How To Forget: A Daughter’s Memoir by Kate Mulgrew

Stage and screen actress Kate Mulgrew grew up in Dubuque, Iowa and has been acting since her breakthrough role starring as Mary Ryan in the 1975 ABC soap opera Ryan’s Hope. Her second autobiography released in 2019. How To Forget: A Daughter’s Memoir, is both a heart-wrenching and heart-warming account of both her parent’s, father Thomas James (T.J.) and mother Joan, their lives and their deaths.

Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway, Star Trek Voyager, and Galina “Red” Reznikov in the Netflix series Orange Is The New Black

Kate Mulgrew’s large Irish-Catholic family included seven siblings, and with her father’s outgoing personality, the house was constantly filled with friends over for drinks and dancing. She writes about her family experiences, the good, the bad, and the ugly. She explores in depth taking on a new role, that of caregiver to her parents.

Her father, T.J., died of lung cancer in 2003, and her mother Joan afflicted with the insidious Alzheimer’s disease since 1998, died in 2006 at the age of 78.

Kate Mulgrew explains how her family was impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. (2004)

Caregiving for Parents

For families impacted by having loved one’s with afflicted with terminal illness, it is a challenge that supersedes most other challenges. Work schedules are altered, in some cases jobs are abandoned. Monetary losses can be overwhelming, as our current healthcare system does not fully cover all expenditures. As a caregiver, your life is put on hold, for as long as it takes with seemingly no end in sight.

Kate Mulgrew was performing in the stage play Tea For Five, a one-woman role playing Katherine Hepburn at two stages in here life: during her early career success, and later in life, as an older Hepburn deals with the effects of aging and impact to her acting career. It was during this time when she received word her father was quite ill. She decided to quit the production, almost unheard of for actors to step away from a popular project, and at the risk of negatively impacting her own career aspirations.

Her father T.J. was a very stubborn man, and being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, he wanted no part of any treatment – no chemotherapy, no surgery, nothing. He died within three week’s of the initial diagnosis.

With her mother Joan diagnosed with Alzheimer’s five years earlier in 1998, the house in Dubuque was accommodated to provide for her mother to be on one floor of their multi-level home. (In fact, this area was setup year’s earlier, when Kate’s younger sister Tess, died from brain cancer at the age of 14). Kate’s nanny for her children, Lucy, had agreed to take on the primary caregiving role for Kate’s mother.

Kate Mulgrew with her mother Joan, for Alzheimer’s awareness. (Lifetime – 2007)


Kate was often away from home working on various stage and screen projects during the years her sons were young. To care for her two sons, she hired a nanny named Lucy Ledezma. When Joan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Lucy graciously offered her services to help Kate and the Mulgrew family through this ordeal.

Lucy, who migrated from Mexico years earlier, was separated from her first true love back in Mexico. Kate saw to it to help Lucy reunite with Javier, and they were properly married at the local establishment at the old Dancer McDonald House in Dubuque.

Kate Mulgrew’s honest recounting about loss, betrayal, hurt and anger will speak to those who have been through similar experiences. Currently, 5.5 million Americans are afflicted. In thirty years, it is estimated more than 16 million American’s will have Alzheimer’s disease.

“Life’s so brief. We’re, at every juncture, staring mortality in the face. It’s the very least we can do if we think it will be of any interest or value, to share the past. And although mine’s been crooked, it’s also been splendid.” -Kate Mulgrew

If you have a family member, or someone you know has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you are not alone. The Alzheimer’s Association has resources to obtain help and support for you and your family.

The Senator and the Socialite: The True Story of America’s First Black Dynasty by Lawrence Otis Graham

After the Civil War in the 1860’s, the United States government began the era of Reconstruction ending the Confederate secession and slavery, making the newly freed slaves citizens with civil rights guaranteed by three new Constitutional amendments.

The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in 1865, the Fourteenth Amendment addressed citizenship rights and equal protection of all persons in 1868, and the Fifteenth Amendment prohibits discrimination in voting rights of citizens on the basis of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” in 1870. But with the enactment of State and Federal Jim Crow laws in the 1880’s, coupled with Supreme Court decisions (Slaughter-House Cases 1873, Plessy v. Ferguson 1896), rapidly threw civil-rights for all people of color into chaos.

As the Reconstruction Era was short-lived, as some white citizens were appalled at the new freedom (and power) given to African Americans, and their efforts circumvented progress in civil-rights and the ultimate demise of the Reconstruction Era in 1877.

The Republican party (the liberal party of Abraham Lincoln,) favored ending slavery and covering civil-rights to all people. Democrats, who were conservatives, and many were slave-owners, were opposed to civil-rights’ efforts.

Senator Blanche Bruce

In Graham’s 2006 book, The Senator and the Socialite: The True Story of America’s First Black Dynasty, explores the life of Blanche Bruce, who became the first African-American to serve a full-term Senate seat from Mississippi. Bruce was born a slave in Farmville, Virginia in 1841 to his father Pettus Perkinson, the white owner of the plantation, where his mother Polly was enslaved.

Senator Blanche Bruce from Mississippi

Bruce spent six years in the U.S. Senate (1875-1881), then gained appointments under four presidents (Garfield, Arthur, Harrison, and McKinley), culminating with a top Treasury post, which placed his name on all U.S. currency.

U.S. Treasury $100 Bill with Blanche Bruce’s signature

Bruce had acquired an 800-acre plantation, homes in four states, and a fortune that allowed their only son, Roscoe, to attend Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard University, beginning in 1896.

His accumulated wealth transferred to his family after he died in 1898. His wife Josephine became caretaker their farms in Mississippi. Living in Washington D.C., she had to rely on people in Mississippi to support their properties. As Jim Crow laws and the Ku Klux Klan gained momentum, these white caretakers essentially pilfered Josephine much of her savings, and the properties were sold at a mere fraction of what they were worth. Their only son was nowhere to be found to lend a hand to his mother.

Roscoe Conkling Bruce

As anti-immigration, and anti-black baked into the American consciousness during the late 19th and mid-20th centuries, Roscoe adopted the approach of Booker T. Washington, who propelled the notion of blacks to focus on learning trades, and dismiss efforts to learn about the humanities, language and arts in school. Roscoe, as well as his wife Clara, worked for Washington at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama after he graduated from Harvard in 1902. Roscoe Bruce, essentially squandered the family wealth during his lifetime.

Roscoe Conkling Bruce

Clara Bruce was educated at Howard University (1900 – 1901), Radcliffe College (1901 – 1903), and Boston University Law School (1923 – 1926). Clara passed the Massachusetts State Bar Examination, the second African American woman to do so. She was undergraduate Editor of the Boston Law Review (1925 – 1926). 

Many elite African-Americans chose to alter their names to appear more white, in efforts to distance themselves from being black. Descendants of the Bruce family have merged into the shadows since that time. In fact, during a 2002 ceremony at the U.S. Capital Building in Washington D.C., to unveil the portrait of Bruce, only one member of the family appeared.

W.E.B. DuBois

W.E.B DuBois, born in Great Barrington MA, and was the first African-American to receive a doctorate from Harvard. He was against Washington’s philosophy of suppressing blacks to white-political rule. DuBois insisted on full civil rights and increased political representation for all African-Americans. He was one of the founder’s of the NAACP in 1909. Du Bois believed that capitalism was a primary cause of racism, and he was an ardent peace activist.

W.E.B. DuBois

End of the 20th Century

Graham’s book offers a unique insight into the politics and social injustice during this time. The rise of the Ku Klux Klan and White Nationalism, accompanied with the installation of monuments to confederate war criminals in the early 1900s, and the segregation of blacks from whites from Universities, restaurants, hotels and playgrounds, culminated into expanded powers to suppress African-Americans from equal standing with whites.

Three landmark events in the 20th century fundamentally ended Jim Crow-era laws. The Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education 1954, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 enabled the realization of benefits from the 13th, 14th, 15th Amendments.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. August 28, 1963

21st Century

Lawrence Otis Graham – Interview from 2014

Entering the 21st century, the United States is undergoing a major transformation population shift in demographics. By 2050, whites will no longer be the majority of the populace. Since the short-lived period of Reconstruction, African-Americans and other minorities will be able to regain power in government, and implement civil-right solutions to address current problems of desegregation, abusive judicial practices, racism, voting rights, and other methods imposed onto them by longstanding Jim Crow laws and beliefs.

And another group who have been suppressed in our country’s history, women, are poised to gain even more seats in Congress, enough to help implement important civil-rights’ causes for our country’s future. Like Clara Bruce from 100 years ago, women are poised to garner leadership positions in our American culture, and change society for the better.

Senator Blanche Bruce paved the way for African-Americans as a beacon of light to achieve success in business and politics, albeit it took well over a century to do so.

“It’s not just an African-American story, but an American story that bridges so much of our history from the Civil War and Reconstruction to Modern Times that brings together so many great people that he and his family brought together.” – Lawrence Otis Graham

Endling Book 2 by Katherine Applegate

I enjoyed Appelgate’s wonderful second book in this tale of a mix of differing species coming together to save the world from lawlessness, corruption, and extinction.

In this engaging adventure, a surprising number of serious themes emerge: the relationship of family to identity, the importance of expansive gender roles, the dangers of authoritarian government and misinformation, the looming threat of species extinction and the destructive appetites of humankind.

The Endling Series – Cast of Characters

The continuing story of the team of Byx (the Dairne), Tobble (the Wobbyk), Khara Donati (human), Renzo (human thief), and Gambler (the Felivet) to find out if Byx is the last of her species as they seek Dairneholme, an island shrouded in mystery. It is unknown if there are any living Dairnes left, as their species is on the brink of extinction.

Meanwhile, war is coming between differing species and Khara believes this is senseless. As they discover new regions, they make new friends of an insect species (Terramants), underwater creatures (Natites), and Sabito Seventalon (Riverhawk.) The team has to split up to pursue different agendas, with Khara seeking to lead her clan and unite with age-old rivals, while Byx, Maxyn, and Sabito continue to search for dairnes.

This book is considered for Young Adults (YA), however, non-young adults will find Applegate’s storytelling to be compelling. This is the second of three books in this series, and the final book is planned for release in 2020.

Katherine Applegate: 2018 National Book Festival. She provides a recap of all of her works to date.

“Endling is a word that you will not find in most dictionaries. The word has been recently employed because were are seeing the sixth great extinction. We’re losing massive quantities of species, and this time, it appears to be man-made.” – Katherine Applegate

The Perfect Wrong Note: Learning to Trust Your Musical Self – William Westney

William Westney’s book THE PERFECT WRONG NOTE was released in 2003 to critical acclaim. According to the Library Journal, it is a well-thought-out approach to which many aspire, but which few attain, and American Record Guide described it as refreshing and rewarding.

Westney asks the reader “Is perfectionism healthy or not?  Should we avoid mistakes or embrace them?  How can our musical pursuits keep their natural joyousness?”

William Westney describes his research concentrating on nonverbal interactions and understandings, and how these apply to the performance, teaching and aesthetics of music.

“If learning to play a particular piece of music is a journey, then that journey of knowledge isn’t quite complete without the culminating stage of public performance, even if it is for an audience of one.”

The Perfect Wrong Note p.119

Developed by Westney in the 1990s, The Un-Master Class® is a unique performance workshop, designed as a lively, engaging alternative to the traditional master-class. Starting with interactive group warm-ups, an environment is created that builds trust and breaks down barriers to artistic expression. The class then focuses on prepared performances by selected participants by:

  • Helping performers communicate compellingly with the audience,
  • Reconnecting participants with their exuberant, natural physical intuition about music,
  • Assisting performers to reach new, significant levels of artistry.

In recognition of the contribution made by The Perfect Wrong Note to the field of music teaching, in 2012 Music Teachers National Association honored William Westney with the “Frances Clark Keyboard Pedagogy Award.”

Research team (in order of appearance on video): William Westney, Michael O’Boyle, Jinzhou (James) Yang (Texas Tech University), Cynthia M. Grund (University of Southern Denmark). Musical selections from “Lyric Pieces” by Edvard Grieg.

Luis Tiant – Son of Havana, A Baseball Journey From Cuba To The Big Leagues And Back

Luis Tiant was a major league pitcher from 1964 to 1982, and just released his second biography in May 2019. His account takes us through his tremendous success in baseball against the backdrop of political crisis between Cuba and the United States, and racism faced during his career, completing with a remarkable journey for Tiant and his family.

Tiant’s father, Luis Sr., was a talented left-handed pitcher from 1926 – 1948 in the Negro Leagues, playing for the New York Cubans. His father didn’t want Luis Jr, to play baseball in the U.S., for he witnessed first-hand the degree of racism and bigotry in the country.

The Cleveland Indians provided Tiant with a contract in 1961. However, the Bay of Pigs U.S. invasion of Cuba earlier in the year prevented Tiant from returning to Cuba. (Tiant could go back, but it was likely he would not have been allowed to leave the country). For the next 14 years, Tiant was unable to see his mother and father. Finally, in 1975, Fidel Castro granted travel for Tiant Sr. and his wife to visit their son in Boston.

Cleveland’s farm system brought Tiant to Charleston North Carolina in 1963, then to Portland Oregon the following year. “I couldn’t speak very good English but I understand racism. They treated me like a dog, but when I got to Portland, I didn’t have any problems.

In 1970, Cleveland traded Tiant to Minnesota, and during a game early in the season, he injured his should while pitching. Once a pure fastball flame-thrower, Tiant had to alter his pitching delivery. He created an incredible wind-up, tossing and twisting his body, often looking straight up to the sky as he delivered the ball to home plate. He added a variety of pitch-types: sinker, screwball, curveball, sometimes throwing over hand, sometimes delivering the ball sidearm. Batters were constantly off-guard and downright confused as to what they were facing.

“I didn’t do it (pitch like he did) for show. I did it to get batters out. Players would tell me, ‘We can’t tell where the ball is coming from.'” -Luis Tiant

Tiant was traded at the end of the 1971 season to the Boston Red Sox, and for the next six years, he was the Red Sox ace, a three-time 20-game winner amassing 121 victories from 1972 to 1978.

Pitcher Luis Tiant ignites a six-run rally in Game One of the 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Curt Gowdy, Dick Stockton Broadcasting for NBC Sports.

Tiant signed with the New York Yankees, dreaded rivals of the Red Sox in 1978. Tiant was in the office of George Steinbrenner, owner of the Yankees, when he had Steinbrenner call Boston General Manager Haywood Sullivan, in a last ditch effort for the Red Sox to sign Tiant. When the Red Sox failed to match the Yankees offer, Tiant became a New York Yankee pitcher.

For several years, Tiant was shunned from Fenway Park. Things turned around quickly when the new owners of Red Sox, led by John Henry, acquired the team in December 2001. To the delight of Red Sox Nation, and to Luis as well, Tiant was brought back to the Fenway family.

This book has so many varied stories of Tiant’s life; facing prejudice and racism, providing leadership on and off the ball field, dealing with family separation, and being a central figure throughout Boston’s turbulent time during the busing crisis.

1975– Luis Tiant Sr, throwing out the first pitch at Fenway, while his proud son looks on.


Shoot For The Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11 – James Donovan

James Donovan’s Shoot For The Moon – The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11 is a detailed account of the U.S. space program, from it’s inception during the 1950s, culminating at the end of the tortuous decade of the 1960s, with the triumph and historic moon landing in July 1969.

After the end of World War II in 1945, the United States entered into a decade of economic and technological growth and prosperity. President Eisenhower felt the U.S. was far ahead of the U.S.S.R. in guided missile technology based upon U-2 reconnaissance reports. However, Eisenhower also downplayed the role of space to be used for military purposes, and cautioned Americans to the role of the “military-industrial complex”. Eisenhower had the insight to offer to the Russians in January 1958 “outer space should be used for peaceful purposes.” The Russians dismissed this idea. Given the additional expenditures and bureaucracy, Eisenhower demurred the promotion of space exploration. In May 1958, Russia successfully launched its satellite, Sputnik 3, into orbit around the earth. This set off America to focus energy to a new founded space race.

In July 1958, the Democratic-controlled congress chartered NASA, and on October 1, 1958, NASA was officially operational. In just six-months, NASA announced it’s maiden crew of astronauts, the Mercury 7, on April 9, 1959.

As the fifties came to a close, a new decade, with a new president, would gain the reigns of NASA.

President John F. Kennedy May 1961 proclamation of “…sending man to the moon, and returning safely to the earth.” laid a bold marker for American technology and table-set this ambitious goal.

President John F. Kennedy’s Proclamation, Rice University May 1961

The Mercury 7 Program

NASA’s Mercury program spanned five years with six missions between May 1961 and May 1963. The program consisted of a single man in the spacecraft. NASA had many pilots selected and embarked on a rigorous training schedule to stress-test physical and mental capacities and capabilities. They whittled this group down to these seven men; Lt. M. Scott Carpenter, Capt. Gordon Cooper, Col. John H. Glenn Jr., Capt. Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Lt. Comdr. Walter Schirra, Lt. Comdr. Alan B. Shepard Jr. and Capt. Donald K. “Deke” Slayton.

The original seven Mercury astronauts are shown during training at NASA Langley Research Center in March 1961 in their flight suits. From left, Lt. M. Scott Carpenter, Capt. Gordon Cooper, Col. John H. Glenn Jr., Capt. Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Lt. Comdr. Walter Schirra, Lt. Comdr. Alan B. Shepard Jr. and Capt. Donald K. “Deke” Slayton. (AP Photo/Nasa)

The Mercury 7 Astronauts were portrayed in the 1983 movie based upon the best-selling book The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe.

The Gemini Program

NASA’s Project Gemini was a series of two-astronaut spaceflights that set the stage for Project Apollo and the eventual manned moon landings. The “new nine” astronauts comprised the Gemini program, with three from the Mercury 7 team. The first crewed Gemini flight, Gemini III, lifted off Launch Pad 19 at 9:24 a.m. EST on March 23, 1965. The spacecraft “Molly Brown” carried astronauts Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, command pilot, and John W. Young, pilot, on three orbits of Earth. Grissom had his humor naming the craft after the Broadway hit ‘The Unsinkable Molly Brown”, after his Liberty 7 Mercury program capsule sunk to the bottom of the Pacific. He wanted to name the craft “Titanic”, but NASA administration did not think well of his idea.

Gemini flights had become so normal, pictures sent back to earth from astronauts in space were no longer met with awe. With the War in Vietnam now raging, Americans began to ask at what cost should the space program continue?

All Gemini astronauts, would continue into the Apollo mission. The Gemini program exceeded many of it’s goals of docking two spacecrafts, the use of more powerful thrusters to enable more maneuverability of the craft, and longer duration of time in space for astronauts, including spacewalks outside of the craft. All of which was on purpose, in the lead up to the next goal – spaceflight to the moon, and back, with the Apollo program.

NASA was well positioned to launch the Apollo program in January 1967, after the highly successful accomplishments of the Gemini program.

Astronaut Ed White performed the first American spacewalk during the Gemini 4 mission on June 3, 1965. (NASA)

The Saturn Rocket

Former Nazi-party member Wernher von Braun, worked as an aerospace engineer on Germany’s V-2 rocket. U.S. intelligence carried out Operation Paperclip, a secret program with more than 1,600 German scientists, engineers and technicians were relocated from Germany to work for the U.S. government, between 1945-1959. Wernher von Braun was involved with the Mercury missions, but not the Gemini missions, as his Saturn rocket was undergoing tests during the Gemini program. The Saturn rocket system became an integral part of the Apollo program.

Dr. Werhner von Braun, standing in front of the Saturn V Rocket (NASA)

The Apollo Program

Aerospace engineer John Houbolt, first practical concept of the Apollo program, 1962. Photo By NASA/LARC/Bob Nye – Great Images in NASA Description, Public Domain,

Apollo included three-man mission spaceflights, including six missions landing on the moon and returning safely to Earth. Apollo had started in 1960, as engineers grappled with the best way to to achieve a moon landing.

Fun Fact: MIT computer scientist Margaret Hamilton and her team developed the Apollo guidance software.

“Because software was a mystery, a black box, upper management gave us total freedom and trust. We had to find a way and we did. Looking back, we were the luckiest people in the world; there was no choice but to be pioneers.” – MIT Scientist Margaret Hamilton

Documenting the Apollo guidance software. Margaret Hamilton, MIT 1969 (MIT Museum)

Apollo 1 – January 1967

During a routine pre-planned test of the command module, astronauts Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White perished in a fire inside the command module. After highly successful spaceflights in the Mercury and Gemini missions, this tragedy stung America, and put the entire Apollo program in jeopardy.

A post-review showed the fire was caused by a short in the wire below Grissom’s seat. Over twenty miles of electrical wire was contained in the cramped confines of the command module. The module had a pure 100% oxygen environment, and coupled with flammable clothing, velcro straps and other material inside the module, this was a recipe for disaster. The hatch door was bolted from the outside, and there was no way for the crew to exit.

To not have a 100% oxygen environment by introducing nitrogen would have added another system unit in the craft, one that NASA previously deemed wasn’t necessary as it saved on added weight, as well as cost. Adding nitrogen to diffuse a complete oxygen environment, along with providing means for crew members to exit the spacecraft, were some of the measure taken to add safety measures in future missions.

Apollo 1 Crew: Ed White, Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee (NASA)

Moving Forward with Apollo

The next five Apollo missions were unmanned flights to test the Saturn rocket system. Apollo 7 launched October 11, 1968, was the first Apollo mission with crew members Wally Shirra Walt Cunningham, and Donn Eisele. Apollo 8 launched a few months later on December 21, 1968, and was the first flight to the Moon. Crew members Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders completed 10 lunar orbits.

Apollo 7 – Marking NASA’s Comeback after the Apollo 1 Tragedy

July 20, 1969 – The Moon Landing

In July 1969, Apollo 11 was the milestone mission which fulfilled President Kennedy’s 1961 goal to have man set foot on the Moon, and return safely to Earth. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins made history, and in the concluding year of a tumultuous decade, the world was witness to a triumph of epic proportions.

Apollo 11 Crew Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin (NASA)
Apollo 11 – Lunar Module Landing on the Moon “Houston, Tranquility Base here, The Eagle Has Landed.” -Neil Armstrong (NASA)
Apollo 11 – July 1969 (NASA)

In all, there were eleven manned Apollo missions, with Apollo 17 in December 1972 being the final mission. Crew members Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Harrison Schmitt successfully reached the Moon, and brought back 243 pounds of Moon rock samples.

NASA had planned three more Apollo missions, however these were cancelled due to lack of government funding.

After Apollo

Following the end of the Apollo program, the U.S. and Russian governments fulfilled what was once forbidden, jointly cooperating resources for space exploration. The current International Space Station (ISS) is just that; five space agencies ( NASA – U.S.; Roscosmos – Russia, JAXA – Japan, ESA – Europe, CSA – Canada) have collaborated since 1998 to conducted space experiments in biology, physics, astronomy, and meteorology. In addition, testing of human physical endurance and in preparation for trips to Mars are conducted on the ISS.

The U.S. embarked upon the Space Shuttle system to further explore space. Shuttle missions were designed not for traveling to the moon. The technological advancement was the use of a reusable vehicle, a “Space Truck”, to shuttle humans and resources to and from the ISS. The tragedies of Challenger (1986) and Columbia (2003) defined the perpetual risks to space flight. Since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011, U.S. astronauts assigned to the ISS utilize Russian rockets for transport

NASA’s Insight Sets Heat Probe on Mars Surface – February 2019 (NASA)

Since NASA’s Viking landers reached Mars in the 1970s, several countries have sent probes to begin the process of exploring the planet for future missions Mars. The costs for a manned mission to Mars are exorbitant, and will require the resources, and forward-thinking energies from many countries to team together and achieve this goal.

Tetralogy of Fallot

50 years ago, on April 30, 1969, I underwent successful open-heart surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital to repair a heart birth defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot. For my 50th anniversary, this article provides insight into the history of medical advancements with congenital heart defects, my experiences during the early days of hospitalization, and looking back over the past half-century.

Early Years: 1800s – 1955

Given the wide variety and effectiveness of cardiovascular surgical techniques that are now routinely used, it is remarkable how, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the surgical treatment of heart disease was considered to be outside the limits of propriety and acceptability. The consensus in the medical field at the time was not to even think about touching the heart for repairs. The heart was beyond limits for attempting any type of surgery for reparations.

In 1891, Henry C. Dalton in St. Louis was the first surgeon to repair a pericardial wound in a human being. A similar success was achieved by Daniel Hale Williams in Chicago, in 1893. In 1906, Ludwig Rehn of Frankfurt Germany compiled a summary of 124 cases of cardiac-wound repair that had been performed in Europe during the 1890s and thereafter. The survival rate of 40% was remarkable for that period.1

Dr. Etienne-Louis Fallot (1850–1911) from the University of Marseille in France, showed that affected babies had an abnormal heart, meaning that not all of their blood was directed to the lungs for oxygenation. He described the condition in the his paper “l’anatomie pathologique
de la maladie bleue” in 1888. The condition includes four distinct developmental errors, and is known as tetralogy of Fallot. 2

Dr. Fallot

1930’s – Boston Children’s Hospital – Dr. Robert Gross

Dr. Robert Gross founded the cardiology department at Children’s Hospital in Boston MA in the 1930s, and performed the first surgical correction of a congenital malformation that causes abnormal blood flow between two of the major arteries connected to the heart. 7-year old Lorraine Sweeney suffered from “…a congenital heart condition known as patent ductus arteriosus, a passageway between the pulmonary artery and the aorta that’s supposed to close after birth — but doesn’t.” 3

“By today’s standards, Dr. Gross performed a relatively simple type of surgery,” said Dr. Alexander Nadas, former Children’s cardiologist-in-chief, in an interview in 1988 marking the 50th anniversary of Lorraine’s operation. “He didn’t have to go inside the chambers of the heart to do the job; he just tied off a little tube – simple. Yet, this was the clear-cut beginning of modern heart surgery.” 3

Patient Lorraine Sweeney with Dr. Robert Gross

1962 – Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital – Dr. Robert Pontious

Born in New Eagle PA and raised in Monongahela PA south of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, I entered the world born a “Blue Baby”. My skin color was not of normal pink, but of an abnormal blueish tone. Tetralogy of Fallot (ToF) is the reason for the “Blue Baby”, a congenital heart defect, with an array of these conditions:

  • Pulmonary stenosis, narrowing of the exit from the right ventricle
  • A ventricular septal defect, a hole between the two ventricles
  • Right ventricular hypertrophy, thickening of the right ventricular muscle
  • An overriding aorta, which allows blood from both ventricles to enter the aorta
Just prior to the Blalock-Taussig-Thomas shunt surgery January 1963
Post-surgery, showing off my new scar. Notice the color of my lips to the previous picture. With normal blood flow to the heart, my circulation dramatically improved.

At six-months of age, I underwent the first of two heart surgeries to repair ToF. At Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh PA, Dr. Robert Pontius, a Navy veteran of WWII and Korean War, performed the Blalock-Taussig-Thomas shunt in January 1963. At Harvard Medical School, Dr. Pontius trained under his uncle, Dr. Robert Gross of Children’s Hospital in Boston.

“That operation brought Pittsburgh into the era of open-heart surgery, and it took a lot of nerve to do it, a special kind of person. These babies were clearly really sick, and we knew what we should do for them, but the mortality rate was very high.” said Dr. Frederic Sherman, pediatric cardiologist at Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital.4

Dr. Robert Pontious

This surgical repair is known as the Blalock – Taussig – Thomas Shunt. At Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Dr. Alfred Blalock (1899-1964) teamed with Dr. Helen Taussig (1898 – 1986), and Dr. Vivien Thomas (1910-1985) in the 1940s to develop a procedure still used today.

“Dr. Taussig came to Dr. Gross, with her idea for the surgical procedure, but he didn’t find it worth pursuing.  So it was up to Dr. Blalock at Johns Hopkins and his assistant Vivien Thomas to give her idea a try.” – Dr. Joan Pontius, daughter of Dr. Robert Pontius.

Blalcok-Taussig-Thomas Shunt

At Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD., Dr. Alfred Blalock (1899-1964) teamed with Dr. Helen Taussig (1898 – 1986), and Dr. Vivien Thomas (1910-1985) in the 1940s to develop a procedure still used today. In 2004, HBO produced the movie Something The Lord Made, based upon these events. Starring Mary Stuart Masterson as Dr. Helen Taussig, Mos Def as lab technician Vivien Thomas, and Alan Rickman as Dr. Alfred Blalock, the movie depicts the research methods used for the groundbreaking surgical operation, along the backdrop of deep racial divides of the Jim Crow era during the 1930s and 1940s.

In the 1940s, however, ToF patients did not have a good rate of long-term survival. Over the next decade, further research determined infant’s blood vessels needed to grow in order to fulfill the proper blood circulation in the body. The medical community determined that a more invasive open-heart, second surgery would be required for Blalock-Taussig-Thomas shunt procedure patients when they grew older, and their arteries were more stable.

HBO Movie Something the Lord Made
Trailer for HBO’s Something the Lord Made 2003

1969 – Boston Children’s Hospital – Dr. Alexander Nadas

In 1969 at Boston Children’s Hospital, my cardiologist was Dr. Alexander Nadas. Born in Hungary, he emigrated to the United States in 1938, just prior to Hitler’s murderous rampage and extermination of over 400,000 Hungarian Jews during WWII. Dr. Nadas was interviewed in 1993 by David Dyer and remarked:

“I credit Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal with raising the level of economics in this country. Rheumatic fever is really a social disease, which is a terminology usually reserved for venereal disease. Nobody had time for the unfortunate babies who were born with deformed hearts. They were lost in this big pool of rheumatic fever, nobody paid any attention to them.

There was nothing you could do for them until Dr. Robert E.Gross started operating on patients in 1938. So, with the disappearance of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease, came the emergence of cardiac surgery for children. Not infants — infants came much later. By the time I came to Children’s in 1949 to start the cardiology department we were dealing almost exclusively with congenital disease.” 5

Dr Alexander S. Nadas

In Pittsburgh, doctors told my parents in 1963 when I entered my teenage years, I would need a second and more dramatic, open-heart surgery to close the opening between the two bottom chambers of the heart. It turns out, a second surgery is a requirement for infants with Tetralogy of Fallot.

US Steel, where my Dad worked in the accounting/data processing division, was transferred from the Donora PA plant as it was closing due to major shifts in steel production from the United States to China. The US Steel office in Millbury MA would be his new place of employment. Incidentally, this plant ceased operations a decade later in 1978 – after continued steel manufacturing being transferred overseas forced the closure of many plants in the U.S.

After moving to Massachusetts from Pennsylvania in 1967, I visited Boston Children’s Hospital to be acquainted with cardiologist Dr. Alexander Nadas. In my first meeting with Dr. Nadas, I had trouble understanding his words. Dr. Nadas had a thick Hungarian accent, it took me awhile to adjust, but I was able to get used to his mannerisms and care for me as his patient.

Fun Fact:

Dr. Nadas’ daughter, Betsy Nadas-Seamans, played the role of Mrs. McFeely in the Pittsburgh-based children’s PBS program Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. She also was a writer for many of the shows.

Source: in a new tab)

April 1969 – Boston Children’s Hospital

The late 1960s were massively stressful times in our country. At the end of the decade, the Vietnam War raged, and assassinations of civil-rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, marked a distinct contrast with the triumph of NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin to have walked on the moon the following year in July 1969.

My parents and I made another trek to Boston Children’s in January 1969, a checkup with Dr. Nadas, as I had started to have displaying difficulties walking across the room or climbing stairs would leave me short of breath. We also noticed how my fingertips, toenails, and lips, would turn a blueish hue during exertion. More visits to Dr. Nadas were accompanied with more tests. After a visit in early April 1969, a letter came to the house from Children’s Hospital. It was a notice that I was to be scheduled for open-heart surgery on April 30th.

Me and my parents leaving home for Boston Children’s Hospital April 1969

Most things I remember of this experience are not fuzzy. However, I do remember specific things to this day. Once example was when I was told I couldn’t have milk, something about having too much sugar in milk was not good for my condition. For breakfast, I was given a bowl of Frosted Flakes (um, what about that sugar doc?), with not milk, but plain old water. That was an interesting experience!

I was placed in an oxygen tent, and this device covered my hospital bed, creating a pure 100% oxygen environment to aid in oxygenating my blood. Mom was always successful at diverting attention away from the obvious. “This oxygen text was special” my Mom said. Now I could go camping now with my very special tent here in the hospital. Another time, she brought me my regular clothes, to be able to spend some time not wearing the johnny all the time and feel a little sense of normalcy.

Advertisement for Oxygen Tent device. (No, that is not me poking around)
Me in the patient’s break room. The nurses at Boston Children’s were outstanding.
I liked the hospital’s fish tank!
The Archie’s “Sugar Sugar” is playing again?!?!?!
I’m ready to go home and be with my friends now.

I remember my hospital bed was across the way adjacent to the nurse’s break room, and I could see and hear the commotion through the confines of the plastic of the oxygen tent placed as a canopy surrounding my hospital bed. There was a small black-and-white TV that all of the nurse’s were huddled around. The nurses were giddy, “It’s Tom Jones!”, and I remember their excitement over the entertainer. I could faintly see the images of a couple of guys singing. Turns out, it was Tom Jones crooning “It’s Not Unusual” from his ABC TV show. I didn’t know the other singer at that time, but it was Stevie Wonder. This was the performance, airing on the ABC broadcast of the Tom Jones Show May 22, 1969:

Stevie Wonder with Tom Jones, The Tom Jones Show May 22, 1969 ABC

Being in the hospital for a lengthy period in isolation, away from home, family and friends, the radio became my close companion. It was always on during my waking hours. The recreation room for kids had a phonograph record. The hit 45 released that year was ‘Sugar, Sugar’ by The Archies, and this was played endlessly by staff. Fortunately, I had my bedside radio tuned to the other top 40 hits of 1969: Tommy James and The Shondell’s Crimson and Clover, Sly and the Family Stone’s Hot Fun in the Summertime, Henry Mancini’s Love Theme from Rome and Juliet, and the Edwin Hawkins Singers Oh Happy Day were often cycled through the AM station on boring days.

One song that I couldn’t give enough of, included a positive, optimistic message, I learned later is two separate songs combined as one. The Fifth Dimension’s Aquarius, has the passage “When You Open Up Your Heart – You Got To Let The Sun Coming In”. The message sent to me fifty years ago resonates to this day.

Aquarius – The 5th Dimension 1969’s Top Ten Hit

I don’t remember meeting the cardiac surgeon, Dr. William Bernhard, who performed my open-heart surgery in Boston. I do remember getting his name mixed up with Dr. Christian Barnard, a cardiac surgeon from South Africa, who pioneered the first human heart transplant operation in 1967. Dr. Bernhard, a WWII veteran from Framingham MA, passed away at age 93 in 2018. He left behind a lasting legacy of innovative cardiac surgery techniques, including the use of the hyperbaric chamber, revolutionary for its time. 6

The first temporary shunt operation (Blalock-Taussig-Thomas) was performed in Pittsburgh in January 1963.

The second complete repair open-heart surgery completed in Boston in April 1969.


Technology Advancements – Heart Catheterization

The fate of babies born with congenital heart disease (CHD) has dramatically changed in the last 4–5 decades, going from a universally
fatal condition in the vast majority of patients in the absence of diagnosis or intervention, to an entity whose outcome, at least in terms
of peri-operative/hospital stay, has improved to an expected survival of about 96%. 7

Technology – Then and Now

The first catheterization performed was in the year 1928. Dr. Warner Forssman of Germany performed the procedure, on himself. He tricked his nurse Gerta Ditzen to assist him, and she brought Forssmann to the X-Ray lab and obtained an X-ray picture of the catheter entering the heart chamber. He put himself under local anesthesia and inserted a catheter into a vein in his arm. Not knowing if the catheter might pierce a vein, he put his life at great risk. Forssmann was nevertheless successful; he safely passed the catheter into his heart.  Dr. Forssman joined the Nazi party, and was later captured by Americans and placed in a prisoner of war camp. After the war ended in 1945, he settled back to his home country of Germany. In 1956, he received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for this achievement. 8

Dr. Werner Forssman
X-Ray Image of catheter from left arm entering the heart chamber.

My catheterization in 1978 was preventative; a standard procedure to measure oxygen levels in each chamber of the heart to ensure the open-heart surgery repair from 1969 was successful. For the procedure, one is not fully put under local anesthesia. A lighter-dose anesthesia is used, in order to be kept awake. I had to hold my breath at certain times, as well as to be able to converse with the doctor. This allowed the cardiologist to measure oxygen levels and pressures inside the heart chambers. X-Ray cameras are used to visualize the heart, and a dye is injected towards the end of the procedure, to show the blood vessels surrounding the heart. This is to see if there are any blockages or other abnormalities.

When the dye is injected, it is a bit surreal experience. The doctor says “We’re about to inject the dye, you will feel heat coming through.”  This was similar to opening an oven door in the kitchen – a series of waves of heat hit my body. With each heart pump, heat pulsated through my body. First pump, the heat first went to my head. The second beat, the heat hit my torso, and by the third beat, my legs were hot. I recall breaking out in a sweat, thankfully the waves of heat quickly dissipated.

Heart catheterizations continue to be used as an effective to to examine the heart. In addition to examining congenital heart defects, the procedure is also effective to replace heart valves, placing stents in blocked arteries, or performing biopsies. Instead of a more intensive open-heart procedure, cardiologist cause catheterization as a less invasive method to perform this critical tasks.

Heart Catheterization Procedure – courtesy Mayo Clinic

2019 – 50 Years On

In the fifty years since the open-heart surgery, I continue to see cardiologists on an annual basis as part of a preventive maintenance program for Tetralogy of Fallot individuals. It is critical to work to keep the heart healthy, and I am fortunate to be able to utilize the fitness professionals and resources in my hometown fitness center, at No Alibi Fitness ( The facility has a cadre of fitness sessions, my favorite is the spin-cycle class. My heart thanks me every day for getting out there, and keeping the blood pumping!

No Alibi Fitness

A favorite hobby of mine is playing piano, here is a link to some of my projects: I enjoy working on various pieces, here is one I put together a few years ago:

Prologue: Beauty and the Beast A. Menken arr. B. Podesta

My current team of cardiology professionals include my longtime cardiologist Dr. Joseph Kirkpatrick, and  more recent addition to the team, Dr. Michelle Hadley, who specializes in patients with congenital heart defects (CHD). A good strategy moving forward is to have a strong, positive team of medical professionals and I am fortunate to be blessed with these outstanding physicians. Let me introduce you to these heroes!

“I enjoy sitting down with patients and explaining their situation. I feel everyone should be able to understand exactly what’s wrong with them and what their treatment options are.”
Dr. Joseph Kirkpatrick (Hero)
Dr. Michelle Hadley (Hero)

Advancements in medicine and technology continue to astound us. Over the past 50 years, huge strides have been made to help people. The challenge continues to find cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, and to further improve our livelihoods. I remain hopeful the best of our angels will prevail to solve these issues.

I remember something said to me by Dr. Nadas at Boston Children’s Hospital. I had a cardiac catheterization procedure in 1978, a planned event for preventative maintenance to view my progress over the previous nine years. I was curious about my longevity, as there didn’t seem to be long-term statistics for ToF patients. Dr. Nadas said “You are doing remarkably well. Each day is a day of building your history.”

50 Years Later – 2019


1 Weiss, Allen B. MD Cardiac Surgery, A Century of Progress 2011.

2 Zampieri F, Thiene G. Encyclopedia of Pathology 2017.

3 Fliesler N Boston Children’s Hospital 2012.

4 Carpenter, M. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2012.

5 Dyer, David Nadas – Interview 2 by David Dyer 1993, Harvard Medical School Archives

6 Schwan, Henry Metrowest Daily News 2018.

7 Weiss, Allen B. MD Cardiac Surgery, A Century of Progress 2011.

8 Radeska, T., Vintage News 2016.

Special thanks and acknowledgement to the family of Dr. Robert Pontius, who provided insight into their father and the Blalock-Taussig-Thomas procedure.

Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man – Howard Pollack

American Composer Aaron Copland: 11/14/1900 – 12/2/1990

Howard Pollack’s 1999 book Aaron Copland: The Life & Work of an Uncommon Man provides a detailed biography into Copland’s extraordinary life and work.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, Aaron Copland became one of the premier American composers of the 20th Century. Combining classical, jazz and folk measures, Copland created pieces such as Fanfare for the Common Man, El Salon Mexico, and Appalachian Spring to wide acclaim.

Gifted as a child, Copland went to France when he turned twenty to study with Nadia Boulanger. Boulanger incidentally trained many others, including Quincy Jones.

Copland achieved a Pulitzer Prize in 1945 for his Appalachian Spring composition, written for ballet.

As a Hollywood film score composer, Copland achieved an Oscar award for The Heiress (1949). His work selections have been used throughout the years in TV series and commercials, as well as films like Spike Lee’s He Got Game (1998).

Copland devoted his career as a teacher, at The New School for Social Research at Harvard University, and as head of the composition department at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood, Massachusetts, a school founded by composer Serge Koussevitzky.

Copland observed two trends among composers in the 1930s: first, a continuing attempt to “simplify their musical language” and, second, a desire to “make contact” with as wide an audience as possible. By 1933, he began to find ways to make his work accessible to a surprisingly large number of people.

Copland was caught up in the Red Scare of the 1950s, and investigated by the FBI and Congress for his views. Along with 151 other artists thought to have communist associations, Copland was blacklisted. His ‘A Lincoln Portrait‘ was pulled from the 1953 inaugural concert for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and he appeared before congress, questioned by Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy and shady lawyer Roy Cohn (who later counseled Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch), regarding his lectures abroad and affiliations with certain organizations. Causing a sense of moral outrage, Copland’s peers used his music as a mark of patriotism. The Red Scare investigations ceased in 1954.

An anecdote: In 1977, the rock group Emerson, Lake and Palmer released their version of Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. Keyboardist Keith Emerson sought permission from the original composer to use their work. Drummer Carl Palmer, interviewed by NPR in 2018, says Emerson once met with Copland in Switzerland and played him a bit of their version to request for the composer’s blessing. “We were a little bit worried about playing him the actual rock section of it where we were ad-libbing and having some fun,” Palmer says. “And he thought it was OK! ” Copland said, ‘At least you’ve done something different with it — that works for me. Go ahead, guys, I wish you the best of luck with it.‘ “1

Sadly, the scourge of dementia caught up with Copland in his later years, and he died at the age of 90 in North Tarrytown, New York. His ashes were scattered near the Formal Gardens Tent at Tanglewood in Lenox MA.

“So long as the human spirit thrives on this planet,
music in some living form will accompany and sustain
it and give it expressive meaning.”
– Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland
Aaron Copland conducts El Salon Mexico
Hoedown from Rodeo by Aaron Copland
Fanfare For The Common Man by Aaron Copland


Buddhism: A Concise Introduction – Huston Smith, Philip Novak

Authors Huston Smith and Phillip Novak provide a detailed review of Buddhism, covering the four noble truths, the eight-fold path, nirvana, anatta, the three marks of existence, emptiness, and dependent arising. This is not a self-help or meditation guide, and focuses instead on the history of Buddhism.

There are essentially two parts to the book. First is a review of Buddha’s life, an overview of his teachings, and some of the history of Buddhism in India and Asia. The second part is the migration of Buddhism into Europe and finally North America, including an excellent resource of Buddhist organizations in the United States during the 20th century.

An extensive bibliography is provided, and one can explore the many facets of Buddhism with this excellent resource.

“It is only right now, in the present streaming moment, that we are alive or dead, stagnant or growing, sinful or filled with the wisdom and compassion of the Primal Vow. In every instant, we have the choice to turn our hearts to the Vow or give in to greed, sloth, and impulses, idly clicking through TV channels and filling our hours with the distractions of practical duties.”

Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhất Hahn has penned more than 100 books, and promotes nonviolent solutions to conflicts. Born in Vietnam in 1926, he was taught Mahayana Buddhism, and later taught comparative religion at Princeton University in 1961. He then launched nonviolent movements against the Vietnam War. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. He founded the Plum Village Monastery in southern France, where the average daily schedule looks like this:

  • 5:00am: Rise
  • 6:00am:Sitting and walking meditation
  • 7:30am: Breakfast
  • 9:00am: Dharma Talk / Class / Presentation / Mindful work period
  • 11:30am: Walking meditation
  • 12:30pm: Lunch
  • 1:30pm: Rest
  • 3:00pm: Working meditation
  • 5:30pm: Sitting meditation
  • 6:30pm: Optional dinner
  • 8:00pm: Personal study, Happiness Meeting, Beginning Anew
  • 10:00pm: Noble silence begins
  • 10:30pm: Lights out

Click: for more information.

Dwight D. Eisenhower: In War and Peace – Jean Edward Smith

Jean Edward Smith’s book Dwight D. Eisenhower In War and Peace, is a detailed account of our thirty-fourth President. This massive 766 page book covers Eisenhower’s early days growing up in Abilene Kansas to his death in 1969. Graduating West Point 1915, he was first in his class of 245. He served as a military aide to General John J. Pershing, commander of U.S. forces during World War I, and later to General Douglas MacArthur, U.S. Army chief of staff. During his seven years serving under MacArthur, Eisenhower was stationed in the Philippines from 1935 to 1939.

After being made a full general in early 1943, Eisenhower was appointed supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in December of that year, and given the responsibility of spearheading the planned Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe.

Having risen from lieutenant colonel in the Philippines to supreme commander of the victorious forces in Europe in only five years, Eisenhower returned home to a hero’s welcome in 1945 to serve as chief of staff of the U.S. Army.

In 1948, Eisenhower left active duty and became president of Columbia University in New York City. His brief return to civilian life ended in 1950, however, when President Harry S. Truman asked him to take command of the new North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces in Europe. In that position, Eisenhower worked to create a unified military organization that would combat potential communist aggression around the globe.

Eisenhower resigned his commission in the Army and returned from his NATO base in Paris in June 1952. At the party’s national convention that July, he won the Republican nomination on the first ballot. Under the slogan “I Like Ike” and with Senator Richard M. Nixon, a Senator from California as his running mate, Eisenhower then defeated Adlai Stevenson to become the 34th president of the United States. 

As President, he strengthened the Social Security program, increased the minimum wage and created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. In 1956, Eisenhower created the Interstate Highway System, the single largest public works program in U.S. history, which would construct 41,000 miles of roads across the country.

Eisenhower’s low-point during his two-term Presidency: Authorizing two separate covert actions to overthrow the governments of Iran and Guatemala, in efforts to control oil (Iran) and agriculture (Guatemala), under the guise of preventing communism from spreading in these two countries.

The Soviet shooting of a U.S. U-2 reconnaissance plane in May 1960 dashed Eisenhower’s hopes for a treaty before he left office. Eisenhower, however, took full responsibility fort he U2 spy program, and he garnered much support of the American people for being open and forthright.

Not only did Eisenhower avoid wars and skirmishes that would have imperiled young Americans, he also left those future generations in much better financial shape. What might best be described as austerity measures practiced by the Eisenhower administration, led to a balanced federal budget. Government efficiency improved during Eisenhower’s tenure and he famously delivered the unheeded warning in his farewell address to limit the scope of “the military-industrial complex” and its “permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.”

“If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power.” ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower