COLUMN: A Senior Moment with Barry ZeVan: The VA; Senator Howard Baker; Kilt Wearing Time Approaches

Created: 07/01/2014 11:52 AM By: Barry ZeVan

THE VA - Obviously, it's been recently sadly proved there's been an overload of egregious occurrences at numerous VA Medical Centers regarding delayed patient scheduling resulting in numerous tragic and unnecessary deaths.

Not so for yours truly regarding scheduling or any other element of VA visits or treatment. For more than 40 years, I am among those who have had the privilege of receiving VA medical benefits, including treatments and major operations at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center. The experiences have never been less than excellent and successful nor cause a complaint to be filed or even of which thought.

In my opinion, and the opinion of most recipient veterans, I am certain, our VA Medical Center has to be among the highest-rated in the VA Medical system. I recall it was rated number one a couple of years ago, for many good reasons. The doctors and nurses are, and have always been, thorough and first-class.

I have had a hip replacement surgery five years ago, cataract surgery three years ago, two kidney stone procedures and much more, along with regularly-scheduled checkup visits for various and sundry "geezer" needs, no delays were ever part of the equation for treatment.

I feel badly for those service people and their families who have suffered the ultimate price because of the alleged incompetence within parts of the VA Medical Center system. I'd be more than surprised if our VA Medical Center's personnel are listed among the offenders. (FYI: I got my meteorology training in the USAF, enlisting at the very end of the Korean War. I never thought that training, or VA benefits, would help me once I was discharged. Obviously, I was slightly incorrect, thank goodness!)

HOWARD BAKER - Sharing several social occasions and lengthy conversations with Tennessee Senator and eventually Ambassador to Japan, Howard Baker, and his wife Joy, was truly a joy, no pun intended. During my D.C. TV days, our first encounter was at a Washington Hilton party. I don't remember the precise reason for the party, but it was a happy occasion made even happier by the genuinely warm and non-pretentious interaction initiated by then Senator Baker and his wife.

It was sad to see another statesman...because that's what Senator/Ambassador Baker truly was...pass away a few days ago. He was one of the stellar members of the Senate Watergate committee/panel but never full of himself or his position. His pedigree was in politics (the nice kind) because of his father's strong position therein, but, as stated, he was never pretentious, always honest and caring to a fault and an honor to call an acquaintance.

Sadly, his first wife, the aforementioned Joy, preceded him in death by 11 years. Senator Baker remarried Kansas Senator Nancy Kassebaum a few years later. Bottom line: Whenever one was with Howard and Joy Baker, it was instant happiness, thanks to their great and genuinely positive personalities. They don't make 'em like Howard (or Joy) anymore, reverently and sadly stated. 

THE MINNESOTA HIGHLAND GAMES - Even though I am of French and Ukrainian/Russian descent, I developed a strong interest in things Scottish in 1969, during my Las Vegas TV years. One of the people from the public television station there, who had a very Scottish name (still does), was visiting our studio as she had developed a fun cross-promotion for all the media in town and our station was a participant in what she called "The Super-Groovy Turtle Race".

We became great platonic friends throughout the years, during which time I learned she had been born on the Queen Mary while "crossing the pond" with her mother and father between Southampton, England, and New York. Her Scottish father had co-founded the Chase Manhattan Bank with David Rockefeller, thus the lady, who shall be nameless, never missed a meal (still hasn't), but was a fanatic for her Scottish roots.

I became a fan, too, thus, in the mid-1970s, during a visit to London, I discovered a shop named The Scotch House and decided to buy a kilt (Stewart Royal tartan), as well as jacket, sporan, bonnet, garters, proper socks, dagger and most of the other regalia.

During a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, about seven years later, I completed the fascination by purchasing a chanter at a shop on the hilly road leading to and from Edinburgh Castle. (For those not aware, the chanter is the wind instrument with holes that allow one to play a bagpipe. I still don't have the bags, but when I blow into that pipe with the holes, trying to make a semblance of music, our dog hits the ceiling!)

This coming July 12, I will be one of those accompanying Minnesota kilt-maker friends Joseph and Lorie Croft, of Brooklyn Park's The Celtic Croft, at The Minnesota Highland Games in Eagan. Joseph and Lorie are fellow members with yours truly of Minnesota's non-profit St. Andrew's Society, which allows people of Scottish descent, and those just interested in all things Scottish, to be members. The philanthropic/charity games used to be held at Macalester College, but have now moved to the aforementioned Eagan.

If you want to get a good laugh as I try to not let a strong wind get under my kilt, it would be a delight to visit with you there. Specific location information can be gleaned from Ye Olde Internet, lads and lasses. Will hope to see you there!

Barry ZeVan is a columnist for