What does Christmas mean to you? To me it runs deeper than just celebrating the birth of our savior Jesus.


Now I haven’t given it much thought this year till the other day during my boxing workout at the Parkinson’s Exercise and Wellness Center, as we were stretching for our class our instructor Sarrisa asked who we missed this time of year and of course my mom was my answer.

What I didn’t expect was the raw emotion that almost overcame me. As we stretched I felt my eyes tear up as my mind was racing with memories, from mom yelling “don’t come in here” as she was wrapping our presents to the drive over to our grandparent’s farm just outside of Marceline MO, we would always turn off Hwy 36 and take the back way to the farm and mom would always break into song singing “Over the river and though the woods to grandma’s house we go” which was an point on description of our drive to the farm.

I also realized that outside of my lights on the outside of my home because I’m keeping the house staged for sale, I don’t have any of my Xmas decorations up, they are all in storage. I would say the 80% of my decorations are from my mom. Many of them handmade!

Each year as I put up my decorations mom is on my mind, but this year she is there more than ever as I walk though the house it feels bare and empty and I can’t help but feel the she would be disappointed in that. I look forward to next year when her decorations will be out in full force.

So what does Christmas mean to me? It obviously means family, and in family I include all of you that have been a part of my life, my Sig Ep brothers, my Northwest Family, my Arrow Truck family, my MN family, my NH family and especially my family in my fight against Parkinson’s. You all make me feel like George Bailey.

Merry Christmas to you all!



Donald Walter Hansen

Just received word of Donny’s passing; I meet Donny almost 20 years ago while at a Meixel Farms shop party which they held each year for customers and friends. From the get go Donny started calling me Too Tall because I reminded him of To Tall Tom Szymanski, the well know weather man from Fargo, and from then on I could not go to MN without someone calling out To Tall when they saw me.

don hansen

Donald and the rest of the Hansen Family have always gone out of their way to chat with me whenever I was in MN over the years, Donny loved telling me about his basketball skills in high school, looking at him you wouldn’t think it but because of the passion he had when he talked of his playing days you’d never doubt him, but unlike what most people would do he never spoke of being a 1,000 point scorer, I never knew that until I read his obituary.

I remember when Chuck Meixel was down for NASCAR weekend which was the same weekend as the American Royal BBQ and I arranged for a bus to pick up the Hansen gang from Motor Coach Row at the track and bring them down to the MO Warthogs BBQ party that Friday evening. The next day Chuck and I went to see Donald and his family at the track. Now imagine the sight as we approached Motor coach Row and here sandwiched in between the million dollar motor coaches was the Winnebago from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and yes it was Donald and the Hansen’s and friends! Donald didn’t care what the other coaches owners thought he and his gang were just enjoying life and having fun, like Don always said, “What’s more fun than people? More People!” Don had a big heart and I’m sure it was full in the end!




Least We Forget

This is the inscription from the head stone photo below taken by me while on vacation in Tuscany Italy in 2017.

William M. McLean
2 LT 736 BOMB SQ 454 BOMB GP (H)

American Cemetery-25

Our tour group stopped to visit the Florence American Cemetery one morning on our way to visit Siena and a winery that day. Now if you’re like me you probably know about the American Cemetery at Normandy. In fact there are 12 such cemeteries in Europe from WWII and 7 more from WWI. Now this was not my first visit to a military cemetery, I’ve even have help with the Wreaths across America who each December on National Wreaths across America Day, coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as at more than 1,600 additional locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea and abroad. Their mission is to Remember, Honor and Teach.

As I was saying, this was not my first such visit and with this being Memorial Day weekend this visit has been on my mind. I took over 150 photo’s that morning and this one stands out because someone stills cares enough to place flowers and flags in memory of William. It wasn’t till later I realized that it was one day off from being 73 years to the date of his passing.

I tried to see what I could find out about William though Ancestry I found out his mother’s name was Sadie and he left a wife named Ruth age 23 back in Illinois. Although I could not find out any more info on William this is what I found on his unit.

Flying from Italy, the group flew 243 missions on over 150 primary targets in Italy, Yugoslavia, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Rumania, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Greece, and Poland. During this time, 13,389.19 tons of bombs were dropped during 7,091 sorties on enemy marshalling yards, oil refineries, bridges, installations, airdromes, rail lines, etc.
The 454th participated in the drive to Rome, the invasion of Southern France, and the defeat of Axis forces in northern Italy. The 454th was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) for similar action on the high priority Messerschmitt Aircraft Factory at Bad Voslau, Austria on 12 April 1944. It earned a second DUC for “outstanding performance of duty in armed conflict with the enemy” as a result of their mission against the Hermann Goering Steel Works in Linz, Austria on 25 July 1944.
After the German Capitulation in May 1945, the 454th redeployed to the United States on 8 July, unfortunately William like thousands just like him was not one of them.

Why did I choose to write about William? He is not related to me and until my visit to on that day in 2017 I’ve never heard of him. It’s the fact that I was able to be there and enjoy my freedom on that day that I wanted to tell his story. It’s because of the hundreds of thousand like William who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom that earns and frankly demands our respect not just this weekend but every day!

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering and honoring people who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.




A beautiful thing happened here in the Midwest on May 8th. After a midday thunder storm the skies to the west cleared up and a double rainbow appeared, now I didn’t get to see it myself but here’s the amazing part of this story, pictures started popping up all over social media and for the first time in a while people were posting positive thoughts and feelings, there was a big drop off in negative posts be it about the government, shootings, or just general complaining about life in general. Now this was short lived and the negative posts came back, now don’t get me wrong I still think that 80% of social media is positive, useful and fun entertainment.


Now let’s get back to the rainbow, what is it about them that make us feel so good? Here are somethings I found out about them.

In Greco-Roman mythology, the rainbow was considered to be a path made by a messenger (Iris) between Earth and Heaven.

In Chinese mythology, the rainbow was a slit in the sky sealed by goddess Nüwa using stones of five different colors.

The Irish leprechaun’s secret hiding place for his pot of gold is usually said to be at the end of the rainbow. This place is impossible to reach, because the rainbow is an optical effect which depends on the location of the viewer. When walking towards the end of a rainbow, it will appear to “move” further away.

According to Genesis, after Noah’s flood God put the rainbow in the sky as the sign of His promise that He would never again destroy the earth with flood (Genesis 9:13–17)

Now here’s my take on rainbows. As a youth I remember mom always getting us kids together after a rain to go outside and search the sky looking for rainbows and I recall seeing our neighbors doing the same (life was hard before social media). On time I asked her what causes a rainbow and she said it was God’s way of telling us it was safe after the storm. And there’s these lyrics from Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (mom would argue that it should be Judy Garlands) version of “Over The Rainbow”

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
And the dreams that you dream of
Dreams really do come true
Someday, I wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
That’s where you’ll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
And the dreams that you dare to
Oh why, oh why can’t I?

When I see a rainbow I think of mom being safe and of these lyrics and feel that there’s hope for a cure, not only for Parkinson’s but Cancer, ALS, Alzheimer’s and any of the many that we suffer from! You see I do believe that dreams do come true!!!


What is Parkinson’s

Many people have asked me over the years just what is Parkinson’s. This was posted on FaceBook  and after reading it I knew I had to share it, has the saying goes I couldn’t have said it better.

But what exactly am I?

I’m a progressive disease of the nervous system marked by tremor, muscular rigidity and slow, imprecise movement, and many non-motor side effects. I cause degeneration of the basal ganglia resulting in a deficiency of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, which is responsible for sending signals between the nerve cells, the neurons, of the brain. I’m an uninvited and most unwelcome intruder wherever I take up residency.

Each year around 60k people in the US are diagnosed as having a form of Parkinson’s. In 1990 there were 2.5 million people with Parkinson’s in the United States; by 2016, that number had grown to 6.1 million   I’m stoked that I’m getting more popular each year.
I am not a death sentence; I am a life altering condition. I’m sneaky; I’m difficult to diagnose unless I’ve already been successful in doing considerable damage. To avoid boredom, I make sure I remain unpredictable; Although all People with Parkinson’s share similar impairments, it’s impossible to predict in how many ways or how rapidly I will take over someone’s body. I get great satisfaction in seeing the spouse of a Person with Parkinson’s struggle to stay emotionally and physically strong. It’s an exhausting situation. Who could have anticipated what lay ahead when they spoke the words “in sickness and in health, ‘til death us do part?”

I’m willing to admit that I do have the decency to recognize that these are brave heroes whose love and dedication shine through daily. I suppose I could be kind and reassure them it’s only human to get frustrated with their spouse; that their anger and worry and exhaustion are to be expected, understood, and forgiven. But that would take all the fun out of it for me now, wouldn’t it?

Medicines that help control my symptoms can have interesting side effects such as intense urges to gamble, shop, binge eat and take part in excessive sexual activity which may even include watching pornography for the first time! The Persons with Parkinson’s who most frustrate me are those who fight me through exercise, speech therapy, and socialization. They get massages, physical and occupational therapy, and even Botox shots for their muscle rigidity. Dancing, music, singing, walking, exercising, all tend to thwart my evil ways! Rock steady boxing and bicycle riding are touted as being the most beneficial but I know that even self-directed walking can be just as effective at making living with me much easier, and all these activities are thought to not only help with the symptoms but they may also slow my progression. This, of course, makes my job of doing the most damage possible much harder.

And when a Person with Parkinson’s passes away? Don’t blame me! I didn’t kill them. Some of them lived long and productive lives with me tagging along. If I did my job well, the later years of a Parkinson’s patient were sad, painful, and extremely challenging. And especially difficult for his or her loved ones. But hey, I’ve got a job to do!

Presently, claims abound for treatments to cure me, but I am stubborn and, happily for me, to date none has proved to be effective. Many new drugs are being tested, including one in Dublin, Ireland, which sounds very promising. It has cured Parkinson’s in mice. Human clinical trials are commencing by year’s end and The Michael J. Fox Foundation just provided one million dollars in funding. This could be the drug to cure not only Parkinson’s, but also Alzheimer’s, inflammatory bowel disease and even cardiovascular diseases. Makes me feel weak just thinking about it. For then, what’s to become of me?

This has been Monica’s Parkinson’s Disease speaking. Knowing her as I do, she’ll just have to add her two cents worth, so now I’m “outa here”. 2/3 Monica speaking: April 11, 2019, was World Parkinson’s Awareness Day. That’s why I allowed that reprehensible entity to have its say. It’s been over three years since I was diagnosed. This journey I’m on is scary at times and challenging, but it also has an amazingly wonderful proverbial Silver Lining. Through my membership in the Persons with Parkinson’s family I’ve made endearing and enduring friendships. This, my second family, enhances my life in innumerable ways. We laugh, we socialize, we encourage each other. We care deeply about each other and those of us with faith beliefs pray for each other. We help each other when we can and we hurt for each other. We shed tears when one of us is no longer around. And some of us have been fortunate in finding a neurologist who treats us not only as patients but as friends.

My dear Irish mother would undoubtedly call all this “A Blessing in Disguise” – and I would surely agree.
Monica W. Martin – April 18, 2019


Got to Keep Moving

I’ve found a new respect for those amazing people with Parkinson’s that strive to achieve things that many healthy people couldn’t do.
There’s Louis Peters of Blue Springs, MO. Who since his diagnoses in 2015 has completed 4 marathons including the Boston Marathon! There has been two people with Parkinson’s on “American Ninja Warrior” Jimmy Choi age 41, diagnosed at 27 and Allison Toepperwein age 39, diagnosed at 37. And there’s Bob, Jeremy, Chris, Johnny and the many others taking boxing classes at “The Parkinson’s Exercise and Wellness Center” here in Overland Park.

Where has my renewal sense of respect for these people come from? Well to be honest, it was due to my lapse of dedication to doing what it takes to achieve what they have done. I’ve been lazy the last 6 months about getting my ass to my boxing classes and then there’s the cycling, Those of you that actually read all my posts know that I’m hooked on gravel cycling and my goal of completing the Dirty Kanza 200, it’s a 206 mile endurance race in the Flint Hills of Kansas which is considered by many to be the holy grail of gravel riding, such that there’s a limited of 1,100 participants and 900 for the 100 mile version and 500 for the 50. There is so much demand (It Sold out in 2018 in 30 seconds) that they went to a lotto system this year. I was one of the lucky ones to get an entry to the DK200.

My history with the DK is checkered, my first year I was entered in the 100 and had a mechanical breakdown after 2 hour 51 minutes and 25.2 miles. Year two I made it to the halfway checkpoint at 47.4 miles but my average speed of 9.7m/h was just under the 10.0 m/h needed to make the cutoff time to continue. Last year I felt ready to finish the 100 but my father passed away the week before and we had his service the weekend of the race. I’m actually at 587 miles of training this year, which is within 137 miles of all last year’s total! This brings us to this year disappointment. I went all out with a new indoor trainer. I’m actually at 587 miles of training this year, which is within 137 miles of all last year’s total! I knew that I was going to spend a few days in Evansville IN for the D2 basketball Elite Eight; even called ahead to make sure they had a fitness center (which turned out to be two old treadmills in a room better described as a closet) there went 5 days of training. Then after 3 days back on the trainer at home I came down with the head cold from hell, chills, fever, aches, congestion, cough and after 10 more days of not training and with the recon report from a friend on the toughness of the course this year I realized that the DK200 was going to be out of reach so decided to transfer my ticket to someone has been in the DK200 the last three years but didn’t get a lottery ticket in this year. I’m instead going to put my training efforts to my own Gravel Grinder “The Parkinson’s Heartland Shaken not Stirred” 100/50km in October.

In the last week I have found a new drive inside me to get off my ass and back to not only my cycling but back to boxing, as this disease progresses I’ve come to realize even more than before the importance of exercise and the programs that places like the Parkinson’s Heartland Foundation have to offer.

Time to get moving after all I’m still shaken not stirred, and thanks for all you support


What’s Your Cause?

Do you have a favorite cause that you’re active in raising awareness to? How often do promote your cause? I had someone ask me these questions the other day. I told her a few hours each week I guess.
After spending time thinking about my answer for a few days I came to realize that I wasn’t spending just a few hours each week, I was spending much more time than that! You see I don’t just spend time each spring asking my friends to donate to “Moving Day”. I also spend many hours each summer promoting my fall Gravel Bike Event “The Parkinson’s Heartland Shaken not Stirred 100/50K”.
I then started thinking about how many times I get asked how I’m doing from friends that know of my condition, and I notice that I know spend more time telling them just how I’m doing, the answer use to be short, I’m doing great I’d say, but that’s not the truth anymore, it’s been 9 years 304 days since I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and the last year has been the hardest. I find my movements slower (Bradykinesia), Muscle rigidity, Resting tremors, Bad handwriting, Speech issues and my Dyskinesia (induced by my medication) all have gotten worse the last 12 months.
I’m taking step to move the needle back to the good side by getting more involved with the programs like the ones that “Moving Day” helps support.

As I was starting to write this tonight I looked down at the band I wear on my wrist, you see it’s not just a band. It’s an awareness band. A awareness band for Parkinson’s. I put this on the week before my first Moving Day Walk and have not ever taken it off since, that’s 6 years ago, it’s showing some age but like me it’s still going strong and helping me promoting my cause, Parkinson’s awareness 24/7.
Once again I could not do this without your support , so no matter how much please give, trust me you do make a difference.
Thanks Stew



My Friend AL

We lost a great man this Sunday. His name was Al Hess and he was my friend.


I meet Al almost twenty years ago on my first day of work at Arrow Truck Sales, Al I was told was loud, brass, no nonsense and very opinionated when it came to the used truck industry. I also got to know the Al that was also kind and warm, not all got to see this side of Al at first, but as you got to know Al you’d start to see signs of his kindness and the warmth of his heart. Many of you with the Used Truck Association know this AL.

My first dealings with Al were an event to say the least. It was about a month into my career at Arrow and a customer had  mailed (yes mailed, we didn’t have digital photos yet) it was of a Mack dump truck and my mentor Jeff Bloss thought it would be a learning experience to for me to go see Al for advice. As I walked into Al office he was on the phone making a deal. I was standing there and notice the stacks of photos on his desk and I started to pick at them looking at the different models when suddenly Al using the phone handset as a weapon of mass destruction he struck at my hand, it was only my cat like reflexes that save me for broken digits! Al just put the phone back to his ear and continue on with his call, yet glaring at me all the while. I turned to hightail it back upstairs to the safety on my office when to my surprise I calmly took a seat in front of Al and waited until he got off the phone. As he hung up and still giving me the death stare he said “Don’t ever touch anything on my desk” okay his words may have been a bit more colorful than that.  It was at this moment that you could see the change in him eye’s and the tone of has voice as he asked me, ”Now what can I do for you” after we discussed the Mack dump and he gave me his opinion he told me to come to him whenever I needed advice on trucks.

Although I was given a quick peak at Al’s kindness during that first encounter I was not prepared for what came next. It was about a month later when I was involved in a car accident in front of our office and my car was totaled. The day I returned to work Al asked me if I had a ride home and offered me a ride. Al had driven his 944 into work that day and as we were driving home he took me to his house and once there he got out and told me to use the Porsche until I got a replacement car, this was the true Al not the Al I was told about.

Al has been a sponsor of my American Royal BBQ team, and when I announced to the world about my Parkinson’s and Moving Day fundraising, he was one of the first in line. Al always made a point to stop by my office when he was at Arrow for business or if we were at an UTA event he would seek me out to see how I was doing. Al’s passions were his family, his friends, his racing and the UTA.


I last spoke to Al about a week ago, and although you could tell we was getting weak by his voice the first thing he did was ask how I was doing and that he would not forget about my Parkinson’s Moving Day, I was deeply touched that in his times of need he was still thinking of others.

God Speed my friend Al Hess


Happy Birthday America!

Those who know me also know that Independence Day is my favorite holiday. As a youth growing up in Cameron MO, your typical Midwest small town America there was nothing better than seeing the town all dressed up with American flags and red white and blue banners. The American Legion made sure anyone who wanted a flag in their yard had one!

The week leading up to the 4th the air was filled with the smell of smoke bombs, snakes, bottle rockets, black cat firecrackers, roman candles and our kitchen was filled with the smells of mom baking pies and cream puffs from scratch. All this was building up to the 4th of July parade led by the fire department and the fireworks display in Recreation Park with the community band preforming in the old band shelter.
As a small child I remember my father smoking a cigar each 4th so he could use it to light the fireworks with it. afterwards our own firework show my mom and dad would take out the window screen in my brother and mine bedroom so we could all take our lawn chairs onto the kitchen roof from which we had a great view of the city firework show to the south.
As a fifteen year old who could forget celebrating the Bi-Centennial, to this day I’m still thankful to be born in a time to observe as a youth such a milestone in our great county’s history. My patriotism starts as a youth when my mom would remind me that I shared my birthday with the signing of the “United States Constitution” and with reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance” each day before classes, for those who have not heard it in a while it goes like this…
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Then there was all my years in Scouts and the Scout Oath..
“On my honor I promise that I will do my best,
To do my duty to God and my Country,
To help other people at all times and
To obey the Scout Law.”
As I’ve grown older these words have come to mean more to me than just a pledge or oath I had to recite before class or meeting.
As for our National Anthem or God Bless American, if you are going to a sporting event with me don’t even plan on showing up just before the start, I expect to be in my seat before our Anthem is played, regardless of the performance this will always give me chills and bring a tear to my eyes.

For those who have served our county in our military, you have my upmost respect and thanks; I looked into the Air Force but was not able to serve our county due to being almost deaf in one ear. Outside of the original patriots of the thirteen colonies it is our veterans who we owe the most to…
Trust me there is nothing wrong with having Christmas, Thanksgiving or even Easter as your favorite holiday, but for me it is Independence Day which is the reason we are all free to have our favorites.

Happy Birthday America


Happy Bday Pinhead

We all have that one friend, you know the one that would do anything for you, and they are almost always your best friend.

Now there are different types of best friends, you have you first; you know the one you meet in kindergarten and more than likely keep till Jr High. In high school you weren’t always limited to one best friend, sometime you had a group you were a part of and considered them all your BBF’s.
If you went to college you might have meet them there though sports, fraternity, sorority, dorms or social groups. This is the story of how I meet mine.
Our first meeting was not a good one, it was the spring of 80 and my high school basketball coach Zack Workman had arraigned for me to visit the campus of Northwest Missouri and play some pickup games with the team. The first person in the basketball office I meet was Coach Orr, as I was talking with him he explained that the head coach Lionel Sinn was at the airport picking up a recruit in walked Russ Miller their 6’11” center. I’m not short by any means but this was the tallest person I have ever met. Then in walked Mark Yager a skinny 6’6” kid from south Chicago and right after introductions he pointed at my gym bag and asked if I cane up to play, now even before I could answer he said in his south Chicago accent “boy that sucks, we’re not playing today, we’ve got a softball game!” and with that he turned and as he walked out I was thinking what a jerk.

Our second meeting happen because the few basketball offers I had were to schools that even with scholarship monies they were too much for me and my family to afford. I had decided to go to Northwest for their Industrial Arts program, and after a few weeks of classes I had found my way to the gym and it was playing pick games with the team that I got to know Mark, in fact it was at his urging that I approached coach Sinn about walking on the team. It was shortly after this that Mark walked up to me as I was answering the phones for work study at South Complex and said “You look like a Stew, I’m going to call you Stew from now on”! I have been called Stew or Stewy for years but, this was the first time anyone at Northwest referred to me as such. That summer Mark called me and asked me if I wanted to go in on a apartment with him Kevin Heruf and Rob Granquist, we became roommates for the next 3 years.

Mark and I grew into being best friends; he was my pledge pop in Sigma Phi Epsilon, I was his best man at his wedding and to this day the mug he gave me inscribed “Best Man, Best Friend” is one favorite gift.
Mark moved to Kansas City after school and we would talk almost daily, worked out at Golds Gym together, played in countless basketball leagues, Mark even named his first dog after me and called him “Stu”, I told him if I ever got a dog I’d name him after him and call him “Butthead”.
Our families treated us like we were members of each other’s family. Norm and Elaine would open their home to me when I would travel to Chicago back in my wholesale car buying days, Norm once talked me into taking a $75,000 (in 1991) 1968 Shelby GT 500 Convertible out with uncle Bob for a beer run. There was the true test of being a best friend too, it was Mark back in college who had to wake me and tell me of my grandfather passing. I remember when Norm passed and some of the family friends thought I was one of the brothers, which I took as the highest compliment.
As you grow older you find as I have with Parkinson’s that life has difference plans for you, Mark and Cindy moved back to Chicago years ago and our phone calls over the years have grown with less frequency, we talk on birthdays, holidays mostly. Mark travels for work a lot and his home time is spent watching his kids grow, Alexis is the 24th rank high school swimmer in the country and is heading to Tennessee this fall, Mark is a 6’4” 16 year old who is a pretty good baseball player. Both of who their uncle Stew is very proud of.

Me and Mark

Now I’m blessed in having many great friends like Chuck, Stephen, Robert, Patti, Damian, Jennifer, and all my Northwest friends, and even though it takes Mark a week or two to get back to me and he hasn’t been to KC in a while, he’s still my best friend and today is his birthday, so happy birthday Pinnhead!

Your BBF Stew