Kronick’s Chronicles: Community

Bob KronickOur Town Neighbors

On March 25, 2024, I had lunch with Sandra Clark and Susan Espiritu to discuss issues of concern to all of us locally and nationally. I am one who strongly believes in getting off the bench and getting involved. As Ty Cobb said, “It’s hard to steal second base with your foot on first.”

I brought my views to the table at this lunch with an open and spirited discussion on our central focus: community. Consensus on this concept is difficult to reach, expecting divergence.

When did the sense of community become so volatile? A good beginning point is Robert Putnam’s book, Bowling Alone. The theme is how we use to bowl in leagues and now we bowl alone.

Interesting observation and I remember my personal recollections.

In the 1950s, I grew up in a Florida neighborhood in the midst of several ethnic groups. There was the Greek family, the Kostecos; the Italian family, the DeBernardis; and the neighborhood favorite Cuban, Jose Tomas.

The Kostecos took us together with their family at Easter for the Diving of the Cross, an annual tradition where divers go into the deep murky waters of the Spring Bayou in Tarpon Springs to retrieve the white wooden cross.

The DeBernardis taught my mother how to cook spaghetti and Mrs. DeBernardis wrote the introduction to a paper for me on Dante’s Inferno in Italian for which I received an A on the paper.

Jose Tomas, our Cuban neighbor, was the caretaker of the gorillas at the Ringling Brothers Circus. The youngsters in the neighborhood loved going to the circus, because Mr. Tomas took us to ride horses and feed the gorillas peanut butter sandwiches.

Mr. Tomas always had a cigar in his mouth and a smile on his face. Tomas had immigrated from Cuba and he told us years later about the tyranny of living under Fidel Castro.

My mother cooked with gas, so this came in handy when a hurricane hit in 1954, knocking out the power. Our home was the only house that could be used for cooking in the neighborhood so we had a houseful for quite a while.

Our neighborhood: blue collar, two parents, working mothers and a solid community. I am the first high school graduate in my family but education was of the utmost importance in my family.

I have had a long career in higher education doing academic research including teaching, research and service, but my passion has been scholar activism and community service.

I will be writing weekly vignettes with a focus ranging from pre-K education to gun violence landing on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. I hope you enjoy their content.

Bob Kronick is Professor Emeritus University of Tennessee. Bob welcomes your comments or questions to


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