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Christmas tree good therapy for those needing some cheer


Elza and Irene Painter at their Golf Course Road home. Roe Parks was the contractor
on the house built in 1965. The Painters have been married for 35 years.
Published: 8:19 PM, 12/07/2012

Author: David Popiel
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

Thursday's rain added a dreary touch to what had been balmy weather in our hometown before Pearl Harbor Day with this unseasonably warm spell expected to linger awhile.

You see here a photo made for me at VIP Therapy of a Christmas tree to call attention to a cancer victim I have been writing about. For the past couple of weekends we have been visiting with Lenny Zmich and his family who lives off Old Knoxville Highway and next to Newport Church of God. It was most unfortunate that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September. I have traced his upbringing in Cleveland, Ohio, where he met and married the former Debbie Keller of a Cocke County Keller family.

It was in Cleveland that he first met Debbie and they started buying furniture when they were about 15 planning for their first home. They were married about age 18 by pastor E.K. Waldroup of Newport Church of God. They began Newport life in a modest mobilehome, which Lenny has improved upon ever since with many amenities in and around the home he built upon. They live in the morning shade, west side of the church. "We made it home even if at first a chair was a five gallon bucket."

He sees his family "as a blessing" and that he and they have been able to do a lot of things together such as the occasional homemade ice cream party. Helping others has always been on the roster whether repairing homes and businesses or aiding in the construction of a church playground.

"If I had a million dollars today, I wouldn't have it tomorrow," because Lenny would most likely give it away helping others. He does find it humbling and difficult because so many people have volunteered to help, such as mowing his lawn. He's going to try to do all the chores for now himself. Last week he was ill because of continued chemotherapy and I was unable to chat with him but hope to soon and also to learn more about the Bill Keller family.


He can tell you a story or two


If you know Lenny well you know he likes to talk and tell stories about his experiences and events. He shared one recently when we were walking around the Plain Talk building and looking at some of the renovation work he helped Brockwell Construction do in the late 1990s, when we prepared to become a daily newspaper. The crew had to bring in a lot of very heavy 12-feet-long pieces of sheet rock for the ceiling. Lenny had already calculated how many sheets would be needed. When some of the men were hauling it in, he warned them they were carrying in far too many sheets. They didn't listen and Lenny told them he was not helping carry them back out because he had already told them how many were needed. He was right and a couple of the fellows had to lug many sheets back to the truck. Yes, Lenny can count and he is frugal with customers' time and money.



From New York to Newport


Elza Painter has lived a most interesting life but I can't say "colorful," because most of his photographic work has been in black and white. Those thousands of eight-by-ten glossy prints he produced for the Plain Talk still haunt and resonate with me. When we talked at his Golf Course Road home it didn't seem like he had aged, yet I don't think he rides a Harley any longer but still does a photo or two. He was asked by National Bank of Tennessee to produce two large portraits of the two new bank directors this fall. He did these Nov. 16 the day after his 83rd birthday. I wonder if all the portraits on bank and business walls he made?

Born in 1929, the year of October's Black Friday, when the stock market crashed helping the nation fall into the Great Depression, he grew up in a West Virginia coal mining town near Oak Hill and east of Beckley. Everything was owned by the Kingston-Pochontas Coal Company. From what Elza conveyed, life might have been hard but it was good there because of coal mining jobs and rather insulated from the rest of the nation's problems. His father, Elmer Elza Painter, who married the former Katie Jane Crookshank, worked for the coal company servicing and maintaining the all-critical miners' lights. The coal company had its own "script" (money) including coins. When old enough, young Elza got a job at the three-story company store, yes, the same one that Ernie Ford sang about, "I owed my soul to the company store." It reminded me of a little Walmart because of the great variety of goods including furniture and farm supplies. Elza made 45 cents per hour, and saved a few dollars by the time he graduated in 1948. And, he has a sister who lives in Laureen, Ohio.

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