EMPTY SKY - a TRIBUTE
CONSTANCE (CONNIE) PEDERSON, OSEK PRESIDENT 1982 THROUGH 1995.
In a letter sent to OSEK in January, 2010, Connie said, "Take care, and when the snow melts, we will be flying again." She had attended the Cleveland Kite Festival that September. Illness prevented her from coming again, and finally claimed her just before Thanksgiving, 2011.
Connie was not one of the 16 founding members of OSEK in 1977. She caught up with the club a few months after that April date. When the first President, Tom Rask, had to step down in 1981 due to family illness, nobody wanted to take over, but club members continued to show up at Edgewater Park on Second Sundays, month after month. Connie just sort of took charge - "somebody has to"she said. In April, 1982 we gathered at a spring meeting and held elections. WE elected Connie President. A few years later we dubbed her President for life.
The Cleveland Kite Festival happened because a friend was on the Board of the West Side Community Mental Health Association, and he asked how they could raise funds for a lift device for wheelchairs for the agency's van. Connie said let's hold a kite festival. Back then, when Edgewater was a City of Cleveland park, one could hold raffles, and they did. Over $4,000 was raised that first year.
OSEK went on to independently hold this festival after the agency withdrew from sponsoring it, and we continue doing so now.
(we can't hold raffles there any more, however, since it's now a State Park, and ODNR doesn't allow raffles.)
Connie knew a great many people in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, and got the clubs some Really Different "Gigs". We handed out free kites on the corner of E. 9th St. and Superior Ave. one morning for the Galleria Ground Breaking. They paid us and gave us sweatshirts.
We held kite making workshops at the annual Home & Garden Show when it was still held at the Cleveland Auditorium. For a whole week, club members signed up to do shifts in a room from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m.. The kites were donated by CEI. A check went into the OSEK bank account.
One July 4th a few OSEK members took Connie up on heading for a really different place - the Junk Yard Poetry Readng.
We spent a week-end in Chattaqua, New York, guests of a real estate company promoting their new condominiums, where they housed us.
We won a small trophy for our Display at a Woolybear Festival one year. We didn't parade. Just flew kites along a boat dock along the parade route.
And, in an effort to extend our membership, we held a Kite Day at a lake front park in Geneva, where we built a really big Chinese type kite out of bamboo poles and styrofoam meat trays. Community folks brought lawn chairs and watched. And heckled. One lady called out, "if that thing falls apart on the sky, will you get fined for littering?" It didn't fall apart. It DID fly (ask Harry Gregory and Dale Shirer about that.)
Connie had a wish-we-could-do list. One was to fly a kite from the belfry of a church. We tried. It didn't work, and she didn't try climbing the old rickety ladder into the belfry herself. But she got Ted Karl to do it. Others flew kites down in the parking lot.
She never realized the other wish - to fly a kite from the roof of a building in downtown Cleveland. But some of us thought about that when we DID fly them on a grassy roof that covers part of the Great Lakes Science Center a few years later.
Connie could always be counted on to help folks at any park to fly their own kites. In answer to the question about running with a kite, her standard answer was, "Do I look like I run with a kite?". Our Connie had a lot of huggable girth!
A few of the long time and former members of OSEK sent comments, included here:
Connie's passing is distressing news. She was always the friendliest, most upbeat person in any room.
Billie and I first met Connie about 30 years ago. We had built our first kite, and it would not fly. It was a parafoil (we didn't know any better), and we saw a blurb in the paper about a group of kite fliers that met periodically at Edgewater. We went down and were immediately enveloped in the folds of Connie's good fellowship. Honestly, the kiting was fun, but it was the people that made it special, and I think that Connie was a prime mover of that spirit.
I suspect that others will say it better than I, but newer members need to appreciate that Connie carried a good portion of OSEK on her shoulders for many years. I don't want to minimize the contribution of the many other people involved, but she was always in the middle of thing, getting things to get done while, at the same time, keeping it from becoming a burden. The intent was to enjoy it all, and making sure that it was enjoyed by all always appeared to be her primary focus.
Please tell her family that they, and Connie, will be in our prayers.
(living in an assisted living facility with wife, Ann, in Oberlin)
I'm surrounded by death in this senior playpen, but that doesn't diminish the impact of a lost friend. Thank you for letting me know about Connie's death.
Connie had a way about her that could get folks to do just about anything. Her favorite
designation as President was to appoint someone to be the In-Charge Person for an event or activity. If someone asked why me, her answer was simple "well, you live near there." So you did it. We have the Youngstown ( Mill Creek Park) festival every other year for this reason. We go to Media for the Earth Day Celebration every year. We do workshops in schools, libraries, community parks and with clubs and organizations because Connie first sent us there. Her legacy will continue as long as we keep doing this. She also referred to OSEK as "The best kept secret in Cleveland", but more people discover us every year. From her enthusiasm and outreach, we now are known in five counties in northeastern Ohio.
Dan and Lorna Buxton
Sorry to hear about Connie. She had a great impact on OSEK.
The one thing about Connie the one thing I do remember is that even on days when she did not feel good she would still be out on the kite field. She never complained a whole lot and she was always happy. A good memory that we have of Connie.
Connie did a lot of good for Kiting. We need more people like her.
(Phil and Mike Donley will be performing a tribute to Connie at the Cleveland Kite Festival this September)
I first met Connie at one of our first OSEK meetings, when she walked up to Frank and asked if he was the same Frank Terepka who used to live on Columbia and Lockyear Aves. years ago. Connie went to grade school with one of Frank's sisters and they chummed around together.
As a former head of the Palace Guards that protected "Madam President for Life" I remember doing something that today, as I look back I wonder that I am alive today. Once on memorial day weekend we went out to Put-In Bay and flew kite just for the fun of it. Well Connie's kite line jumped out of her hand and went zipping across the lawn. All the people on the lawn did nothing to stop it. It hopped over the break wall and into the lake. It was Connie's favorite delta kite so I jumped into the lake, swam out to the kite, tied it to my belt, swam back and collapsed on the lawn. I did not know the temperature but I wonder how I survived. Connie thanked me profusely and I didn't get a cold. Then I became a anchor for the large Edo kite as mentioned above. I think that is where I got my love for kites that try to pull you off the ground.