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Wiser’s Wramblings-If you Burn…Holes in your Pocket


Remembering Patricia Winterhalter Sweeney

By Chuck Wiser, I write the words to share what my eyes see and my heart feels

I guess there is sufficient time left before the burn ban expires on May 14th to let me preach one more time about choosing to burn, and might it burn a hole in your pocket where money is kept.

I had an epiphany the other day while listening to fire department callouts on my scanner. Field and/or brush fires several times a day continue. Despite many types of outside burning activities, other than relatively small campfires, being illegal at this time of year, people keep ignoring the “Ban.” Therefore, I have a suggestion. If someone is caught, or reported for having an outside fire, and if it can be observed or proven that they had done so, then they should be charged with the offense and fined appropriately. The fines collected should then be given to the responding Fire Department to be put to good use in the assistance of buying equipment or gear. If the fire results in damage or destruction of buildings or structures on someone else’s property, the fine should also include the cost of repairs to such property.

Sad, but bittersweet, I have another former friend and one time work colleague to write about. The obituary of Patricia (Pat) Winterhalter Sweeney, announced the passing of a wonderful lady on April 16th. Pat was an integral part of my early years at Alfred State College both when I was a student, and later when I was a faculty member there. Pat was the secretary or assistant or just plain friend to several individuals ranging all the way from the Dean and Department Chairs to the students that she helped immeasurably. Pat was one of those “go to people” when you needed help, had a question, or just wanted a cheerful greeting to your day.

Patricia K. Winterhalter Sweeney, 74, of County Road 2A, West Almond, peacefully passed away on Sunday, April 16, 2023, at her home surrounded by family. She was born on May 14, 1948, in Wellsville, the daughter of the late Ernest D. and Mildred “Mitzi” C. (Osgood) Winterhalter. On May 13, 1989, in Belmont, she married Bernard Sweeney, who predeceased her. Friends are invited to call on Saturday, May 13, 2023, from 11 am to 1 pm, at the J.W. Embser Sons Funeral Home at 17 Schuyler Street, Belmont, NY.

Pat wasn’t the only one in the Winterhalter family that I knew and had interactions with. As a matter of fact I can’t recall, right off the top of my head, any family in the area that I have had a more diverse or extensive relationship with. Pat’s sister Anne was our department secretary when I was employed as a designer at The Air Preheater Company in the New Products Development department. During that same time frame and in the early days of my married life we were socially active with my cousin Diana Winchell, and her husband Paul. Di played in a ladies’ softball league in Belmont with Pat’s sister Judy, so we would cross paths with her from time to time.

Fast forward about 14 or 15 years and I was hired to teach in the Mechanical Engineering Technology Department at Alfred State College. As I started my first full year of teaching in the fall, of 1983, having initially started mid-year in January as a replacement for the legendary Frank Baron. Department Chair Dave Conde asked me if I was interested in teaching the Machine Tools Technology course, as Ernie Winterhalter (Pat’s dad) was retiring at the end of the school year. “No thank you,” said I. Mr. Conde asked me why I didn’t want to teach that course?

Let me interrupt myself here to say that the Machine Tools Technology course deals with teaching still “wet behind the ears” freshmen how to run Lathes, Milling Machines, Abrasive Grinders, Drill Presses, and many other tools of the trade which can be dangerous if not operated properly.

I replied to Mr. Conde that: “There were two reasons why I didn’t want to teach that course. First, I didn’t know the first thing about running a lathe or milling machine, and secondly, the machines scared the hell out of me.” Welllll, guess who taught that course the next semester. Yep! Yours truly. For the remainder of that current semester, I shadowed Mr. Winterhalter, attending his lecture classes, and in my spare time spent time in the machine shop working one on one with him learning how to set up and run and then teach how to set up and properly operate the machines. 

That, my friends, was the beginning of a career “absolutely foreign to me” prior to that, and it evolved into teaching anything remotely resembling manufacturing and onward into the computerized versions of same. I might note at this point that I knew nothing about computers at that time as well. I did a ton of learning.  

That takes me back to how my teaching career led me to know a couple more of the Winterhalters. Pat was the scheduling “Guru” in the School of Engineering Technologies for several years. She was the expert and most knowledgeable of anyone, if you had a scheduling problem, whether you were faculty or a student. I lost track of Pat when I retired but it doesn’t surprise me that her title was “Executive Administrative Secretary to the President” at the time of her retirement, as noted in her obituary.  RIP Pat❣️ You made a difference in the lives of many, and for which, we are indebted.

Speaking of “titles” leads me to a comment about the use of “titles” (called honorifics) identifying people of various ranks or distinctions. People that have “earned” the “Doctorate” level of medical or educational studies deserve to be called Doctor as noted typically as “Dr.” In a telephone conversation with an employee in a medical provider’s office this past week, the person I was scheduled to meet with was called “Doctor” John Doe (to avoid specificity). That medical professional is actually, a Physicians Assistant, and I think that it is a mis-leading and inappropriate use of an unearned title the call them anything otherwise. I admit that I was a little less comfortable knowing that some potentially serious medical decisions now rest in their hands. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the person isn’t capable of making those evaluations and judgements, but it should be based on my confirmation, and therefore I should be fully aware of the “level of decision-making expertise or authority” held by that professional.

I had to look up that term “honorific” not knowing for sure what that title was called.

I have so many pet peeves that I could have my own herd of them. Another one of those is the total disregard, by many drivers, of the New York State law requiring a driver to stop for pedestrian traffic at a crosswalk. Out of courtesy to a driver if I am a pedestrian approaching a crosswalk and a car is coming close, I will slow my approach and not step off the curb, allowing them to pass by.

Without statistical data collection to back me up I would hazard a guess that about 30% to 40% of drivers do not know, or adhere to, that traffic violation they committed. By the same token, pedestrians can be a little more helpful if they don’t rush out into the street with traffic bearing down on the crosswalk.

I think it’s appropriate to mention here as well though, that the pedestrian right of way doesn’t apply at a traffic controlled lighted intersection. In that instance, the pedestrian does not have the right of way over through traffic if the light is green. In the past, I have had drivers ahead of me stop at a green light and wave pedestrians through.

I don’t have any ribbon or tape, so I’ll wrap all this up with a thread that ties all my frustrations together. That minor irritation would be caused by the threads used to hold garment components together. Apparently, the automated threading processes haven’t been able to tie a decent knot in the end of the thread because there is nothing to keep them from pulling out not long after starting to wear the garment.

Do knot make the mistake of trying to pull at them to break them off. That merely makes them pull out further/farther (* see grammar note that follows). The most irritating loose thread(s), maybe like the lameness of this topic, are those found in your socks. Nothing starts your day out worse than pulling on a sock only to have a loose thread between your toes. You can pull the sock off, and switch it to the other foot, as I often do, but the thread already knows to switch to the other side and get caught between the toes on the other foot. After years of suffering this, and continuous admonition from my wife I have finally decided to just get the scissors and cut the damned thing off. No! I do not mean my toe; I mean the thread.

I had to chuckle at one of the “Auto-Correct-Suggest” highlighted comments in that last statement. The grammar watch dog suggests that; “my word usage might be offensive to some of your readers.”

(*) Grammar note: Every time I use the word where I must choose correctly between “further” and “farther” I need to remember, or look up, the rules. Rule of thumb says to “use further for figurative distances and farther for physical distances. So I guess my grammar insight can see further and my memory is not farther.  

Teaser for next week. I caught a nocturnal predator in my live trap the other night and I told my wife that I caught a possum and I thought she said Oh! Possum, but that’s not what she said. Second teaser for next week. Someone had a noodle in their pocket while playing golf this morning.

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