"Speak the speech I pray thee..."
Ruth Bisel Yoder
So began Hamlet in Shakespeare's play, and so also do I!
No other words could suffice to describe this lady than speech well delivered!
I excerpt part of the following freely from the article in the Pueblo Chieftain:
"When she filled out her mail-in ballot, Ruth Bisel Yoder told friends she was concerned that it wouldn't be counted if she died before Tuesday's election.
"She lived just long enough to learn that her candidate had been elected to be the next president of the United States. Yoder died late on election night.
'Her name was a familiar one to local Democrats...an enthusiastic activist who never considered running for office but worked behind the scenes to help many others win campaigns.
"That likely was during the years Mattoon studied debate under both of the Bisels.
"She was one of these wonderful teachers who had a significant effect on a lot of lives,"Mattoon said before rattling off a long list of lawyers, judges and successful businessmen who, in many ways, were primed for theirsuccess by their experiences with the Bisels."
"Homer Bisel retired from coaching debate at Centennial in 1957,and from teaching in 1965. But it wasn't long before he and Ruth were recruited by the leaders at Roncalli High School, where they coached another generation of local heavy hitters and national success stories: Chieftain Managing Editor Steve Henson; County Attorney Dan Kogovsek and his brother, Larry, an award-winning social activist and volunteer advocate in Washington state; La Junta District Judge MikeSchiferl; John Shosky, speechwriter for Presidents Reagan and Bush,and many others."
The Bisels were known among their students as "Chief" and "Mrs. Chief."
"She remained exceptionally vital until the last year, and even then she was very vital for her age," remarked Mattoon. And it continues:
'She had gone blind, but she still listened to the nation's political news and friends read local headlines and stories to her.
"Mario Avalos was particularlydedicated to her, coming from his Colorado City home most days to check on her in Pueblo, Mattoon said.
"He was with her the night she died." (end quote.)
"Miss-chief," with an obvious pun intended, became it was her nickname. And my particular class excelled not just at mischief but a little deviltry. Now, my friends, enter into my world, and even that of my ninety-year-old mother, who was taught at Pleasantview School in rural Pueblo, under her maiden name of Bradshaw, which the Chieftain neglected to mention.
Back then she was teaching students not much younger than she,since she graduated college at the age of nineteen! She took on any role that would be useful, and shirked no task, no matter how paltryor even messy. She taught my uncle too, John Bellitti, who went on to become an outstanding graduate of the University of Denver's first Electrical Engineering class at the University of Denver.
That led to his position of Head of Electrical Design for Lockheed during World War II, spanning through the Apollo Space program. In that capacity, he and his cohorts designed the sensor lighting which now protects our front porches.
I knew her and her husband Homer as debate coaches at Pueblo Roncalli, from which I graduated in 1969.
I was full, not just of myself, but of inspiration from the Kennedy Camelot era, and also the many speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., which so many of us interpreted.
I can still quote J.F.K. or Martin Luther King in their major addresses, like a baseball player sliding into home base or abruptly stopping in place and turning on a proverbial dime. I can even manage the Harvard, New England accent in imitation.
Ruth's seasoned expertise was preceded for me by the adept tutelage of English teacher, Brother Frank Klapp. It was he who took me aside to say: "Son, you're a writer all right, so now you just need to get out and live a little - so you have something to write about!"
My love of writing and oratory evolved into an erotic affair with acting and theater.
So, blessed by still more coaches, teachers, and mentors, I began as a pre-law major at the University of Colorado, Boulder. But the end of a hometown summer romance sent me into a nosedive.
Nonetheless, I recovered, and from the old Southern Colorado State College in Pueblo, I followed another extraordinary mentor, Professor Don Seay to the University of Wyoming. There I attained my Bachelor of Arts in Theater in 1975, blooming a little late, but voted "Outstanding Senior" and given the distinction of being place among the Who's Who Among American College AndUniversity Students, 1975.
The heady experience of both speaker's podium and the stage never dissipated from my system.
At the Green Mountain Guild in Vermont, I worked with Timothy Busfield, preceded only two years before by Meryl Streep. I aided in adapting fairy tales into theater for children, and composed melodies to songs of my own creation to be sung a cappella.
My psychologist counselor recently asked me what I found most rewarding in my life.
I responded without hesitation:"It was a thrill to visit a school in some small New England town, and, while doing makeup in the little boy's room, hear a child sing a song I'd written and taught the season before!"
Stars all along the way studded my life path, but I grew used to it. Another teacher and mentor, my uncle, Joe Massaro, a sort of Will Rogers, scoutmaster character in my life, had long before taught me to never be intimidated by anyone. He advised me simply to visualize that person in the most embarrassing of physical ways.
So, when I arrived at a Duke University luncheon for Mary Tyler Moore, finding the only open seat next to her, I just sat right down, confessed my boyhood crush on her, and proceeded to a lively discussion and flirtation.
My only mistake was in telling my wife of the time that, "If I were ever to have an affair with an older woman, it would definitely be M.T.M., - or someone like her!"
Just how does one thank all those teachers, coaches and mentors? My only answer lies now in everything that I can write, compose, sing, and otherwise deliver to the public.
My reflective mind skips from star to star: Roddy McDowell - a prodigy of concentration on stage; Lou Rawls- the very soul of "cool"; Herb Mills of the Mills Brothers- kind and gentle as we shared breakfasts at Lincoln Plaza Dinner Playhouse in Oklahoma City.
Herb offered me an opportunity to record a demo record in L.A., but I refused out of ill-confidence in my musicianship. Instead I got an autographed picture for my parents.
I should have known better, because now, even late in my fifties, I know my voice teacher, Doyle Muller of Pueblo, taught me superbly. I was able to use his techniques to warm into both speaking and singing voice at Wyoming, with infected tonsils, to sing Julio in PaintYour Wagon.
Brenda Lee liked me so well that she sang to me, sitting on my lap, on my off-night for my August birthday in 1976, and suggested I sing backup on her tour.
There've been just too many influences and friends, all teaching, coaching, and mentoring me along the way, to mention here. Perhaps I can play the endless but fruitful game of "pass it on" with others in my life.
I hope so.
It didn't begin with Ruth, I know, and I hope it never ends!
"God's Gift Of Ruth"
by Charles L. Riccillo
November 10, 2008
On this question this speaker shall not yield,
for it entails a person's flame burnt both long and bright, whose warmth yet we feel.
And of this shining light, sweet lady, Ruth, so much more needs be said.
She forged young men of boys, some who bled for country.
And none 'mongst but rejoices in this - debater, orator, writer, attorney, teacher, publisher, and actor,
as we now play roles on countless stages, in fact, through prosperity and disaster.
Some labor that justice be exacted, in courtroom or in capitals.
All whom she mentored, with plenitude of word inventions, accompanied, extending truth and proof,
present their cases in affirmative or negative.
And in all civility, as she her "Mischief" taught: agree to disagree!
But she, this Ruth, in Bible in meaning light and piety, rightfully did justify her name.
And 'tis still invoked in Sabbath homes that daughters be like she,
virtuous and without blame, pure, devoid of all venality.
That Ruth of old was ancestress of kings
till Christ became the King 'o'er all of these.
So also too in "Genesis" were other women , each nemesis of Lucifer,
a Rose of Sharon, symbol of fidelity.
And Ruth's unshaken faith in us won many a case in reality,
however contentious, so infectious her enthusiasm,
that we seized the day victorious, and glorious.
And even my mother, yet another rose, come just months ago to ninety years
with dedicated cheer was taught by Ruth
recalling days of Pleasantview, where children of immigrants
learned to read and write as they laid claim
to liberty and the American dream of roads paved, inlaid with gold.
But we, my fellow journeymen, now have come of age.
And each of us surely now recalls
the halls of schools wherein we spoke.
And how from Ruth's sunny, glimmering eyes of blue
and her mind ever hungry, and questioning too,
she taught us well in our callow and ambitious youth.
So let us exhort now only "peace!"
No weeping would she have, but smiles instead, her pall bearing, symbolic as she leaves.
May angels' wings her passage assure, a worthy soul bound to reward celestial.
No tears would she have eyes for her, upon our cheeks be shed, instead a grin perpetual.
A flaming torch and sword our Ruth bequeathed to us for use
that we may ever wield it unrecused from any battle just and good.
So, silence now, so we may pray, our chivalrous shields upon the ground.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. But always pledged as spirits ever singing truth!
Impetuous youth no more holds sway over aging soothe and all its sage power in us.
So then, farewell, Godspeed today, sweet Ruth.
@2008 Charles L. Riccillo
The Author 2008