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As we rush around buying presents, we must always remember that “our presence rather than our presents” is one of the greatest gifts we can give.
– Catherine Pulsifer  
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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 12 December 2019  

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  Walk and talk
  By Mark Stoller

   Mark Stoller moved to Falcon in 2007. He and his wife, Andra, both U.S. Air Force veterans, enjoy life with their daughters, extended family and adopted rescue dogs in Latigo. Mark savors the privilege of his wife and daughters being his muse for topics, people to meet and places to investigate.

   We will walk and talk together while covering a myriad of topics in this month’s meanderings.
   Time for me, as it is for many of you, seems to be flying by. If you’ve seen “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” movies, remember how the characters talk about going to warp speed? They engage the engines of their spaceships and the stars all fly by the screen in a dotted blur — much like snow against your windshield at night, with your headlight brights on while driving 75 miles per hour. That’s about where I am at these days.
   We annotated our family calendar for the next six months. In the past, I would never have looked at Colorado on the map and thought, “Hmmm. I bet they have a ton of Celtic festivals.” However, the Celtic festival and bagpipe band competition season is upon us.
   Andra’s band, the Pikes Peak Highlanders, and at least six other bagpipe bands across Colorado are lined up for festival participation and bagpipe band competitions in Colorado Springs, Elizabeth, Larkspur (Renaissance Festival), Littleton, Edgewater, Grand Junction and Estes Park.
   There must have been a large proportion of the hearty Scots and Irishmen who settled out here during the westward expansion for gold and land to have this number of festivals.
   Speaking of things international, I felt an incredible loss watching the iconic Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral as it caught fire and burned. The stone foundation was laid and blessed by Pope Alexander III in 1163!
   It was the model of medieval and Gothic architecture to survive for over 850 years, including the French Revolution and both world wars. Plans are in the works to rebuild it to the original work of art. Now that is national and human spirit at work.
   While we’re thinking about France and Word War II, I have been reading about Virginia Hall –- the most successful and decorated woman spy for both the U.S. and Britain during World War II.
   A woman born to a privileged family in Baltimore, she spent the summers of her youth learning in Europe. Hall was intent to continue her travels and longed for adventure. She was turned down by the U.S. State Department for foreign service in the 1940s due to being female and for having — wait for it — a wooden leg! She was subsequently recruited by British intelligence.
   Hall’s German and French speaking skills were essential as she was infiltrated into France to report about and wreak havoc on German forces around Lyon. She organized the local resistance movement, supplied agents with money, weapons, medical assistance and safe houses for agents and downed airmen. When a Catholic priest betrayed her to the Gestapo, she escaped Lyon and hiked across the snow-capped Pyrenees mountains to freedom in Spain.
   The American Office of Strategic Services next trained Hall in wireless radio operation and disguise after the British refused her continued service for safety reasons. In 1944, she re-entered France by torpedo boat and was instrumental in supporting the D-Day landing and invasion.
   Hall died in the 1980s and never spoke about her service. What is known today had to be pulled from old British and American war records.
   Hollywood is currently making a movie to chronicle her wartime service. It will be interesting to see which actress is cast as Virginia Hall. You can read about Hall in Sonia Purnell’s book, “A Woman of No Importance: the untold story of the American spy who helped win WWII.”
   Finally, I’ll leave you with a quote I found, “I am thankful for my struggle, because without it, I would not have found my strength.” Keep making today better than yesterday.
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