All posts filed under: Rest in Peace

Remembrances of people – some famous, some family – who touched my life.

Remembering D-Day

Seventy-five years ago today, almost 160,000 troops from the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States — including smaller contingents from Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland — invaded Nazi-occupied Europe on the beaches of Normandy.  Over the next three months of fighting, 209,000 Allied troops would die before the Nazis were pushed back across the Seine. June 6, 1944 — D-Day — should never be forgotten. It was a time when the countries of the world came together to combat bigotry, racism, and hatred.  Many men and women made the ultimate sacrifice in that fight. To be in Britain for the 75th anniversary is a reminder of our better natures.  We began to see the remembrances of the anniversary as we stepped off the bus in the small Cotswald village of Chipping Campden last week.  There, in the center of this beautiful High Street, was a small World War I memorial covered with poppies, the now almost-universal symbol of remembrance for those killed in war. This week, …

I.M. Pei, Rest in Peace

Eight days before the revered architect I.M. Pei passed away at 102 years of age, I had the opportunity to visit one of his last—and more remote—commissions:  the Miho Museum in Japan. Standing amidst the Shiga mountains in a protected nature preserve, Pei’s Miho Museum, which opened in 1997, fits in well with the other modern yet very accessible works of this master who left an indelible mark on the world before his passing on May 16th of this year. Pulitzer Prize-winning architectural historian and author Paul Goldberger wrote a lovely obituary for Pei in the New York Times, capturing  the architect’s expansive work and spirit.  When thinking of Pei, my mind naturally turns to the beautiful East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., a museum I’ve visited many times.  One feature that always brings a smile to my face wasn’t exactly designed by Pei.  Etched into the stone is a listing of all those who made the East Building possible—politicians, National Gallery leadership, architects, and more.  At one point the beautiful …

Self-Sacrifice

When watching the In Memoriam segment of the Oscars last month, I learned that the French actress Stéphane Audran, who played the title role in the Danish film Babette’s Feast, passed away in 2018.  Babette’s Feast—and Audran’s performance as the chef who moves from Paris to the desolate, western coast of Jutland in 19th century Denmark—are among my all-time favorites.  (Babette’s Feast also ranks as Pope Francis’ favorite movie, but I’ll bet he hasn’t watched Bull Durham.*) Here is a short synopsis (spoiler alert:  you will find out all the basics, but none of the real nuance that makes this such a wonderful film): The movie begins in a small Protestant village that has been led for many years by a very rigid pastor. The beliefs of the congregation are extremely Puritan, making the village a drab, grey place where there is hardly any joy. After the pastor has died, his two elderly daughters are forced into leading the older, dwindling congregation. They had hoped to marry when they were young and beautiful, but their …

Remembering Dr. William J. Murtagh: Keeper of the Register, Preservation Pioneer

(NOTE:  My appreciation of the life and legacy of William J. Murtagh was first published on the Preservation Forum Blog on November 2, 2018.) Bill Murtagh, who passed away on October 28 at age 95, was among the most visible and effective preservation leaders in the middle of the 20th century, when the movement was expanding its focus from historic sites, museums, and teaching to the emphasis on people and community that we recognize today. To those of us who came to preservation in the 1970s and ’80s, Bill was seemingly in the middle of everything. He served two stints at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, first as President Richard Howland’s assistant in 1958, later returning for several years as vice president for Preservation Services. He was a member of the committee that outlined the principles at the core of the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act. He was a key figure in the establishment and growth of preservation education programs from Columbia University to the University of Hawai‘i. His “Keeping Time: The History and …

Extraordinary People Hidden in Plain Sight

Last week was difficult.  The horrific shooting on Saturday at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh shook many of us to the core. Coming at the end of a week of attempts at mass political assassinations, it called into question assumptions about our nation’s values. As a historian I know that anti-Semitism and bigotry are as old as our country, in fact as old as recorded history. Thankfully, stories of courageous response to bigotry are just as old, yet often not as well known. The Overlooked Obituary project of the New York Times is designed to recognize extraordinary people overlooked by the editors of the paper in their day. People like Rose Zar, the remarkable mother of my National Trust colleague Howard Zar. Rose Zar’s overlooked obituary appeared in the Times on the anniversary of her death in the Jewish lunar calendar.  That happened to fall during this past week, bringing a story of hope and determination amidst a flood of bad news. When she was 19 and living in the ghetto in Piotrkow, …

Have the Courage to Change Your Mind

By the time I first met John Buchanan, he had finished his eight terms in the U.S. Congress as a Republican representing Birmingham, Alabama. This third generation Baptist minister was long past the time when he was targeted for defeat in 1980 by the Moral Majority.  He was even past his term as the founding chairman of the liberal lobbying group People for the American Way.  When I met John and his wife Betty in the 1990s, they were the loving and selfless grandparents to a granddaughter who was in a youth group with our twins.  However, their intellect, courage, sense of public service, and generous spirit were still very much in evidence in everything they touched. Betty died in 2011, and I was thinking about our connections and their lives after I heard the news of John’s passing on March 5th at the age of 89.  John had the courage to change his mind, even at the cost of his political future.  First elected in the Republican wave of 1964, following the passage of …

Memories

For the past two decades, New Year’s Day has had memories of loss mixed in with the anticipation of the coming year.  Mother passed away on January 1, 1998, and while a day doesn’t go by when I don’t think of her, the memories are especially poignant on New Year’s Day. Thankfully, mother’s life left many legacies in her family, her church, and her community.  Mom’s love of family never changed and was unconditional. She loved each one of us as individuals who had unique gifts and ways to serve. The lives lived by her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren (who she never met) and in-laws are part of her legacy. Her commitment to her faith and her church was just as strong.  She was a life-long reader (as was my father) and she shared that love through her decades of service at church libraries in Tennessee.  She also believed in the power of women in the church, and became the first female deacon at First Baptist in Murfreesboro.  Mom served her communities in so many ways, …