Not that I have a choice, but growing older seems to have some unique benefits, such as going to our kids' generations of weddings, enjoying grandchildren, and possessing an ounce more of patience, to name a few.
You also get to see the kids that grew up in your neighborhood blossom into terrific adults.
One such kid is Jeff Wilusz, who was four years old when we first moved into our house on Mayfield close to 25 years ago. I think it took Jeff about 15 minutes to officially annex our house into his second home, which was to our great enjoyment.
Jeff was one of those kids you couldn't help but like. He had a great laugh, was polite and helped out. Thankfully, he was also just as competitive as his newfound friend, our son Joe. Our yard became home to whiffle ball, pickle, hockey, football—you name the sport and they played it.
Jeff was one of the most likable kids we ever knew as our four kids grew up on Mayfield in Royal Oak.
Jeff grew up to be an all-state football and basketball player at Dondero, including winning the Morrison Trophy as the top male athlete with a GPA over 3.3, which was also won by his brothers Mike and Matt. If not for a bad neck, Jeff would have played football for Central Michigan, where he graduated with the goal of teaching and coaching.
After graduation, he coached football and basketball at Royal Oak High School along with his brother Matt and good friend Rick Calverley.
It surprised us all when Jeff, who had never lived outside Michigan, decided to accept a position teaching and coaching in 2010 in...Kuwait!
It turned out to be a great opportunity to teach at a highly regarded international school in an environment very different than our not-so-exotic suburb.
Teacher of the Year
"I looked at teaching in Kuwait as an adventure, a chance to do something different than I ever considered. Yes, teaching in a desert country and in the Middle East did give me, and probably my Mom, cause for some concern,” Jeff said. “I was introduced to the idea by my Royal Oak High social studies teacher, Doug Robbins, who had taught in China. Mr. Robbins a great teacher and an inspiration for me."
Jeff has thrived in Kuwait, being named Teacher of the Year by the students his first year teaching in a middle school and again his second year while teaching at a high school. While coaching girls basketball, his teams have won International Schools Athletic Association two years in a row. The make up of his students is approximately 50 percent Americans (children whose parents are working in Kuwait) 25 percent Kuwaitis and 25 percent other nationalities.
Jeff views his life in Kuwait as safe and secure, but certainly far different than his life in Michigan.
Royal Oak schools, teachers are foundation for accomplishments
Jeff has traveled to Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Jordan, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Lebanon, Bangkok, Cambodia and other exotic locales using his Kuwait home base as a launching pad. It's far cry from shooting baskets on Mayfield and Jeff strongly feels his education in Royal Oak Schools provided a very positive base to succeed in his career.
"Assistant Principal Sam Lynch, my Social Studies teachers Alec Snyder and Doug Robbins were huge inspirations to me when I was a student. I had many great teachers throughout my 13 years in the Royal Oak school system and they provided me with great examples of what it took to become an outstanding teacher,” Jeff said. “With my Royal Oak Schools education and all I learned from Mom (Virginia Wilusz) I felt I was ready for any challenge. I was very fortunate to get my education in Royal Oak public schools."
Well said, Jeffrey. We may miss the tousled hair young man who could be found in the backyard with his friend Joe searching out evil ghosts while singing, “Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!” But we’re proud of what he's become and the important job he does teaching today's youth.
Jeff is a great example of the positive results family and school can have, and in Royal Oak we're blessed with both qualities.
More ‘Elements’ of success
Also in today’s column, I have a testimonial for another longstanding business in Royal Oak: Elements, a fine art jewelry store located on Center Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets.
I've known the founder and owner of the store, Brendan Sherwood, for many years and he has personally saved my neck and perhaps other parts of anatomy with timely presents for the lovely Kathy.
Brendan is a local artist who graduated from the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit. Right out of school he started designing, producing and selling his unique and beautiful jewelry. He has been at the current Royal Oak location since 1994 and I'm guessing I became a customer not long after that.
My strategy back then was to send my young daughters up to the store on their bicycles and to come back with some ideas and prices. Then I would show up and Brendan would have the idea sketched out for something special that I could afford. I'm pretty sure that the lovely Kathy had some unseen influence via our daughters, but nobody has ever 'fessed up.
The best recommendation I can give is that both of these daughters grew up and somehow hinted loud enough to their respective fiancées that Elements is where they wanted their wedding rings to be made. And, that is what happened.
In addition to being a talented artist, Brendan has a great smile and c'mon, Brendan Sherwood is a really cool name! Stop by and visit him when you're looking for special gift for a special person in your life
It's Monday, Let's go!
Gerry Boylan is the author of the novel, Getting There and the short story collection, Gerry Tales. Both books can be found at Amazon.com and the Yellow Door in Berkley, Michigan.