Guest column: Daughter returns favor by having father’s article printed in the Packet

Forty nine years, John van Raalte made one of his daughter's wishes come true by submitting a story for publication that was written by the 7-year-old to the Princeton Packet.
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Forty nine years, John van Raalte made one of his daughter's wishes come true by submitting a story for publication that was written by the 7-year-old to the Princeton Packet.

Forty nine years ago this month, my sweet father John van Raalte made one of my wishes come true, and it involved The Princeton Packet.

I was a young girl of seven then and wanted a story I had written to be published in the paper. My father, being the kind of man who would move heaven and earth to grant a wish of mine and to bring me joy, paid for a classified ad in The Princeton Packet just to please me.

Now, many years later, I find that I would love to do something equally wonderful for my father. My father is now 82 years old and he is still the “Superman” that I grew up with, although perhaps a little less physically capable than when he was younger (we forced him to give up things like skiing and climbing ladders to clean the gutters at 80), but in every other way, he is still an amazing man.

He keeps mentally sharp by tutoring my 12-year-old nephew in French, math, science and English. He also loves Kenkens and Suduko puzzles and shares them with family members.

While all of this would seem to be enough for most mere mortals, it is not enough for him.

You see, my dad was an engineer who holds 19 patents; he graduated from MIT both undergrad and with his PhD and then moved to Princeton. He worked for RCA (now SRI International) on Route 1 from 1964-89 and then for Thompson Consumer Electronics and then Philips in Dijon, France, and Maastricht, Netherlands, respectively, before retiring to Princeton. He speaks five languages fluently and is an avid corrector of grammar and table manners.

For years he’s been happily retired, traveling with my mother, spending time friends and family, fixing things around the house, helping friends and neighbors with computer issues or doing their taxes etc. This kept him interested enough until along came COVID-19. Now his focus is on graphing many statistics about different states and countries. He even has tried to explain to all of us in the family, as well as to his friends, why the prediction graphs that the media are using aren’t the “right type of graph” to use. He firmly believes they should be using a Logarithmic graph and, frankly, I couldn’t quite follow what he was saying.

However, this year, my father, the man who only occasionally asks me for Excel help on how to do a mail merge for the address files for the annual Christmas letter, asked me for help with something I know nothing about. He asked me how he could contact someone like a newspaper or New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo or Anderson Cooper or someone. He desperately wanted someone who was getting quoted in the media to listen to his opinions and predictions (in March he did accurately predict the number of cases there would be in the U.S. by August), but no one answered his emails or letters. He has managed to publish in Quora.com, which has made him happy, but I was hoping for more.

For a Christmas present to him, I would so love if I could in some way get one of his posts published in The Princeton Packet. It would mean the world to him, and I would be returning a kindness he did for me all those years ago. Unfortunately, my story of a pony eating an apple because it had salt on it clearly does not require the same qualifications as required to publish opinions about COVID-19 statistics, and as my father is not a medical expert, the papers aren’t able to quote any of his writings.

I’m hoping that my father will be just as happy with this article and knowing that a reader can look up his writings on Quora.com or send him a message on Facebook if you’d like to hear more.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Kirsten (van Raalte) Melvin
Lawrenceville