February luncheon event includes both memories and green pea salad on the menu


It’s a fascinating chain of events when life finds a way to come full circle for the past to meet the present.
While donating blood during a community drive last year before the holidays, a man who was also donating just one chair away said he recognized me from my columns and from seeing me speak at a luncheon event “years ago” that was hosted by his wife.
“My wife will be so surprised to find out who I crossed paths with this afternoon,” he said.
“Would you be willing to speak once again at her luncheon event, and if so, may I have your contact information?”
The name of this reader with the keen eye and steel-trap memory is Mike Abercrombie of Munster and his wife’s name is Donna. I definitely recalled the luncheon event he described, which I attended with my parents when it was held in the gathering space at Southside Christian Church in Munster.
To my surprise, this prior speaking engagement date from the past was in December 2007, far longer ago than I had thought. It became a date easy to pinpoint when Donna Abercrombie showed me a framed capture of the follow-up column I had written describing my talk to the group of 100.
Earlier this month, I shared my Fat Tuesday 2024 as guest speaker once again at the same church gathering hall on Feb. 13. Among the 64 guests were a few returning names and faces who had attended 17 years before.
Speaking at schools and groups has always been one of my favorite ways for outreach with readers and radio listeners. At the last moment, my parents opted not to make the trek with me up from the farm to share the memories, menu and fun moments.
Donna Abercrombie is known to many for her more than two-decade career as a first-grade teacher at Kenwood Elementary School in Hammond.
After we met in 2007, I penned a column about their daughter, who I like to describe as “a veterinarian to the stars.”
Dr. Bonnie Abercrombie, 42, is a 1999 graduate of Munster High School who earned her Bachelor of Science at Michigan State University. She attended Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine on the Island of St. Kitts in the Caribbean, and then, completed her education in 2006 at Colorado State University.
Her first employment after earning her vet degree in September 2006 was landing a staff position at an animal emergency clinic in Aspen, Colo. where she began her career treating the dogs and other animals of the who’s who luminaries spending leisure hours on the slopes.
Both Donna and I laughingly agree Bonnie is usually more impressed with the canines, rather than the notable clientele list holding the leashes.
“One day she called me and said: ‘Mom, there’s a famous actor coming in for his dog and I think he’s married to an actress. Who’s Robert Wagner?’” Donna recounted to me.
“Of course, I was very excited and I told her all about him and how he was married to Natalie Wood at one time and now was married to Jill St. John. After she met him when he came in to pick up their dog Larry, she called me back and said he was very nice and how he kept saying he couldn’t believe I was old enough to be a vet.”
And for the record, Robert Wagner celebrated his 94th birthday earlier this month on Feb. 10. His actress wife Jill is 83 and the couple have been married since 1990.
Given our start of the Lenten season, one of the recipes served at Donna’s luncheon gathering attracted my eye and taste buds and is perfect for sharing this time of year. It is the recipe for Chilled Pea Salad courtesy of Sue Schmidt, who also attended the luncheon.
My 2010 “red cover” cookbook “Further From the Farm” includes a great recipe for “Snow Pea Salad” from my late third grade teacher Mrs. Erna Eckert, however, the crumbled bacon key ingredient make it less appropriate for Lenten menus. Mrs. Schmidt’s recipe includes the surprise ingredient twist of a can of mixed vegetables which give the finished result a colorful and tasty confetti quality appealing to the eye and appetites.
Columnist Philip Potempa has published four cookbooks and is the director of marketing at Theatre at the Center. He can be reached at pmpotempa @comhs.org or mail your questions: From the Farm, PO Box 68, San Pierre, Ind. 46374.
Mrs. Schmidt’s Chilled Pea Salad
Makes 10 servings
1 can (15 ounce) sweet peas, drained
1 can (15 ounce) of mixed vegetables, drained
2 hardboiled eggs, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup sweet relish
1/2 cup mayo
Salt and pepper
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine mixed canned vegetables and peas together.
2. Add chopped eggs, onion, celery and sweet relish.
3. Add mayonnaise to mixture and gently combine.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste and chill for at least 1 hour and serve cold.


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