An American Macedonian
G. Lebamoff


Cap n' Cork

In 1964 I had the opportunity to open a store in the new Glenbrook Mall shopping center. Doug Lawrence, architect for the store, asked, "George, what are you going to name it?" I hadn't decided. "Dougie, all we sell are bottles and cans and caps and corks." He said, "Then why not call it the Cork and Cap." I said, "No, Cap and Cork." "That's good," he said. I incorporated Lebamoff Enterprises, DBA Cap n' Cork, and would eventually use that name for all of the stores.

That year my brother-in-law George Spahiev came into business with me, a 20 percent partner. My father and brother Ivan were also minority stockholders, while I held controlling interest. My youngest brother, Klement, became an English teacher at Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne.

George Spahiev was married to my sister, Marie, and he became manager of Variety Liquors. George and his older brother Ilia emigrated from Bulgaria in the 1940s. Ilia, known as "Louie," had been a political prisoner of the Communists, who controlled the country after World War II. Not long after he was released, United States troops in Greece flew a man into Bulgaria to help former political prisoners escape. Parachuting from the plane, this man led the brothers and two or three other men through the mountains to the Greek border, where a patrol officer began shooting at them. George fired his pistol and killed the officer.

In Greece the men joined other Bulgarian and Macedonian escapees. After interrogation by American and Greek authorities, they were sent to different locations in Europe. George and Louie went with the American forces in Germany as security guards. Later they immigrated to the United States, finding work in Chicago. Four or five Bulgarian men would live together, and one took care of the apartment - cleaning, shopping, cooking, while the others had outside jobs. The workers divided their pay equally with the one who took care of the home. Eventually George and Louie came to Fort Wayne, where George married my sister. Louie married Florence Hadjieff, daughter of a shoe cobbler, a very nice family. While George was at Variety Liquors, Louie managed our store on Bluffton Road. I loved Louie, a loyal, good worker, great with customers. George was a little more temperamental. He'd always say, "what's mine is mine; what's yours is yours." He hated the Communists with a passion for having taken over Bulgaria.

In the mid-1960s to the early 1970s I hosted a group of friends and relatives to the World Series, with tickets from the Anheuser-Busch distributor. One year Jim Kelly, the local Buick dealer who leased food trucks to Boris Kostoff, arranged a charter flight to Boston. At a party the first night, we were amazed at all the limousines and celebrities. Our hotel was on the outskirts of the city, and my friend Dick Holmes, the only non-Macedonian in our group, found a limousine chauffeur who would drive us every day and evening for less than taxi rides. At the ballpark, the limousines were directed to a separate entrance, so people looked at us like we were some big shots, smoking our cigars and having a great time.

One year we went to both the National and American League games, flying from Fort Wayne to Kansas City - hoping that Kansas City would win, but they didn't. We stayed overnight, flew the next morning to Los Angeles, where we found that most hotels were fully booked. A morticians' convention was being held at the St. Bonaventure Hotel, so I was able to register all of us by saying I owned a funeral home. I also told the clerk that I sold liquor to the airlines, and she gave us a discounted room rate, because the hotel bought its miniature liquors from the distilleries. We saw three games in Los Angeles, and before we left town our hotel clerk called the Plaza in New York to reserve rooms for us there. "They supply us with the miniature liquors," she told the Plaza person, "so give them the courtesy discount." We flew to New York, and between four of us, Rosie and I, cousin Tommy and his wife, Luba, we had twenty-four pieces of luggage. "The only time we see this much luggage," our LaQuardia baggage handler joked, "is when Elizabeth Taylor comes to town." Conning the New York people, too, we were treated like big shots.

We always had fun on those World Series trips. In Boston at a recommended restaurant, we saw the baseball Commissioner sitting with his staff and the president of the Boston Red Sox. Tommy still laughs about how I walked over to their table and asked if they knew the betting line for the next day's game. They all went silent; didn't get my joke.

I was also active in the Democratic party during those years, with Boris Kostoff and my brother Ivan. Boris had been employed by the city in a political position many years earlier and remained a loyal party member. We worked together and had a good reputation for fundraising. In 1960 we were heavily involved in the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy. Ivan, Boris, another friend Jim Stephans, and I attended the Kennedy inaugural, the parade, and the parties hosted by Indiana Senators Vance Hartke and Birch Bayh.

At that time we had close associations with people in power, both nationally and in the state, particularly with our senators. Ivan became Allen County Democratic chairman, but Boris and I, both having our own businesses, enjoyed politics as an outlet and also as something we could do to help people.

Then in 1970 Senator Hartke, running for his third term, contacted Boris to discuss increasing party membership in Allen County, which has always been Republican. Boris and I met with Hartke and suggested Ivan as the Democratic a candidate for Fort Wayne mayor.

Hartke supported the idea, so we worked to strengthen the party for him and Ivan. The mayor at that time was a Republican, a popular sheriff. Harold Zeis had never lost an election. The former Democratic mayor, Paul Burns, who indicated that he wanted to run again, had been on the ticket when Ivan ran for city judge. We worried about Burns in a primary fight.

"George," Boris said, "there's one way we can stop Burns. We have to get his money." Boris and I went to all the big contributors, the bank presidents, the wheelers and dealers of the city. "Ivan is going to be the Democratic candidate," we told them. "We think we can beat Zeis in the fall, and we need your contribution now, before Ivan announces for the position." Every person we approached contributed, beating Burns to the money, and then beating him in the primary.

Ivan ran a strong campaign in the fall and defeated Zeiss. I had the honor of swearing my brother into office. He was a liberal mayor and had good support on the City Council, trying to help people. I'd always joke with him, "You're liberal with your mouth and conservative with your pocketbook."

He was master of ceremonies one year at the annual statewide fundraiser, the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Indianapolis, with probably two to three thousand people attending. He was becoming a strong presence within the party, and Boris and I discussed with Senator Hartke our plan that Ivan would be mayor for two terms and then seek the Democratic nomination for governor of Indiana. As party treasurer of Allen County when Ivan was mayor, I made all Democratic employees contribute 2 percent of their wages to the party, the "2% Club." Most said OK, but some of the higher-ups didn't like the idea of giving $200 or $300 a year. The first day I went to collect from the employees, one fellow said, "Gee, I want to join, but I don't have any money right now. Will you loan it to me?" I gave him $10 to give back to the party. When I went to the office, I had to say, "Well, this guy didn't have it, that office balked. In the final analysis, I lost $10 trying to collect for the party. I loaned a guy $10 to join the Club."

Ivan had differences with the Republican newspaper, the News-Sentinel, and with some of the Council members. He served only one term as mayor, losing his bid for re-election, then returned to his law practice. He and I, along with our friend Dick Holmes and my cousin Tommy, bought two Otto's liquor stores, setting aside the profits as seed money for Ivan to run in the next mayoral campaign. But when Ivan decided against trying again, I bought the stores, changing the name to Cap n' Cork.

I gradually changed my political thinking and eventually became active in the Republican party. In 1981 Rosie and I, with cousin Tommy and Luba Lebamoff, attended the Ronald Reagan inaugural. We had four great parade seats next to Reagan's box and watched him walk down the sidewalk. In the evening we went to the Indiana Ball, which was great. It felt good to be an American.

At the business, my brother-in-law George Spahiev managed Variety Liquors for nearly nine years. One time my cousin Carl Lebamoff, Tommy's brother, telephoned our home as I was getting out of the shower. "I think somebody robbed your Variety store," he said. I called to Andy to bring my police radio, turned it on, and listened as a squad car policeman told the officer downtown that he checked Laycoff's tavern, nothing happened there; [ went by Variety Liquors, nothing there; went to the Latchstring across the street, nothing. "Must be a false alarm." I contacted the police and was told that someone driving by the store called in a report of a pistol-whipping. Then I called George. "Anyone bothering you, causing any trouble?" "No, nothing," he answered. "Everything quiet."

Two days later he said "Vate a minute. I've got to tell you, the night you called," George spoke in broken English, "we had problems." He never could say the phrase right: "I catch some son a ma beech. The guy said he studying to be a Lutheran minister, and he stole a half pint of Old Crow." "What did you do?" I asked. "I follow him outside, take the pistol and smack him in the head a couple times." "George," I said, "for a dollar and fifty cents you could have killed somebody." "You know something," he answered, "a split second more, and I probably would have killed him." I said, "Let him steal the whiskey. If you get held up, give him the money, don't fight back. Whatever he takes is not worth a life."

Then one day in 1972 a kid on drugs came in. "This is a holdup," he said, pointing a .22 pistol. "I want your money." George reached in the register and gave him about $50. "Here, this is all you're getting." The kid became angry and told George he wanted all the money. "If you want more, you son a ma beech, you come and get it." George hit him and tried to grab the pistol. They struggled and the gun went off, hitting George in a main artery. As the kid ran from the store, George grabbed a six-pack of beer and threw it at him, breaking the window on the front door.

A friend of George's, Sam Branigan, was in the store at the time. He ran to the nearby barbershop and told the owner to call the police and an ambulance. George was taken to Parkview Hospital, where he died about three hours later. He and Marie had one son, Gregory. That was a tragedy in our family, a boy without a father, Marie without a husband. The kid was caught and is still in prison.

My father had died in 1970, and with George's death in 1972, I bought my sister's and brother's shares in the corporation. My mother and I were the only shareholders. Then in 1975 I had an opportunity then to open Indiana's largest and most modern liquor "super store." The Jehl brothers, owners of the Georgetown Square shopping center, were very good to me, providing a 5,000 square-foot corner building with a full basement.

I sold my small stores and took the Liberty Grocery and Gourmet permit to the Georgetown location. We decorated it in a plush 1890s theme, with hardwood floors and an underground wine cellar. Customers came from all over the Midwest to shop at the store, a new concept in alcoholic beverage retailing.

Louie Spahiev moved from the Bluffton Road store, which was sold, to become manager at Georgetown. He and I got along so well. Sometimes a customer would come and say to me, "I want three or four bottles of whiskey, but I want them at a discount." I'd holler at Louie, "Take care of John, give him a good discount." Louie would answer, "I'll take care of him. Each (which in Bulgarian means "nothing"). Louie would talk to the customer, compliment him on his clothes or ask about his car, while ringing up the sale at retail, then put the bottles in a sack. "Thank you, thank you." He wasn't about to give a discount for four bottles of whiskey. Until 1975 the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission had authority to fix prices on liquor and wine, but that year the Indiana General Assembly failed to enact legislation renewing the authorization. Even so, we were expected to continue selling at fixed prices, while state officials worked to pass the needed law. I cut prices by as much as 30 percent, but friends in the business warned me about influence in the industry: "You think you're doing the right thing, but there may be pressure at the local banks to call your notes." I did receive some political heat, including a visit from state excise police and federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms investigators.

A group of liquor-store owners filed a $150 million suit against the ABC and the liquor and wine industry, charging illegal price fixing. Several owners complained of physical threats by distillers and distributors, and one out-of-town warehouse was damaged by a time bomb. I was buying beer from that distributor, who undercut the local competitors by up to $1 a case. With such a discount, I could afford to sell for $1 less and still get my same margin of profit. To guard the Georgetown store, I hired two off-duty Fort Wayne policemen. Boris Kostoff loaned his produce truck and driver, and a man rode "shotgun" when we made the beer purchases.

I was probably the first liquor seller in the state to break the "fair trade" price barrier. Eventually the owners accepted an out-of-court settlement, with the ABC agreeing to abandon its price-fixing system on alcoholic beverage sales in the state. We started operating then in an open market.

We were cited one time for selling liquor to a minor at the Georgetown store. I called the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission chairman, who was always friendly to me. "Here's what happened," I told him. "We sold to a nineteen year old; we're not denying it. Can you help us?" He said he would take care of the citation. "But, be more careful." We posted signs, and some customers became indignant. Louie had a ball bat at the register, and when a 200-pound kid said something derogatory, Louie hit him in the stomach with the bat. "Now get out of here before I club you in the head."

Another time a person stole a bottle of whiskey while Louie was outside, carrying a customer's purchase to his car. When Louie confronted him in the driveway, the thief pulled the bottle from his pants as though he was about to attack. Louie grabbed the bottle, conked the thief on the head, then dragged him by his hair towards the store. Jim Huntine from the Board of Safety and a good friend of mine saw the incident. Showing Louie his badge, he advised, "Let him go. By what you're doing, you become the assailant." Louie was really mad; told the thief to get out "before I kill you."

I enjoyed playing tricks on Louie. One day as he was delivering a purchase to the customer's car I quietly walked from the back of the store, opened the register, took the cash drawer, and hid on the other side of the back room. He came in, probably smiling, and all of a sudden I heard, "Jesus Christ! Someone steal my Goddamn register." Out the back door he ran. I went to the cash register and put the drawer back in it. While he was looking for a thief, I came to the front door. "Hey," he said, "some so and so stole my register." I took him inside, and showed him the money in the register. "What, are you drinking," I asked him. Then we both started laughing. Anyone who knows me knows I enjoy pranks.

Once a couple of liquor salesmen and I went to a nearby Chinese restaurant for lunch. The Chinese host greeted us, very nice and friendly. "We're from the Office of Immigration and Naturalization," I told him. "We want to check the green cards of your employees. In the meantime, you can seat us." One of his men went into the back room. We sat for five, ten, fifteen minutes, and no one came to wait on us.

I motioned to the host. "What's the problem," I asked. "We're short on help today, people sick, don't show up. It will be just a few more minutes." Then I said, "Go tell your help that I'm not from the immigration office. I'm from the liquor store next door. Tell them that wherever they're hiding to come back in and start serving lunch." "Oh, so happy!," he said. He went outside, and from our window we could see them coming from their cars, from a little storage garage. They laughed in the kitchen that we pulled the joke on them.

Another time, coming home from Indianapolis, we stopped at Fred Beck liquor company. We hadn't done business with the firm, but I hoped to make a deal on Cutty Sark. We went inside and a woman asked if she could help us. "Yes, ma'am," I said, "we're from the Internal Revenue Service, and we want to look at your books right now." She asked us to wait a moment, and we could see that she was really hightailing it to the office. She told the manager we were there, and he came out. "Can I help you?" I introduced myself, "George Lebamoff, Cap n' Cork, Fort Wayne. I knew I'd get you out here quick." He started cussing and laughing. We went back to his office and cut a deal on a hundred cases of Cutty Sark.

In the liquor business, from the distilleries to the distributors, the personnel were primarily Jewish. One man, Marvin Lasky, came to me. "George," he said, "you're delinquent on some of your bills." I knew I was late; I was to pay him every fifteen days, and I owed him for three or four weeks. Then he described a plan: "I want you to stock up on whiskey. You owe me about $24,000. Order another $10,000 in whiskey. If you can afford $1,000 a month for thirty-six months, my partner and I will co-sign a loan for you at Anthony Wayne Bank." I told him I could handle the payments, so he gave me a 5% discount on future purchases. After three years a bank officer handed me the paid-off note, which I still have in my files.

Marvin Lasky made millions of dollars in the liquor business, and he was very helpful in making me a better businessman. Whenever someone wanted to offer advice, I was willing to listen. You couldn't offend me if you were trying to help me.

One day, in the late 1970s a Jewish wine merchant said he had a better way to display the whiskey bottles in our Georgetown store. I had half-gallons first, then quarts, fifths, and last were the pints. The customer would walk in the front door and down the aisle, laid out like a grocery store, turn right to see these shelves. "When the customer comes in," he said, "the first thing he sees is the pint bottle. If he doesn't want it, he'll grab the 5th. Why not reverse the order, so that when he comes by the whiskey shelves, he'll see the half-gallon first, which he may buy, but for sure he will take the quart over the fifth. That's an extra dollar in the register. I listened and said, "Only you could think of that." Our assistant manager, Dan Graham, helped rearrange the shelves, and our whiskey sales did increase.

Rosie's father died in 1977, a great man, wonderful grand-lather, and an important help in my business. A couple of years laiter his brother, Rosie's Uncle Pete from Australia, visited us in Fort Wayne. Even though Pete was in poor health by then, he wanted to meet his brother's children.

We were parishioners at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, but I didn't attend services regularly. One Sunday the priest complained that owners of taverns and liquor stores had not been showing up for church but instead were working. Rosie told me about it, so I went to him. "Father," I said, "If I start coming to church and bringing the kids to church, I won't be able to donate as heavily as I have been in the past. I'm using the boys to save labor costs. I've been making extra donations to the church, and I give you free whiskey. That would have to stop." Father understood and didn't make an issue of it again.

As our sons were growing up, they enjoyed snowmobiling through the neighborhood. After one tremendous snowfall, the boys and I went snowmobiling about five in the morning. I told them we would find the city snowplow and that I would pay the driver to clean our streets. We found the snowplow but it had a broken blade, so instead we went to Al's Restaurant in Waynedale and had a good time eating breakfast together.

In the summertime we enjoyed our backyard pool. Every Sunday friends and relatives came with their children for a large cookout. My cousin Tommy, who owned a restaurant, would cook the hamburgers or steaks. During the week, the children would invite school friends to the pool. The boys began playing sports at an early age, and by then I able to participate more in their activities. In the backyard we played baseball, basketball, and football, and the practices made them competitive. They played Little League baseball and became excellent athletes. As quarterback on the high school football team, Andy called a trick play and then carried the ball himself about thirty-five yards for a touchdown. That was a big thrill for his dad, about as much as it was for him.

One of my closest friends, insurance agent Ozzie Mitson, is also of Macedonian descent. I was one of his first customers and am still a loyal customer. For years we have attended the MPO conventions together, and we were at each other's weddings in the 1950s. In addition, we both participate in activities at St. Nicholas. His wife's parents and my parents were friends, she's obviously a friend of mine and Rosie's, and our children today are friends. "It's kind of unusual in America," Ozzie says, "to have three generations of family friends."

One day our daughter Debbie told us she was dating a policeman's son, Joe Doust. His father and I were friends. Joe attended college and worked part-time at a grocery store. The first time he came to our home, I greeted him in boxer shorts. "Oh, what a character," Joe said he thought at the time. "I like this family"

In the late 1970s, Joe began working at our Georgetown store. On his first day, he put on an apron and asked, "What do you want me to do?" I told him to check with Louie, who said, "We need some half gallons on the shelf." Joe grabbed the box, and we never saw anyone cut a box as fast as he did - zip, zip, zip. He took three cases to the front of the store and just as fast gunned the price on the bottles. "I don't care whether he marries Debbie," Louie said. "He's got a job here." Louie just loved Joe, and Joe loved Louie. Louie taught him things, and Joe was a good listener.

In 1980 we built the second largest liquor store in Indiana, the Cap n' Cork at 5430 Coldwater Road, more than 10,000 square feet. That summer our son Andy was sixteen, and he drove Johnny and Tommy to the store several times a week. The three boys vacuumed the floors and cleaned the store; I knew they would do it right. We hired some of Andy's and Johnny's friends when they were high school seniors, although they had to be eighteen in order to work in a liquor store. When Tommy graduated from high school, he attended Purdue University but would help at the store during summer vacations.

With the success of the Coldwater location, we began to plan for further expansion and in 1983 added two more stores. I always wanted to be a part of downtown, so we closed the little store on North Anthony Boulevard and transferred that permit to our new one, at 1031 Broadway. Johnny, who was attending Arizona State University in Tempe, decided to return to Fort Wayne and manage the Broadway store. It was a good challenge, and he liked it.

Our other new location was at Time Corners, 5718 West Jefferson Boulevard, an area of rapid population growth. We had been negotiating to buy a competitor's stores, but he wanted to avoid capital gains taxes by hiding $100,000 of inventory in fixtures. Our certified public accountants would not accept that condition of the transaction, so we withdrew the offer. He sold to a competitor, and we opened the Time Corners store. With six locations, we increased the number of employees from 88 to 110.

As our children grew to adulthood, changes were about to occur. Our eldest, Debbie was the first to wed, marrying Joe Doust in 1979. My hair had become thin, so for the occasion I bought a hairpiece, which I continued wearing for a few years. Tommy, who was about ten years old at the time of Debbie's wedding, had the job of keeping it combed. The head and piece were on the desk in his bedroom, and one time he forgot. "Wake up, get up!" I told him. "You need to fix my wig." Then on our next vacation, Rosie refused to take care of it, and I got tired of doing it, too.

Debbie has been involved with Cap n' Cork, serving as office manager at the Georgetown store. She and Joe are the parents of three children. Little Kara, our first grandchild, was valedictorian of her high school class and is now a student at Cedarville University in Ohio. I really enjoy watching Joshua and Joseph play baseball. They're both talented with the bat and have become excellent fielders.

My Mother died in 1984 at the age of eighty-six. She and my father were married for forty-five years before his 1970 death at age seventy-eight. She was a good mother to her children and she saw all of her grandchildren grow to adulthood. They all remember "Baba."

Our second child, Andy, married Deborah Lewandowski in 1989. Her family is from Illinois, of Polish descent. Andy and Deb's first child, Daniel, died at birth. They now have three beautiful and bright children, Olivia, Natalie, and a very cute toddler, Nolan.

During the summer of 1986, Tommy married Alexia Kaplanis from Fort Wayne. Her ancestors emigrated from a little village in northern Greece called Itea. We got to know her mother and father and other relatives, and met her lovely grandmother on a visit to Greece. After college graduation, Tommy accepted a consulting job in Chicago with Accenture where he become an Associate Partner and he is now a Partner with Diamond Cluster International - a business strategy consulting firm.

He and Alexia are parents of four darling daughters, Chloe, Ciara, Claire, and their baby sister, Whitney. Chloe and Ciara are excellent gymnasts and all around athletes. We're grateful Tommy and his family live only four hours away. They come here and we visit there several times a year. By 1989 Andy was manager of the Coldwater Road Cap n' Cork. Our son-in-law Joe Doust became manager of the Georgetown store, and Johnny managed the Broadway Cap n' Cork. He later went into the paintball business, and now is in the construction and marble business in Scottsdale, Arizona. A good-looking guy, he's not married, and I say he should go to Macedonia to find a nice young girl. And when I'm in Macedonia, I tell the young women there about him.

In 1989 we opened the Casual Gourmet, a grocery/bakery/deli next door to a new Cap n' Cork at 4520 Lima Road. The food store offered ham, turkey, and corned beef from New York, Greek and Italian olive oils, California gourmet coffees, Greek and Bulgarian cheeses, London chocolates, and locally made pastries.

A major factor in our success has been the assistance of so many loyal employees. Charlie McNulty, a little Catholic high school boy, started with me at Georgetown about twenty-five years ago for 25 cents an hour. I'd tell him to clean, take boxes to the dumpster; whatever I asked, he'd do. "You know," he said after about a month, "I've been working pretty hard. How about a pay raise?" So I gave him 50 cents an hour, and then a dollar an hour. He would sweep the store and sidewalk every day after school, shovel the walk, wash the driveways. When he graduated, he came to work full time. At the Coldwater store, he'd wash the driveway two or three times a week, and every Sunday morning he'd wash the outside of the store while my sons cleaned up on the inside. The store was immaculate.

Brent Parker, our beer buyer, has been with us for twenty years; Larry Howard for probably thirty-five years. Rose Stutz, who manages the Georgetown office, has worked for us for twenty-five years.

Jane Kuntz began as a Cap n' Cork cashier in 1982. In the 1960s and '70s she and her husband, Walter, operated West State Package store. They rented the building from Rosie's father, "who would come in once a month," Jane remembers, "to collect his rent and visit with us. He was a lonely widower, a very nice man."

In 1980, as larger stores were buying out smaller ones, Jane and Walter sold their business to Warehouse Liquors, and he died the following year. A couple of years later as she was shopping at the Coldwater store, I said, "Jane, do you want to come to work here?" She said, "Well, for maybe a short time." She's been there for eighteen years, knows all of our children and grandchildren. Jane enjoys working with the younger men and women; "keeps me young," she says.

In 1995, when I was about sixty-eight, my son Andy and son-in-law Joe said, "It's time to retire, time to give up the reins and sell the business to us." Andy and Joe have proven to be a good business team; each handles different parts of the operation. I'm proud that they are doing so well, expanding to fourteen Cap n' Cork locations in the Fort Wayne area, and they are the largest beer and wine retailer in Indiana.

I taught my children about business just as my father taught me: The customer is always right; don't argue. Don't fix the problem; resolve the problem. I think we've shown that this is a respectable business, with people who care about providing good service.

We're always with our children and grandchildren for everyone's birthdays, regardless of age. A couple of years ago I made travel plans for Europe, not remembering about our two grandchildren's birthdays in May. When I realized it, I changed the plans because I knew they'd be upset. Now I look at the calendar and try to do everything around their birthdays. We usually go to Arizona for a few weeks at the end of February, after Olivia's and Rosie's birthdays and our anniversary. Then we come back by April, for Nolan's birthday.

I have fun trying to teach the grandchildren a few of the rhyming Macedonian proverbs, which don't make any sense in English. One of their favorites is "Ochi, Uchi, Tikva Buchi," which translates as "learn, learn, you're still a pumpkinhead." They get the words all mixed up, then start laughing. Another is "Bodolla," "you are a fool." They get a big kick out of trying to say it.

When Rosie was a young girl, she had only one grandmother, Baba Despa, whom she loved dearly. I never knew any of my grandparents. Now when one of my grandchildren gives me a kiss or little hug, I feel what I missed growing up without grandparents. Rosie and I love all of our grandchildren very, very much.

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