Sunday, April 21, 2024

Cookies and lots of Christmas kindness

| December 25, 2020 1:00 AM

A taste for murder mysteries 13 years ago prompted an act of Christmas kindness that touches today.

At yuletide 2007, Connie Spurlock of Coeur d’Alene was browsing library shelves for a whodunnit when she spied Debbie Macomber’s “One Simple Act.” It certainly sounded like a detective novel. But when she got home, Connie discovered “One Simple Act” encouraged generosity.

It was unputdownable.

The book’s message has a biblical ring: “Do for someone else what you are planning to do for yourself.” Connie was planning her customary Christmas tea for family and friends. Instead, she called her intended guests and asked if they would mind staging a tea for senior citizens.

They were eager to do so.

Then, Connie called Diantha Ott of Heritage Place (formerly Coeur d’Alene Homes and now The Grove at Orchard Ridge). Diantha signed on after Connie explained her plans for a “gift of Christmas cheer,” complete with cookies, tea, decorations, and children singing.

Connie and some 20 friends have baked thousands of cookies since then. The Seasoned Citizens prefer old-fashioned sweets, like frosted shortbread and fruitcake. Also, they enjoy the miniature pastries prepared by French-trained chef Ken Bryan, now 88, of Coeur d’Alene, Connie’s uncle. Ken’s spread includes eclairs, Napoleons, cheesecake, and lime tarts.

The first act of yule goodwill expanded to a half dozen retirement homes. Choirs from Winton (the first five years) and then Sorensen schools have joined in, too. No one is overworked, assures Connie.

In this year of COVID Without End Amen, Connie and her Cookie Crew changed methods. They couldn’t enter the Senior Citizen Home Formerly Known as Heritage Place, of course. But they still provided enough cookies for each resident to enjoy at least six.

A favorite moment of Connie’s occurred about five years ago when a resident asked if he could read the Christmas story. The famous account from Luke 2 is the centerpiece of Connie’s annual teas.

“The reason for the season is Jesus Christ coming to earth,” Connie said.

The man informed Connie he didn’t need a Bible or a printout of the Christmas story. On the day of his recital, he appeared in a tuxedo. When the time came for the reading, he began: “Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house …”

Stood up

Speaking of Santa, Jeanne Helstrom of Coeur d’Alene says the Jolly Old Elf stood her up. And Jeanne was left holding the bag(s) Saturday night. Seems Jeanne and hubby Herb had loaded two bags with groceries for the Coeur d’Alene Fire Department Food Drive. Then, they waited for a fire truck to pass at the scheduled time, between 4:30 and 5:30. And waited. Jeanne tracked the truck on the city website. She was surprised when it turned south off Milton Avenue onto Mt Carroll Street instead of north toward her house a block away. She figured it would double back. It didn’t. Jeanne gave up four hours later. A neighbor who had also waited in vain for the truck volunteered to take the Helstroms’ groceries to the fire station. It wasn’t as exciting as handing the groceries to a fireman on a truck. But the food found its way to the needy. And that made this challenging Christmas merrier.


• Poet’s Corner: “The star above/gave gentle light/And all was peace/that silent night./That same sweet peace/I wish to you,/for Christmas and/the New Year through – The Bard of Sherman Avenue (“A Christmas Wish for You”).

• Lori Mosqueda of Coeur d’Alene hash-tagged a recent Facebook post “klutchymuch” and “nottouchinganythingelsetoday”? Why? First, she popped a balloon, scattering blue confetti all over her living and dining rooms. Then, she spilled coffee grounds on her kitchen counter and floor.” All this happened on Monday. Of course.

• Bumpersnicker on metallic-green VW on McFarland: “If my dog doesn’t like you, neither do I.”

• Shawn Keough doesn’t miss the nasty, national-style politics that has tarnished North Idaho. But the Recovering Legislator is pleased that her successor, state Sen. Jim Woodward, R-Sagle, is representing her First District well. Now, one term removed from her long career of quality governance, Keough has one regret: “I miss the opportunity to help constituents.” So do they.

Parting Shot

Retiring Ben Wolfinger won’t miss the phone calls at 3 a.m. or the politics. But the two-term sheriff will miss traffic patrols. It’s in his blood. That’s why he joined the DUI emphasis patrol Friday night. Ben’s taught traffic law for 25 years at two community colleges and the Peace Officers Standards and Training Academy. On Christmas Day 1981, he issued his first ticket as a special deputy for North Idaho College. Traffic enforcement, Ben told Huckleberries, can lead to positive interaction between police and the public. And, he added, cops solve more crimes and find more wanted people on traffic stops than any other way. “It was good to go back to my roots,” Ben said of his final shift on patrol. A career that began on April Fool’s Day 1983 ends at midnight New Year’s Eve. Ben upheld the high standard passed on by predecessors Pierce Clegg and Rocky Watson. Soon, it’ll be new Sheriff Bob Norris’s turn to shine.

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D.F. “Dave” Oliveria can be contacted at


Sheriff Ben Wolfinger leads the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office Employee and Volunteer Awards and Recognition Ceremony in Coeur d’Alene in 2017.