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Stained glass window by Milton Frenzel

When I was a cub reporter, fresh out of college, many years ago in southern Missouri, I was looking for something to keep my mind active. I started attending a Great Books Club at the Ozarks Regional Library in Ironton, about an hour away.

And although I was a college graduate who had aced a couple of literature courses, and a working writer, Milton and Virginia Frenzel, who led the book discussions, were so deeply engaged with what we read, and on such a different level than most of my college professors, that they changed the way I thought about books for good. They didn’t just study them. They looked at them as living things, argued with them, demanded more from them. And by changing the way I thought about literature, they changed the way I thought about myself. And they weren’t even trying to do that. They were just being themselves, authentically and unselfconsciously, and in doing so opened up a new way of defining myself.

Milton and Virginia were an unlikely pair of Ozarkers: intellectual and urbane, they were among several artists who had emigrated from the St. Louis area to the Arcadia Valley, (others included Robert Harmon and Michael Chomyk). Milton and Bob Harmon designed stained glass windows for the Emil Frei Company of St. Louis, and Milton also painted. As I recall, Milton taught some art classes at the high school, although I don’t remember if he taught there full-time. I think they were largely in retirement by then. Virginia later served on the AV School Board.

That book group attracted some remarkable people, both natives and transplants. I may write about more of that group later. But for now, I’ll content myself by observing that if I ever dare to call myself an educated person, it’s a term that first began to become clear to me in a monthly book group at the Ironton library.


— Another Frenzel window.