Columnist Connie Schultz has had a very high profile the last two years -- winning the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2005 and going on leave in early 2006 to work on the ultimately successful U.S. Senate campaign of her husband, Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). So all eyes were on her first post-sabbatical column today, and Schultz opted for a moving memory piece about her late father.

"I grew up in Ashtabula [Ohio], the buckle of the snow belt along Lake Erie, where the white stuff buried lawns around Halloween and the grass didn't make another debut until about June," wrote The Plain Dealer of Cleveland staffer. "In my hometown, spring robins showed up wearing parkas, and the ruffles of our Easter dresses flirted with the tops of chukka boots. ... It was the darndest thing, that lake-effect snow, and my dad hated every last flake of it."

Schultz continued: "He could either shovel in the dark of night or shovel in the dark of morning, but the drive had to be clear for him to get to work at the power plant. For 36 years, he was never late to the job he hated every day he was there.

"There was my mother to worry about, too. For her, he didn't shovel, he sculpted, carving out a mountain pass for her petite and precious self. "Make sure you pack the sides,' he'd yell at whatever hapless combination of us kids was drafted to help. 'We don't want to lose your mother!'

"No matter where I lived later, there was less snow than back home, and it turned into a game over the years, my calling Dad for weather reports. ..." Even Schultz's daughter would ask her grandfather: "What's it like where you are?"

But Mother Nature's "nemesis is gone," Schultz wrote of her father. "His heart stopped last spring, only days after he'd started clearing out the brush in his flower beds."

She added: "In the fall, my sisters were packing up my father's home when they found something they knew I had wanted for a long time. My very first column in this space was about my father's lunch pail. I wanted it as a reminder of how my father wore his body out so that I'd never have to, but he could never find it. That beat-up pail sits in my home office now, right next to his hard hat.

"Every day, I catch a glimpse of them before I leave. And every day, snow or no snow, I want to ask him the same old question. Hey, Dad, what's it like where you are?"

For the complete column, click here.