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Issue of October 22, 2014

A hope note
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A hope note
Dr. Wayne Willis reflects on life and hope.

Human interest

April 23, 2014 | 11:43 AM

In 1991, Michael Weisser became the cantor and spiritual leader of a synagogue in Lincoln, Neb. Shortly after he and his family moved in, the phone rang. The caller told Rabbi Weisser that he would soon regret having moved there. He called Weisser "Jew Boy." Several days later, a package arrived at the Weisser house containing neo-Nazi propaganda and a card that read: "The KKK is watching you, scum."

The hate-filled phone calls continued coming from a Larry Trapp, the grand dragon of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Nebraska and a neo-Nazi. Trapp was also a paraplegic, a double amputee confined to a wheelchair, and nearly blind.

In one of their phone conversations, Weisser said to Trapp: "Larry, given your physical disabilities, you would have been one of the first people the Nazis would have exterminated."

Something powerful began to happen. The two men agreed to meet. The whole Weisser family began to develop a relationship with Trapp. Sometimes they even did his grocery shopping for him. Trapp eventually decided to join the people he had so despised. He became a Jew.

When Trapp's health began to fail, the Weissers took him into their home. Julia Weisser quit her nursing job to take care of him. Shortly before he died in 1992, Trapp ordered flowers for Mrs. Weisser with this message attached: "Thank you for changing me from a dragon to a butterfly."

At Trapp's funeral, an African-American man Trapp earlier had persecuted delivered a eulogy praising the Weissers' ability "to sift through the ashes of a very mean world and find the spark of the truly human."

It is a very mean world out there. Our task as moral people is to sift through the ashes and find the spark of the truly human.

Dr. Wayne Willis


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Corydon Democrat, 301 N. Capitol Ave., Corydon, IN 47112 1-812-738-2211 email