As a newspaper editor, even a part-time editor of a small weekly, I received a lot of mail. Most of it went right into the recycling bin without being opened. These were press releases from all over the country for which there was no room in our publications and little interest, as I determined, among our readers.
Occasionally, however, something demanded to be opened. Like the little white box with no return address.
This was 2005 – hard to believe a full 15 years ago come this October – and the curious staff, who had been eye-balling the box for two days waiting for me to arrive, gathered around in anticipation.
Inside, I found a stuffed animal, although none of us was sure what kind of animal. On his head were a pair of yellow swimming goggles. On his feet, yellow swimming flippers. Hanging from one hand, excuse me, paw was a sign that read “Guess who’s making a splash in the Poconos?”
That was it. We were stumped.
About a week later, as I absent mindedly went through my ritual of flipping unopened press releases into the bin near my desk, something caught my eye just as the envelope left my hand. Did that say, “Guess who’s making a splash in the Poconos?”
I fished it out and opened it and found an invitation. An invitation to the grand opening of Great Wolf Lodge, a massive $92 million indoor water park at Scotrun, yes, in the Poconos. I was welcomed to bring my wife and our bathing suits and spend the night. The requisite free food and drinks were also promised.
Typically, I never attended such events. But when I mentioned to my wife that Regis Philbin would be there to cut the ribbon, well …
To borrow from the jargon of the Sixties, Great Wolf Lodge was mind blowing. We did not stay overnight, but we did stay long enough for me to arrange for photos and devote a full page of coverage.
But the most memorable part of the experience clearly was Regis.
I used two words to describe him:
And beautiful.
He is officially listed at 5’7 but in person seemed much smaller. That only added to the effect, however.
I used the word “beautiful” as opposed to “handsome” because that is the only word to describe how he struck me. He was downright beautiful. From his flawless skin to the gleam in his eye to the glow that seemed to surround him. We couldn’t take our eyes on him. And couldn’t stop talking about him after we returned.
We observed him from afar and did not even attempt to get our picture with him. Just seeing him in person was enough.
When we heard of his death last week, our sadness was tempered by our gratitude that we had once been in his glorious presence.
By the way, as you’ve probably figured out, the stuffed animal was a wolf.

Ed Ackerman