Through the mail to Empty Song Road

by Nick Clooney, Cincinnati Post, July 10, 2002

It was my intention to move on to other subjects by now, as I did with the eclectic selection of letters in the Monday column.

Still, your reaction to the death of my sister Rosemary and, to a much lesser extent, the milepost in my own career noted the previous week, have simply overwhelmed our rudimentary office system.

"Office" means our former guest bedroom, plus much of our own bedroom, plus two hallways, plus the kitchen, plus the library. Now, because of the inundation of mail, we must include the living room, library and bar.

There is a lot of mail.

It is no secret that the volume of mail sent in America has diminished dramatically in recent years. When I worked at WLW in the late 1960s, the number of letters received by those on the air had dropped from hundreds per week to scores.

When I was anchoring the news at Channel 12 in the 1970s and 1980s, even when our newscasts were a runaway No. 1, it was a rare week we received 50 letters, and most were complaints about stories. When I left Channel 12 in 1984, I received my largest personal mail response, just under 1,000 cards and letters.

Now, Nina and I are again overwhelmed by the generous response of the people to our three week roller-coaster.

We had only begun to respond to the 300 letters and 100 e-mails about my 50th anniversary Kidney Foundation benefit, when my sister Rosemary died.

As of this writing, we have an additional 500 letters and cards and another 100 e-mails with eloquent expressions of sympathy.

It is the most welcome of burdens. Each hand-written note — and we read each one of them carefully — removes one more link from the chain around our hearts.

Look at this wonderful phrase, part of a courtly letter from former Kentucky governor Louie B. Nunn in his own handwriting, addressed to Nina and me:

"If every person who has savored the attributes of her legacy were to bring a blossom to St. Patrick's cemetery, she would sleep beneath her beloved Kentucky's tallest mountain."

Nina just handed me another, at random, for me to answer, from Dr. Stanley Block and his wife Helene, newly-minted Californians, but long-time Cincinnatians.

"We know that the love of family and friends eases the grief — and so we add our increment of love to all the others."

Another letter brought the astonishing news that our Augusta neighbors had been asked to contribute to a fund for computer-generated songs sung by Rosemary to be added to our Augusta Carillon located in the school's bell tower. Each addition is expensive, $105.

The hope was to have enough families give money so that, perhaps, 10 songs could be put on the agenda. A total of 36 families contributed!

Fortunately, Rosemary's long singing career means that there will be no shortage of music to fill this chip's dance card.

Which gives me a chance to say that, last week, I was happy to acknowledge the importance of Maysville to our family. It is where Rosemary, Betty and I were born, and we have always been proud of it.

It is also proper to acknowledge the importance of Augusta to our lives in the last quarter century.

Augustans have welcomed, nurtured and protected our family, never more so than in these last few weeks. They brought food, they brought flowers, they answered the phone, they washed our car, they didn't ask what they could do, they did it before we asked.

In other words, they were neighbors, and we will always be grateful.

One more note Nina handed over gave me pause. It was from Maryland. After I wrote a response, I began copying the address. The street name was "Empty Song Road."

Funny how small things blind-side you, isn't it?

Empty Song Road.

Perhaps that's enough for this time.