For 101 years, Walter Sommers chose optimism over pessimism, hope over fear

By Nancy Sommers

Walter Sommers lived with gratitude for the life he was given. When asked to look back on his 101 years, he beamed, “I have had a good time in life; it couldn’t have been better.”

He lived each day with optimism and purpose, with a strong sense of duty to bear witness to the history he experienced, and to pass this history forward to future generations.

Asked about his optimism, he would smile and say, “Life turns out better if you start each day seeing the glass half-full, not half-empty.” For 101 years, Walter chose optimism over pessimism, hope over fear.

He lived a long, full life, but to Walter’s family and friends, he didn’t live long enough.

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A mob lynched his great-grandfather. Now, Terry Ward says, ‘I just want to love’

By Ken Turetzky

George Ward’s death by the vigilante injustice of lynching left a legacy of broken families and financial struggle. Only three generations later could great-grandson Terry Ward break the pattern, with the support of the nation’s social safety net.

But unexpected violence followed Terry Ward and invoked a reckoning of its own, almost a century later.

“I was born and raised in Terre Haute. I lived here for 18 years,” said Ward, 67, lingering in Fairbanks Park following the George Ward Historical Marker Dedication Sept. 26.

He tells his story patiently, unhurried, as he allows the listener to absorb his message. “We’ll try our best to be factual and truthful about all things,” he said.

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Dr. Renate Justin met antisemitism with compassion, commitment to ease others’ pain

By Ken Turetzky

Following an early life of hardship, on the run from Nazis and then facing antisemitism in her adopted home of the United States, Dr. Renate Gabriele Lieberg Justin determined that she would heretofore treat others only with respect and compassion.

While Justin eventually rejected religious faith as insufficient to relieve the burden of tragic experience, she embodied Hillel’s Golden Rule: That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.

Justin wrote, “It is the pain I have experienced because of antisemitism that makes me wary of prejudging other people’s belief, of being intolerant, and thereby inflicting pain.”

Throughout her long career as a family medical practitioner and essayist — including a period from 1959-87 in Terre Haute — Justin observed, considered and wrote thoughtfully about her childhood, her family, her patients and life passages that ranged from gentle to nearly unbearable.

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UHC community agrees: Terry Fear helped forge an extended family in the congregation

On the first Shabbat following Terry Fear’s passing — one week after Terry had lit candles to begin the Temple’s virtual service — UHC members shared remembrances of their friend and colleague, who died suddenly Dec. 13 at age 66.

Among her many contributions to the congregation and community, Terry served as UHC vice president and secretary, led the Temple’s restoration efforts, coordinated special events in the sanctuary, served on the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center board and worked widely for social justice.

Most satisfying of all for Terry, friends agreed, were her efforts to introduce people she admired and appreciated to each other, to foster knowledge, understanding and personal growth.

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