A Heavenly Story

A Heavenly Story

The Here and There

I died yesterday. Though it could have been the day before… I seem to have lost track of time. I’m not sure whether I am here or there? Passing thru maybe? I needed to make a choice and wasn’t sure where I was supposed to be. No one briefed me on choices.

The neon signage at the gate explained (and there was a lot of neon going on); all earthly matters are to remain here and all spirit matters are to go there. This is beginning to make sense I thought, although barely. The dust you left behind will be ingested by creatures unknown hopefully to regenerate into some newer life form, TBD. If unlucky enough you may become a bug, eaten by a chicken which ends up in the Krispy tray at KFC. Use your imagination on the protein cycle coming down the road.

The Accommodations

Where I’m staying now is very nice in an off-white sort of way. The building has no name with floors ad infinite m, and an elevator that will take you where you need to go. There is but one button to press and it is labeled “Yes.” Once inside yet again, only one button, it says “Home.” Everything seems to know the question… the elevator, sporting an Apple Logo, just knows and it lifts you to there. The exit points you in only one direction and when nearby your Home door, it opens as if on command. No fighting with the damn magnetic keycard. Once inside, a pleasant sounding murmur begins, and pretty soon you begin to hover… I like this part a lot. I notice there are no beds or bath and no entertainment distractions. As I am now (a non-life form) I assume correctly the old conveniences won’t be necessary. I rather enjoy this floating about the room; it reminds me of my joyful years spent aloft.

Finding Friends

Going back to the Krispy tray at KFC… with my newly found energy, the source unknown, maybe it is time we explore this there place. So, in search of the elevator that parked me at level Home, off I go. Reappearing, the elevator button says “Friends,” which again answers the question without my asking. I know who I am looking for and the lift takes me to where I need to be. It is several years up and the button is labeled “J.” J is for Jimmy Jet.

My friend Jimmy made the transition from here to there several years earlier so enjoys some seniority on me in this new environment. Jimmy and I, airline pilots of long ago, became intimate in our time with buckets of KFC. We were pilots of airliners that had no inflight food service so were left to our own devices. Flying long haul transcontinental freight runs we had an issue with long haul nutrition. It was our practice to wager on who would pay for the bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken at our first fuel stop, wherever that happened to be. Generally, on our westbound trip, it would be Indianapolis. We were flying a military chartered freight run from Navy Norfolk, Virginia to the Alameda Naval Air Station in the Bay Area in Northern California. Frequently, it involved our flying explosive ordinance in support of the Viet Nam war effort.

Our Aircraft was the Douglas DC-9, and our airline was Overseas National Airways (ONA) and the time was early in 1970. The challenge for our wager was hand flying the jet airliner at cruise altitude. Leveling off at 35 thousand feet we then disengaged the autopilot and off to the races we went. It was much like letting a bull out of the chute at a bull riding event at the Rodeo. What most passengers don’t realize is the necessity of having a functioning autopilot for their safety and survival. Hand flying a jetliner at cruise altitude can be troublesome to say the least. Flying at as high an altitude as the jet will climb is a matter of economics. The jet engine performs much more economically in rarified air but the aircraft’s wing doesn’t do quite so well. The wing of an aircraft can quit flying by either going to fast or going to slow. That margin is very wide at lower altitude and extremely narrow at typical cruise altitudes for jet engines. We refer to that area, where the margin can be a mere 10 knots, as coffin corner. If you are flying ten knots too fast the wing stalls and the same happens when ten knots too slow. The wing literally quits flying. If, as a passenger, you are quietly sipping on your cocktail prior to being served your inflight meal, and you notice a slight rumble from outside your window, that is probably the result of either a high speed or low speed buffet, the precursor of the wing actually stalling. You are not to worry if the autopilot and auto throttles are functioning properly as they will right the matter.

It was always fun competing with my friend Jimmy Jet. He always won of course… even if he lost. He was that kind of competitor. If you skunked him playing ping pong for example, he would still claim to have beaten you to a pulp.

I am still in a search of my friend Jim and I will find him one day. There are many stories yet to come of our adventures in the realm of the High and the Mighty. As for the buckets of chicken we consumed in that era I am hopeful that Colonel Sanders was as appreciative of our contribution to his success as he was to ours.

Jumbo the family Elephant

Jumbo the family Elephant:

Just how Jumbo the Elephant enters the familial equation can’t go without mentioning. The merger of the Kuhn and Whittaker families is the all-important event. Mary Whittaker’s marriage to William C. Kuhn in 1914 is where mine and sister Alyce’s story begins. But first back to the elephant:


In the mid to late 1800’s a young elephant is captured in east Africa and transported to the European Continent. It is found to be mistreated in France and the London Zoological society comes to the rescue. The elephant grows to an enormous size, thirteen feet tall by most estimation’s and while on display at the London Zoo it is noticed by the one and only P.T. Barnum. He negotiates the sale which raises the hackles of Queen Victoria and the public in general. The animal is then crated and shipped off to the new world where its presence is enjoyed by millions of Circus patrons. The circus tour schedule has Jumbo appearing in St. Thomas, Ontario in 1885. It is here poor Jumbo meets his demise in the form of a freak accident. He is run down by a freight train at night while returning to his quarters after an evening performance. The next morning a photograph is taken of the now deceased Jumbo lying inert nearby the train. In the photo, standing next to Jumbo is my great Grandfather to be. His name is Arthur Whittaker he is about twelve and this is the only photo I have found of him.

The Family Kuhn as artists?:

It has been widely reported and recorded that Elephants have been known to paint pictures so there may be some connection from an artistic sense to this family encounter with Jumbo the Elephant? Just kidding of course, sometimes I can’t help myself.

Taken from a recent email from sister Alyce:

“Ron, I’m interested in what you’ve discovered.  You know, I have been building our tree on Ancestry, let’s figure out how you can access the information and you can help me build on it. I do have information going back to 1650….  I can’t wait to hear what you’ve uncovered.

I had an interesting experience last November. I took the train from D.C. to Philadelphia. Laura wanted to visit a friend before returning home, so we drove from the train to Newtown, PA.  Her friend attends a boarding school in Newtown and while Laura was visiting, I explored the area.  I had a strange experience as I drove the roads.  It felt so familiar, as if I was home. I felt more at home than I do in L.A.   Without sounding too woo-woo, it was as if I knew the streets.   

I knew our family was in Lancaster but Newtown is in Bucks County.  In December I started again going through Dad’s papers and found a stack of information on our family tree, including information going back to the 1700’s, copy of articles etc. I discovered our ancestors settled Newtown!   We have nearly 200 years of history in that town.  There is even a street named after them. 

I also discovered our great great grandfather’s listed occupation was portrait artist. That information came from a mid 1800 census.

I’ve gone on and on haven’t I?   Can’t wait to hear what you have discovered.”

Love Always,  Alyce

Alyce’s email begs the question;

“Are some people born creative?”

A little research and this excerpt taken from “The Guardian” Sept 19, 2013  by David Cox

“However, while the discovery of such “creativity genes” indicates that certain people may have a natural propensity for divergent thinking; this does not tell the whole story. A lot depends on how your genes are expressed and this is where the environment can play a defining role.

“We found that many individuals with artistic creativity suffered from severe traumas in life, whether it be psychological or physical abuse, neglect, hostility or rejection,” Keri said. “At the biological level, we and several other researchers documented that trauma is associated with functional alteration of the brain, and it also affects the expression of genes that have an impact on brain structure, maybe in the same large-scale networks that participate in creativity.”

So, are we born creative or not? While factors such as upbringing play a crucial role in your brain’s development, the work done by scientists in Scandinavia, Germany and the US has shown that having the right genetic makeup can make your brain more inclined towards creative thinking. The rest of us have to “learn” to be creative.

Meeting Harold:

There was an interesting twist, when in 1986 I met up with Harold Kuhn, my biological father. I discovered he had been an artist. Although he hadn’t been actively painting in recent years he had been engaged in the activity for extended periods during his lifetime and had an attic full of his art. It was an extensive body of work, there were framed and unframed oil paintings, with some in various stages of completion. As for myself, I have no idea how (or why) I became so engrossed with creating art during my own lifetime and why I pursued the formal education in the visual arts that I did? Neither of my adoptive parents were at all influential in steering me in that direction.

Almost thirty years later, I find myself wondering why Harold and I had so many similarities in both our early lives and even much later. As a young boy Harold attended Tomlinson School, just a few blocks from where I grew up in Dearborn Township, Michigan. Obviously we physically resembled each other and we even shared identical handwriting. Plus, in 1986 we both lived in southern California just a few miles apart, and curiously we both had married girls from Arkansas at some point during our lives… interesting coincidence’s all.

Sister Alyce’s information on the Kuhn Family of artist’s dating back to 1650 I found very interesting and it parallels my own investigation and instinct about how genetics may have played a role in my own interest in an artistic endeavor. It is still a lingering question for me personally?

The Kuhn/Hilborn merger:

Our first link

One Thomas Hilborn born in 1655 in North Petherton, Somerset, England a little more than a century or so after 1492 when, while in search of the spice trade with Japan, Christopher Columbus notably “Sailed the Blue” but discovered the New World instead. Mindful that ocean crossings in those days were not a sure thing, young Thomas, in 1670 at the ripe age of 15, indentured himself to a Quaker Missionary and bravely set sail from Bristol for Rhode Island.

Shortly after arrival in the Providence Colony they were told Quakers were no longer allowed and so packed up and moved on to Newport. In 1675 Thomas became a Freeman and moved with other Quakers to Shrewsbury, New Jersey, where he lived with the Hooten family. Later, Thomas having married and now with six children, acquired land in Newtown Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. It was there he built his home, which I understand is still standing, and reportedly still owned by a descendant. The same Thomas Hilborn, a friend of William Penn, also served four terms in the Pennsylvania Assembly. He died in Newtown, but no grave stone has been located.

Skipping ahead four generations of Hilborn’s, James, the son of Thomas IV, in 1802 moved his family (13 children) to Ontario, Canada. One of the offspring, yet another Thomas Hilborn(Jr.) b. 1815, had a daughter Sara Ann b.1845 that married Philip Johnson born in Berlin in 1843. One of the Johnson offspring, Julia Johnson b. 1863, is where the Kuhn family enters the picture. Julia married William C. Kuhn in Ontario in April of 1885. This William C. Kuhn, previously of Blair County, Pennsylvania, having immigrated to Canada for business purposes at age 20, would become my great grandfather.

Kuhn returns to US:

The union of William C Kuhn and Julia Johnson in 1885 produced 10 children, 7 girls and three boys. This family of Kuhn’s moved from Ontario to South Lyon, Michigan around 1899, where the greater part of their lives was spent. Their oldest son, William C. Kuhn b.1893, would become my grandfather. Of special interest to me, in the 1900 Lyon County census, great grandfather William’s occupation is listed as Artist!

The Whittakers:

William C. Kuhn, the young, when in search of a bride apparently decided the pickings were much better across the river in Ontario. He found his bride there in the form of Mary Whittaker, the daughter of Arthur and Eliza Neugent Whittaker. William and Mary Whittaker were married in June of 1914. The Arthur Whittakers, according to records, were apparently descendants of Cromwellians that left Ireland during the 1845 famine re-settling in Grey County, Ontario. I have found documents relating to the “Whittaker Stove Works” located in the Windsor area in the 1890’s with Arthur Whittakers name referenced to it. It is the same Arthur Whittaker shown alongside Jumbo the Elephant in the photo above.

In summary, on the paternal side, the earliest found records to date of Kuhn lineage (sometimes spelt Koon) are from several generations of Christian Kuhn’s, whose listed occupations include potters, artists and farmers are found in areas further west of Newtown centered around Altoona and Holidaysburg in Blair County. Sister Alyce and my origins on the maternal side, come after several generations of Thomas Wilborn’s that helped settle Newtown, Pennsylvania. Sara Ann, a fifth generation Wilborn, later married German born Philip Johnson in Ontario. Of their six children, Julia the oldest b.1863, marries William C. Kuhn in April of 1885. The oldest son of William C. Kuhn and Sarah Johnson Kuhn, is again named William C. and it is he who returns to Ontario to find his bride Mary Whittaker, the daughter of the same Arthur Whittaker, who as a twelve year old witnessed Jumbo the Elephants untimely demise. This latter William C. Kuhn would be our paternal Grandfather.

I find the creative gene question still unanswered… far too many variables for my liking.