will never forget.

Pumpa, rest easy now as your light will be part of the night sky for eternity.

Harold Kimball aka Pumpa

As Katty and I arrived in his hospice room, his eyes opened and he saw us both. He tried to say something but could not get the words out. I reached out for his hand and told him to relax, he had already said so much in the weeks prior. My uncle Bob started praying the rosary as we gathered around him. At ~10am on August 16th he took his last breath. His wife BJ had her arms around him as she wept and said goodbye. I held his hand with Mom on one side and Katty on the other while uncle Bob continued praying the rosary. I know that he chose that moment. It was exactly as he wanted it. Goodbye Pumpa…

Harold Kimball was born and grew up in Chicago. He graduated from St. Lawrence Grammar School and Leo High School. He served three years in the Air Force assigned to the Italian campaign during World War II. He received his B.S. degree in civil engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology. In 1950, he and Audrey Pabst of Milwaukee were married; they had four children: Robert, Judy, Gregory, and Steven. Audrey died in 1996 and Steve in 2007. In 2005, Harold and Betty Jane Wagner were married in Evanston. He is survived by his wife Betty Jane Wagner; children Bob (Mary Carmen), Judy (Serafin) Veramendi, Greg (Laura) and the late Steve (Mary Beth); grandchildren Gregory, Pablo and Teresa Veramendi, Frank, Javier and Mark Kimball, Melissa Klein and Ryan Kimball and Katie and Aaron Kimball; great grandchildren Jake and Jocelyn Klein and Audrey Kimball. Harold has always enthusiastically enjoyed family gatherings, travel, symphony concerts, plays, and movies. An avid reader, he frequently recited poetry for family and friends. For ten years, Harold taught undergraduate engineering courses at the Illinois Institute of Technology and worked for Kaiser Engineers. In 1969, his firm sent him to San Nicolas, Argentina (130 miles north of Buenos Aires), as principal engineer on the design and construction of a steel-making plant for the Argentine government. When Harold retired from Kaiser Engineers, he started his own business, the Engineering Guild, a very successful enterprise, which he managed the rest of his life. Ever an activist, Harold Kimball devoted his life to causes promoting peace and justice in the world and leaves us that legacy. He supported the Civil Rights Movement and welcomed the first African-American family into his neighborhood. He marched with Martin Luther King against the Vietnam War, and supported Joe Polowsky’s efforts to see that our country would never go to war with the Soviet Union. Polowsky saw to it that veterans who met at the Elbe River at the end of World War II would visit one another’s countries during what became the Cold War. As a board member of CIS (Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad) and frequent visitor to El Salvador, Harold contributed to efforts to improve the lives of the poor. He was also on the boards of Common Ground promoting inter-religious understanding, and Seraj, setting up libraries in Palestine. Harold was a Vision Keeper and active member of the Peace and Justice Committee of Evanston’s St. Athanasius Church. He cooked for and played chess with persons with AIDS at Bonaventure House in Chicago and participated in demonstrations for peace as long as his health permitted. Contributions in his memory may be made to Common Ground, 815 Rosemary Terrace, Deerfield, Illinois 60015, to Seraj, 623 So. Euclid Avenue, Oak Park, Illinois 60304, or to the Iraqi Student Project, 708 Dodge, Evanston, Illinois 60202.

May he rest in peace.

Christmas at 0° Latitude and 68°F

This year´s holiday celebrations have taken me to Quito, Ecuador with Katty and her family. Although we have celebrated Christmas before outside of Chicago, this marks the first time I am away from my family. Thankfully, I feel like part of the family here in Quito! Their traditions are a bit different than that of our family. The big family dinner is late on Christmas eve and the presents are opened at or after midnight. This doesnt exactly jive with Papa Noel (Santa) coming down the chimney in the middle of the night, so the Niño Jesus (baby Jesus) is the one that brings the gifts. Though apparently this is starting to change as Papa Noel´s presence is greater every year. That being said, its quite bizzare to see Santa everywhere in his full red garb and hat when its almost 70 degrees out!! Its a bit hard for the Quiteños to understand why I miss the cold at Christmas time, but it has been an ever present factor in Christmas most of my life!! Thought when I left Chicago it was -16F without windchill! Can´t say I´m missing that too much. But from what I hear, it was 60 in Chicago yesterday! Maybe sending warm thoughts actually worked??

view from Casa Salgado on Christmas Eve

I´ve been going from one family function to another as Katty has a huge family here in Ecuador. Lunch and dinners with 20+ people seems to be the norm! Of course, I can´t get enough of it because it reminds me so much of my family in Spain. It has also been great to get to know everybody in her family that much better! Each of these mini reunions are filled with food, drinks, conversations and laughter, they are such a blast!! I´ll come back with tons of wonderful memory and a huge panza (gut)!! I can´t complain that Katty´s family has so many good cooks! Speaking of, I decided to bring a bit of our holiday traditions to Ecuador. I made the vegetable casserole that we always have this time of year along with some christmas cookies – both were a huge hit!! I´m not sure if they were more impressed with the food or the fact that a man cooked it! Getting the proper ingredients was a story in and of itself!

My first week (of three!) has been great thus far! With the New Year´s celebrations around the corner, as well as trips to Cuenca and the Amazon, I have much to look forward to! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!!

Congratulations Master Mila!

My sister in law Milagros graduated from the University of Chicago with her Masters of Arts in Social Sciences yesterday! The ceremony was at the Rockefeller Chapel in Hyde Park, followed by a reception by her program for the graduates! As Mom pointed out, she had never seen students so happy to be graduating! We, of course, were thrilled for Mila – what a huge step! Congrats to the graduate!!! We took her to Reza’s in Andersonville to continue the celebration!


We had a fantastic Thanksgiving! My Aunt and cousins came down from MN, we made a TON of food and stayed up late into the night playing Rummy Royal! I had actually come up to my parents on Wednesday to make my Grandmother’s German turkey stuffing. I also decided to treat myself to a massage at Egea – it was very much needed! On Thursday we headed up in the early afternoon to help with the cooking and preparations. Teresa picked out a wonderful new recipe – Butternut Squash-Pecan Gratin with Goat Cheese. Wasn’t too hard to make and the results were spectacular! HIGHLY recommended holiday dish! (especially for the vegetarians out there!)


Chicago’s gigantic tree after the show on Saturday

Yes – Thanksgiving was over a week ago, but this past week ranks down with the worst of ’em. I, as usual, stretched myself too thin during the holiday. I even preemptively took Wednesday as a sick day to enjoy a long 5 day weekend – but that wasn’t to be. After going out too late two nights in a row, running back and forth between the folks and the city, throwing in a trip to Madison for a night… my body decided it was payback time. I felt it creeping up on me on Sunday while having dinner for my Mom’s birthday – I was totally out of it. I got home at a decent hour, but Pepe was in town and wanted to go out for a drink. I convinced them to do coffee instead – which turned into dinner. I only ordered soup – but about halfway through our meal I started shaking. Rather then head straight home, I weathered it out – and as soon as I got home, I finally took my temperature – 101.9. Oops. Suffice it to say, I hardly slept that night, and ended up calling in sick on Monday and Tuesday. I felt better on Wednesday, but just getting to the office took a lot out of me. Headed to my Dad’s clinic and he verified that I still had a fever and now my glands were all swelling up. Wonderful. Went to work on Thursday and Friday – but did little to nothing at home. Finally went out for the first time last night, with the self-imposed midnight curfew. I have to say, I haven’t been hit this hard for quite some time. It ain’t easy being sick – and if it wasn’t for BSG – I’d have driven myself crazy by now! Still not 100% recovered – but almost there. My body is telling me to take things down a notch.

That being said, spending time with the entire family (including my Aunt and cousins from MN) was wonderful. I’m kicking myself a bit as I wasn’t collected enough to remember to take any group family photos – good thing memories last forever! I even got to catch up with my friend Marisa in Madison! It was fantastic seeing her and spending time with her – it had been over 5 years! Timing was a bit tight as I had a show on Saturday to go to with the fam, after a 2.5 hour return drive I arrived exactly when the show began! Luckily they started a bit late – so I got to enjoy every second of Tao! HIGHLY recommended!

In other news – congrats to the proud new parents Mark and Dana!! Their baby Caroline is adorable!

Remebering Unky Steve

His Obituary

I have just arrived home from the return trip to Minnesota. It has been a long weekend – but it was wonderful to be surrounded by family, and to be there for, and with, each other to celebrate Unky Steve’s life. (we have called my uncles “unky” all of our lives) The funeral service today was beautiful, I can’t imagine a better way to honor his life. Last night I decided to write something to read during his eulogy, as thoughts about his life, and his impact on mine had been swimming in my head for days…

One of my first memories of Unky Steve is at the pool when we lived in Dixon, IL. Unky Steve would demonstrate to us the arcane art of the Cannonball. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Canonball, let me take a moment to describe it. Unky Steve would begin by taking a swig of brewsky, he would then walk confidently onto the diving board, once he got to the edge he would pound on his chest with his hands, then jump as high as he could, grab his legs close to his chest, and attempt to displace as much water as humanly possible. For my brother Greg and I, this was the ultimate spectacle at the pool. We would watch in awe as the resulting splash would send water in all directions, creating waves so large that they would spill over the edge. He would always emerge, vigorously shaking the water off of his head, with a jovial laugh, awaiting the report from us on how high the water went. “It was higher than the fence!!” “It went up to that tree branch over there!!” We were amazed at this talent, and would try to duplicate it ourselves, as Unky Steve would laugh heartily at our attempts while taking another swig of brewsky. Nobody can do the Cannonball like Unky Steve!

Now I see that Unky Steve himself epitomized the Canonball. His voice and his laughter were both explosive and infectious. He made waves wherever he went, his joy of life spilling over and touching the lives of all of those who surrounded him. He would face each challenge by standing at the edge, pounding on his chest, jumping higher than the time before and creating an even larger splash! He was always drinking in life, enjoying every last drop. Those of us that had the fortune to witness it will always strive to duplicate his resolve and his passion for life.

For his last Cannonball, everybody watched. He fought like hell, approached the edge, pounded on his chest saying “come on Kimball”, and then finally jumped higher than he ever has before. When he came down into the water – his waves washed over us all, the resulting splash reached the heavens.

We’ll miss you Unky Steve.

Thank you all for your phone calls, messages, thoughts and prayers – your support has helped me grieve and helped me heal.

Prayer for Uncle Steve

My Uncle Steve passed away this morning at 11am. He had been taken from the Mayo clinic to a Hospice closer to his family in MN. My Mom and Uncle Greg were with him when he passed away – the rest of us are heading up there tomorrow morning. Please keep our family in your thoughts and prayers. My Mom sent me this prayer recently:

Do not look forward to the chances and change of this life in fear; rather look to them with full hope that, as they arise, God will deliver you out of them. He has kept you hitherto…
Do you but hold fast to His dear hand, and He will lead you safely through all things; and when you cannot stand, he will bear you in his arms. Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to beat it. Be at peace then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.
— St. Francis DeSales

Our Engadget HD contest entry

I was going to enter the Engadget HD contest with my setup, but when talking to Greg about it I realized that his was far worse! We took the above video today for his entry. Unfortunately, the e-mail bounced – Engadget HD’s 3gb GMail account was full!! We await to see what they will say about those whose entries bounced. In the mean time for your enjoyment…