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November 21, 1996

A comic strip panel in the newspaper showed a toddler asking mom and dad to play a game with him, only to hear both of them say, "Not right now. I'm busy." The second panel showed the same parents years later as a very old, gray-haired couple wishing they had found the time to play with their youngsters 'way back then. So that same day, when Jill and Amy came to grandma and grandpa's house for the afternoon and needed someone to help "make a barn" with plastic blocks, they didn't have to ask twice. Even grandpa found it easy to tear himself away from an exciting Sunday afternoon football game on TV. He discovered that the building project was infinitely more interesting, anyway.

Inice McDowell was one of the town's most dedicated walkers while she was still able to be out and about. She told me many times how she was taking of lot of medication for various ailments until one day a doctor prescribed a mild exercise regimen for her. She began with daily walks around the neighborhood and was surprised to find how quickly she was able to discontinue the daily intake of pills and tablets. That convinced her. She became a firm believer in the benefits of walking and didn't miss a day of strolling one or two miles. When the weather was bad, she walked in the Fellowship hall of a local church.

We used to live in Mrs. McDowell's neighborhood and can attest that she was a familiar figure each morning, striding along with a smile and a wave for each passerby. Many others, including the corps of walkers who visit the Perry YMCA on a regular basis, also can give testimony to the benefits of exercise and staying fit. Advanced age finally caught up with Mrs. McDowell, eliminating the possibility of her brisk morning walks and finally necessitating a move to Green Valley Nursing Home. We were sorry to read of her death at age 86 last week.

The death of Rudy Zorba, 74, also was saddening last week, closing as it did a chapter in the story of Perry's retail businesses. The Zorba family came to Perry in the summer of 1939, bringing Phil Zorba, his wife, Anne, and their two schoolage sons, Rudolph and Jack, to our town from Ponca City. At that time we had three major, family owned department stores -- Kraemer's, on the east side of the square, operated by Marguerite Kraemer Edson and her husband, Ott Edson; the Famous, on the south side, operated by Morris Gottlieb, George Gottlieb and Mr. and Mrs. Rudolph Gottlieb; and Zorba's. Rudolph's wife, Twyla, is the only member of those families still living in Perry.

Before moving here, Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Zorba had operated clothing stores in Ponca City, Tonkawa, Drumright, Ardmore and also in Three Sands during the wild oil-boom days in that legendary area of Kay and Noble county. Mr. Zorba had many souvenirs of the Three Sands community, including a panoramic photo that showed the jungle of derricks where millions of barrels of black gold were pumped from the ground. Phillip Zorba arrived in the U.S. from Syria at the age of 16 in 1909, settling first in St. Louis before coming to Oklahoma.

The Zorba Department Store in Perry was on the north side of the square in the building now occupied by the Three Sands Oil Co. (how appropriate) and the law offices of Bob Kasper and Sarah Kennedy-Voise. Our family's drug store was just up the street from there, so Rudy, Jack and I spent a lot of time together as we grew up, thinking we were integral parts of the north side community. When Phil and Anne retired, Rudy bought the store and operated it for several years. Jack, meanwhile, had moved on to Stillwater where he also had a fine men's apparel shop for a time.

Rudy, who had a degree in pharmacy, was one of the few World War II veterans from here who served in the South Pacific's Fiji Islands. He closed the Perry store when he retired a few years back and has not been in the best of health lately. His death, however, was unexpected, and this close-knit little city will miss him.