Daniel Rubin: Checking back on notable folks from 2011

Posted: January 02, 2012

Another year, another 85 columns, which raises the question: Where are they now?

Keith Fenimore's efforts to own the world's most recognizable face have not netted success, if you measure his mug against that of, say Muhammad Ali or Angelina Jolie. Or even James Fenimore Cooper.

But the New Hope-Solebury High grad figures his yearlong experiment in manipulating social and traditional media has reached two million people. "All this," he notes, "without a sex tape or scandal."

Bob Thomas, the laid-off Camden cop whose 4-year-old disabled son was made to walk through security at Philadelphia International without his orthopedic braces, is back on the job. The cash-poor Police Department rehired him in April for a desk job. He thanks you for the checks.

The Bridge Way School, the area's first high school for teens in recovery, opened last fall in Roxborough to students - five of them. One's already been accepted to college with a scholarship, says Rebecca Bonner, a Swarthmore educator who started the school after watching her daughter struggle with addiction.

The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum is where it always was - hidden among the vast wasteland of self-storage sheds and rental car lots near the airport. But now it can call itself the museum of the year, winner of the first International Historic Motoring Award. Fred Simeone, a neurosurgeon who has been collecting classic racing cars since he was a lad in Kensington, traveled to London and donned black tie for the Nov. 15 hoopla.

The borough of New Hope promised to install a quaint light post outside Meshell Kimball's clothing store on Mechanic Street after vandals chopped down her hawthorn tree in June.

Mostly that was an excuse to remove the "Frankentree" that popped up in its place - a gruesome bolted-together totem of dolls, flags, and knitted gnomes donated by passersby. A day after I wrote about this second tree, it disappeared as well.

But the borough's plans for gentrification have stalled due to budget problems, and so for the last few months, the site has hosted a folk art installation that resembles the crosses people plant at accident scenes. I have to think the people of New Hope will take up a collection.

A couple of good ideas I wrote about have grown roots. Joe Schacter and Gene Epstein started off sending care packages to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Schacter's son served. Their Food4Troops is now a nonprofit that has sent five tons of TastyKakes and other treats abroad.

Three months into its existence, Sink or Swim Philadelphia is most definitely afloat. I wrote in October of Marion Leary's notion of using Facebook to solicit small contributions to help people facing huge medical bills. The registered nurse and Penn researcher has raised money from more than 100 donors since naming her first recipient.

Her project generated $1,720 for the first beneficiary, who is recovering from a liver transplant. And $1,595 in November helped a dog walker with a ruptured tendon, and the December beneficiary has received $2,485 for her cancer treatment. The nonprofit itself won $1,000 in November from Stake, a micro-granting program.

Finally, on a personal note, I should note that my wife and I have stopped sleeping with our dog. Harley the Bouvier had surgery on his torn CCL (the big and expensive ligament that supported his back right knee) in August. To keep him from using the stairs, we moved a futon down to the den and camped out with him for about 10 weeks.

He's sort of recovered. Harley contracted MRSA, and there's still a chance he will have to endure another surgery to remove a metal plate that supports the joint and harbors stealthy staph bacteria.

Until then, like the rest of us, he is soldiering on, enjoying the good days, bounding gamely into the new year.

Contact Daniel Rubin at 215-854-5917, drubin@phillynews.com, or @danielrubin on Twitter. Read his blog at philly.com/blinq

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