Thirty years ago I sent Wilfred Woods, publisher of The Wenatchee World, a newsletter from the church I was serving in Northern California. The little parish paper included a devotional editorial I had written for my congregation in which I reflected on my childhood memories of the Owl Drugstore soda fountain.
In the newsletter, I compared my hometown watering hole to the culture of Cheers (that fictional Boston bar from the 1980s TV sitcom of the same name) “where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came.”
To my delight, Wilfred referenced my newsletter article in his front-page editorial. His willingness to publish excerpts of my work was an inspiration to me. I began to write “letters to the editor” and proceeded to write articles about The Owl Soda Fountain for publication in a myriad of periodicals across the country.
Since that time, my love for writing has resulted in 12 books and over 300 magazine articles. I was features reporter for a suburban Chicago newspaper for five years, and I have been a columnist for the Mercer Island Reporter for the past 12 years.
Two years ago, the editorial department at The World gave me my own “faith and values” column.
Looking back, I credit Wilfred Woods as my inspiration. In the following poem, I picture the late publisher of my hometown newspaper as a wooded grove of giant trees in whose shadow I took root as a would-be writer. Peace to his memory!
A Tribute to Wilfred Woods
Wilfred Woods was holy ground.
That's where so long ago I found
encouragement to pen my truth
and publish what I saw.
In Wilfred Woods I sought some shade
to face the heat where once I’d played
and hear a critic’s voice suggest
I learn how to rewrite.
In Wilfred Woods I found the nerve
to risk rejection as I served
a readership who wondered if
my truth was theirs as well.
In Wilfred Woods my dreams came true.
My urge to write that I pursued
was celebrated by a World
that took a chance on me.
Yes, Wilfred Woods would call to me
and I’d respond most gratefully.
Within the heart of that old growth,
I knew I had a home.
Greg Asimakoupoulos is a Wenatchee native living on Mercer Island, where he is the Faith/Values columnist for the Mercer Island Reporter.