In the fall of 1983 Bud Hart wrote a column for the Quarryville Sun ledger that began with the words; "Cancer claimed another of my childhood heroes..." Bud went on to write what he admired about the man whose death inspired his column that week. Also in that column Bud paid tribute to many other men from Quarryville and the Southern End who he looked up to as a child and young man. Bud knew then how special it was to grow up in that small town in the midst of the Amish. A place where everyone knew each other. Where people worked, played, hunted, trout fished, laughed, worshiped, and lived and died together. A place that I still call home and a place as idyllic and unchanged by time as Brigadoon (a mythical village in the Scottish Highlands that appears for only one day every 100 years).
Just this morning I phoned a childhood friend in Quarryville whose father is very surely in the final days of his life. That man, was and continues to be one of my childhood heroes. A man who always treated me like I was one of his children. A man who took me to the mountains with his family, a man who embraced me every time we saw each other on my visits back home. I have thought of this man many times every day these past few weeks, and each time Bud's column of 35 years ago echoes in my mind and tugs at my heart.
My tribute to you Jay, is to say now some of the things I have always thought but may have never said to you, even during one of our embraces. I love how virtually everything you have ever said to me has had a hint of loving sarcasm in it. How you included me in your jocular comments touting our athletic abilities, those physically impressive, almost super-human achievements that most men would never know or experience:-) How you always remembered my Dad with such loyalty. And how you never once complained about your own health challenges.
I regret deeply that until this morning through your son Gary, I never once said I loved you, even though that feeling filled my heart each time I saw you. In more than just a small way, you have been a living extension of my father, because you were one of his earliest childhood friends. You represented someone who truly knew my Dad, and being around you has made me feel as close to him as I could feel after his death. So thank you for your warmth, kindness, and even just those looks you used to give me when your sadness made talking impossible. In those times, your eyes said all I needed to hear.
As I have been thinking about one of my childhood heroes, I have been spending more and time each day reliving the times and people in my life who have made my life special. Those I grew up with, or those with whom I served at sea. Perhaps most especially my Mom, because it's surely her sensitivity to life and the things that make life special that has influenced me as much as anyone.
I wish there was a way to tell each of you individually how much I have appreciated your friendship, but I know I'd miss someone. At least know that I do think of you all, some more often than others, but each of you sometime. And know those thoughts make me smile.
To Bud Hart, if I never thanked you for your column about my dad, let me thank you now. It has stayed with me all these 35 years and brought me more comfort than you could imagine.
Jay Newswanger, Lou Weiler, and my Dad (back row, third, fourth & fifth from the left)