Is there someone you really owe a phone call to?
For Jim Fosbrink, it's his best friend from childhood, John Cipolletti, who lives in Uniontown, Pa., where they grew up. The two buddies were known as Fuzz and Muzz, and the rest of their gang was Cuzz, Buzz and poor Lou who never earned a nickname.
“Nothing would thrill me more,” Fosbrink wrote in an e-mail about calling his friend. “Christmas cards, occasional letters, or an e-mail exchange can never compare to hearing a dear friend's voice.”
It's been about five years since they talked.
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When the Observer offered a free Sony Ericsson Z750a AT&T work phone, Fosbrink, who is 86, was one of dozens of readers who responded with letters about the important phone call they need to make. In his e-mail, he described how he and Muzz met the year Republican Herbert Hoover and Democrat Al Smith were vying for president. It was in 1928. He said he remembers shooting marbles together, flying kites, riding bicycles and watching each other fall hopelessly in puppy love.
The World War II draft separated them in 1943. Muzz (Cipolletti) returned to Uniontown after the war and Fuzz (Fosbrink) moved on to Buffalo and then, in 1978, to Charlotte. They saw each other on Fuzz's visits home to see his mother and sister and one last time, in August 2002, at their 62nd and final high school reunion.
Since then, they've corresponded mostly by letter and e-mail.
“There's no question,” Fuzz said, “that our friendship is different than any other one I had.”
They grew up on a street that led to the coal mine. Fuzz got his nickname first. His older brother was big Fuzz (a derivative of their last name) and he became little Fuzz, then eventually just Fuzz. He gave Cipolletti the nickname Muzzolini because of his Italian roots and Muzzolini was soon shortened to Muzz. Harold Donald, his cousin, became Cuzz; Lewis came from another neighborhood, where he was known as Bus, which they converted to Buzz. He's not quite sure why they never gave Lou a rhyming nickname.
Now only Fuzz and Muzz are alive and Fuzz said, “My days of driving long distances are behind me, so there are no anticipated plans to visit Uniontown in the future.”
Not to worry. He won the phone and he said he'll use it to call his best friend on July 16 and wish him a Happy 86th.
Molly Aldridge, Gastonia
Other readers wrote in with poignant or funny stories:
“The first person I would call would be my dad,” said Molly Aldridge of Gastonia. “He is 89 years old and has been suffering from dementia for the past several years. He has been losing his memory faster in the past few months and my mom had to admit him to a nursing home two weeks ago. My dad is very confused and troubled why he is there and why he can't leave. My mom says he no longer remembers who I am.
“I have not been home in a year, and with gasoline prices and airline tickets skyrocketing, a trip back home now would be expensive and difficult. I have put off calling my dad in the nursing home because he is having such a hard time adjusting to his new surroundings. I need to call him and remind him that he does have a daughter, albeit a long-distance one.
“I need to explain why I haven't come to see him and why I can't spring him from this new environment. I need to tell him that I love him and miss him. I have not made the phone call yet because I'm afraid his response will be, “I don't remember you.'”
Julia Hite, Charlotte
“I would place a call to Alton Hopkins, an attorney in Atlanta,” wrote Julia Hite of Charlotte. “He was an attorney for my aunt in Atlanta. Little did he know what kind of responsibility that would later entail.
“My aunt was an only child. Her ob-gyn husband died of a heart attack at an early age. Her only son died and her parents were also dead. I was her closest living relative and I lived in Charlotte. We kept in touch by phone and I paid her visits but I was not able to give her the ‘hand on' care she needed.
“She became very dependent and Mr. Hopkins stepped in to see that her every need was met. When she needed hospital care, he arranged it. When she needed a care-giver ‘around the clock' he arranged it. When her house needed repairs, he arranged it. Needless to say, she became very demanding and hard to please as she grew older but he continued to look after her… .
“He treated her as if she were his mother and I will be forever grateful for his loving and tender care of her.
“We kept in touch on a regular basis while my aunt was alive but since her death about four years ago, I have not contacted Mr. Hopkins to again let him know how much I appreciate him and what he did for my aunt.”
Thomas Standley, Charlotte
“If I were to win the Sony Ericsson Z750a AT&T world phone, I would immediately call a wonderful gentleman named Brig Brigham,” wrote Thomas Standley. “My wife and I moved to Charlotte to be closer to our grandkids three years ago. We were living in Norfolk, Va., and we met Brig when we joined Miles Memorial United Methodist Church. Brig is an older gentleman with the heart of a servant.
He took care of his paralyzed wife for many years until she passed, and was a wonderful friend and mentor to both of us. He is now pretty much homebound with health problems, and with a world phone, I would be able to contact him anytime wherever I am and share the immediate joys we are experiencing.
He loves our grandkids and this would enable him to be part of our lives, moment to moment.
Paula Lash, Cabarrus County
“I would call my brother-in-law Doug,” Paula Lash of Cabarrus County wrote. “Doug just came back from serving in Iraq. This is not unusual these days, but Doug is almost 60 years old and he also served during the Vietnam war. Doug is in the reserves as SeaBee with the Navy. He lives in northern Ohio with his dog Gizmo. Doug is a great man who has endured much hardship these past few years. My sister, Doug's wife Louise, passed away from stomach cancer in 2005. She was a strong, athletic woman, yet the disease was too much for her. Doug is currently putting two kids through college and has a become a grandfather this past spring. Hearing Doug's voice as he is holding his world together would be great! I try to keep in touch as much as possible with my family's commitments, but this phone would help me do it more often. Please help me to stay in touch with an extremely valuable relative who needs some support and love now.”
Eleanor Hair, Charlotte
“The first person I would call if I won the phone would be my big brother,” wrote Eleanor Hair, who is 11 and attends Beverly Woods Elementary School. “He is in California on a church mission trip and I want to know if he is having fun. And, I would tell him I am giving him the phone because he doesn't have one. Mom says he has to save his money and buy his own phone. He is the only boy in 8th grade who doesn't have a phone.”