JON RAN THE GOOD RACE
It is Tuesday, December 22, 1964. San Francisco is experiencing a power outage associated with high winds and a driving rain. City lights are out with the exception of San Francisco Hospital. The generator provides flickering lights for the maternity ward, and in delivery room #3, a beautiful baby boy has just entered the world.
Richart and Shirley Slusher name their sweet baby boy, Jonathan. No one could have guessed this healthy, crying little boy was destined for unbelievable suffering in the future.
In California, Jonathan grew into a fine energetic and playful youngster as he became the apple of his parents’ eye.
After a move from California to New Jersey, Jonathan was joined in the family by another sweet little brother, Mark, and the two became fast friends. One of their favorite enjoyments involved the two boys riding on a tricycle after a rainstorm that produced lots of mud. Mark peddled while Jonathan stood on the back fenders, yelling, “Faster, Mark, faster!” And, of course, Mark peddled faster so that when the tricycle hit mud puddles, mud went flying everywhere. Mom could hardly recognize either of the boys after these episodes and no amount of parental threatening could squash the call of such fun. Then, on one occasion the two boys decided to run the tricycle at full speed into Dad’s fish pond. Luckily, they, dripping and laughing, departed the little pond, but were not so lucky when their Father saw what had happened. Let us just say, it didn’t happen again.
The family moved from Liberty Corner to Mountainville and Jonathan entered kindergarten in the Tewksbury School System from which he would later graduate. Now, another member was added to the family. A sweet little sister, Lea. This trio became famous for their lemonade stand established each summer near the small stream across the road from our house. Motorists driving home from work became regular customers not realizing the kids made the lemonade using water from the stream. It was only after Mom discovered this that the enterprise was shut down permanently.
Jonathan then went from business man to writing small stories. He was able to get one such story printed as an article in a local paper. Inspired by success, he struck out on a mission to interview the older generation of Mountainville. He accumulated taped stories from Mountainville’s senior citizens and had the idea of writing a history sometime in the future. He was twelve years old at this time, and although he never completed the history, we still have all the tapes. Other activities competed with journalistic instincts as he learned to play the bass violin and began running cross-country at Tewksbury.
After graduation, Jonathan decided he wanted to be called “Jon” as he entered Voorhees High School. Writing became limited to assignments, then Jon found photography greatly enhanced the written word and he tried his hand at concentrating on photographs of old barns and attics. The idea was rewarded with recognition in the form of several prizes.
At about the same time, cross-country running and running long distances in track became another focal point. He ran to High Bridge and back, then all around Califon and Tewksbury. He ran and ran so that he just fell into bed at night. Watching Jon running in a race, one wondered how he did it as he came down the course vomiting all the while running as fast as he could. When Jon was elected co-captain of the Voorhees Cross Country Championship Team in 1982, he was elated but thought it had happened by accident. It was not until he was named to the All MidState Cross Country Team in 1982 that he began to recognize these accolades came about as rewards for a job well done. This attention to Jon’s favorable performances as a runner was an incentive to continue running throughout his life and he did just that, running his final race the first part of October, 2009, before he was diagnosed with brain cancer on October 17, 2009.
Family activities, participation in music groups at Church and a community symphony orchestra added to homework and scholastic pursuits completed Jon’s weekly schedule.
Lea (Jon’s sister) and Jon enjoyed fishing together and on a particular family trip to New Hampshire, Lea recalls a humorous moment as they were fishing and having no luck with bringing in a fish. Lea asked Jon why fish were so smart as to avoid being caught. Jon retorted, “That’s because they travel in schools.” Jokes were always a delight for Jon.
Another of Jon’s loves was music of all kinds. He played bass violin in community orchestras and played with other teenagers at a Sunday Childrens’ Mass. Jon admired Fr. George at Our Lady of the Mountain for the jokes he told before Mass and one of his favorites involved a rooster with teeth…..I can’t remember the entirety of this one.
Then, in May of 1992, Jon was inducted into the National Honor Society at Voorhees and the US Achievement Society after demonstrating outstanding qualities in scholarship, service, leadership and character.
During the summer, Jon drove a delivery truck for a local dairy. He made several stops in Newark and on a certain run through a part of town known for its lack of law enforcement, Jon drove the truck swiftly around a corner and the back doors flew open. Out came all the ice cream, milk and other dairy products onto the road, but Jon did not stop. He continued driving with the doors flying to and fro, as fast as he could toward the highway. He then spent the remainder of the summer paying for this lack of discretion in choosing a safe route.
Totally exhausted from driving the dairy truck throughout the summer, Jon was anxious to get away from anything that had to do with the milk industry. So the thought of college was exciting and motivational to him.
We drove him to Lawrence, Kansas where he took up residence at JRP Hall. Most freshmen lived in this residence. At Kansas University, Jon entered the William Allen White School of Journalism. He was majoring in journalism and Eastern European languages. His roommate tells how he was called out in early morning hours to cover police activity, returning later just half awake and proceeding on to class. Those times were tough but he stuck with journalism.
Still there was time for canoeing down the Kaw River, participating in Texas marathon runs, and attending Kansas City Royals games.
All of Jon’s grandparents and extended family lived in the area surrounding Lawrence, Kansas, so that he enjoyed stays at their homes and visits from them. On one such visit to Atchison, Kansas, Jon and his cousin went to Amelia Earhart’s family home. Fortunately, one of the family members was there and had stories to tell of Amelia as a young girl. Jon was given a brochure relating to a historical group who researched Amelia’s career. Throughout his life, fascination with Amelia Earhart continued.
Many other times Jon and his friends rode bicycles from Lawrence to Atchison, a distance of about 50 miles. My mother (Jon’s Grandmother) always had a delicious homemade meal waiting. The boys actually looked forward to one of these lengthy bicycle rides just for the food at the end of the journey.
Music continued to play a part in Jon’s life. He played the bass violin for a church group and together with other students formed a jazz band, “The Catfish Swing Band”.
There were 7 KU students who specialized in light jazz standards, more than twice as old as these KU students. And patrons who went to Bogarts in Lawrence say it was like stepping into a time warp with 50-year old music pieces that provided a pleasant excursion into the “good old days.”
Jon’s love of journalism prompted him to attend a lecture by Nicolas Daniloff at the Hoch Auditorium of the University. Daniloff, who worked for United Press International, spoke about his detention in Moscow by the KGB for several days before he was asked to leave the Soviet Union. Daniloff was accused of taking photographs of Russian Military Installations. At the end of his lecture, University journalism students asked questions of Mr. Daniloff. According to other participating students, Jon proceeded to ask in-depth questions and later his professor wrote to us about Jon’s acute grasp of recent Russian history and how his ethical standards were a great asset in his interview of Daniloff.
Thereafter, Jon graduated from Kansas University, and took a job at the Youth Policy Institute in Washington, DC. He was a writer for their magazine and won much acclaim for an article on magnet schools. It was while working at the Youth Policy Institute that he made the decision to become a journalist. So while scouring the East Coast for a journalism job, he completed an MS degree at Rutgers.
Later, he became a reporter followed quickly by a position as Editor of the Hunterdon Review. His dedication, sense of fairness, professionalism, and presentation of all viewpoints on a question gained him the respect and trust of his fellow workers and with the communities he covered.
Jon’s in-depth coverage of events provided readers with the background to help them understand current problems in the community as well as nationally. And his editorials were often pointed, incisive, and hard hitting and at the same time based upon thoughtful opinions. All the while, he never a resorted to meanness in any of his writings.
Suddenly while this outstanding, talented and committed editor enjoyed a high point in his career, and was contributing so very much to the community, a lightning bolt struck. Jon was diagnosed with brain cancer following several episodes of dizziness. In October of 2009, his family and the entire community felt the crushing blow of a brain cancer diagnosis.
Jon was treated at Sloan-Kettering in New York City. He received chemotherapy and radiation for several weeks. The suffering was indescribable, but he was a model of great courage, never complaining and always thanking the doctors and nurses who looked after him.
The ups and downs of this terrible illness continued for a year and he would go to his office and work whenever he was able. The chemotherapy treatments gradually made him very weak so that the cancer deprived him of the use of all his body and pain became his constant companion. No words can describe the desperation and agony his family suffered throughout this awful time.
Fighting to the end, our courageous and beautiful son never gave up and never complained. Finally on October 7, 2010, Jon finishes his race and crosses the finish line into Heaven, while the Lord shakes his hand and says, “Well done good and faithful servant. The world is now a better place because of you”.
It has been written, “That which a man is, never dies, it survives him.”
--Shirley Heintzelman Slusher