All posts filed under: Rest in Peace

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

Rest in Peace, John Lewis

America just lost one of its most clear-eyed, moral leaders. John Lewis — civil rights hero on the front lines from lunch-counter desegregation in Nashville to Freedom Rides through a hostile South, the last remaining speaker from the August 1963 March on Washington, U.S. Congressman for 34 years, an activist to the end, and conscience for a nation — passed away Friday night after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Representative Lewis was a hero to many because in this age of nonstop blathering nonsense, he spoke plainly about the hope for an America that — as Langston Hughes wrote — is the America that the dreamers dreamed. And he not only spoke, but he walked the talk, most famously when his skull was cracked more than fifty years ago while trying to walk across an Alabama bridge working for justice.  There are many wonderful tributes to John Lewis pouring in. I recommend the statement of President Obama, who — when given a ticket to his history-making inauguration as the nation’s first Black American president …

Incalculable Loss. Enduring Grief.

Yesterday the United States passed a tragic milestone: 100,000 of our fellow citizens have died because of the COVID-19 virus. The true number is certainly much higher. Sunday’s New York Times featured a front page full of names and simple obituaries of just 1% of those who have died. They spoke of the incalculable loss we have suffered from the impact of the pandemic. Because of a botched response to the coronavirus from the administration that continues to this day, many more people died than would have with competent, credible, and empathetic leadership. The United States is, unfortunately, a world leader in an area where we once relegated so-called third world, developing nations. We have lost our minds. But more importantly, we have lost all that those lives that are being cut short could have contributed had they not been felled by a disease that was allowed to run rampant in support of a political ideology. We have lost world-class scientific knowledge. Soul enriching music. Literature that touches our heart. Hugs and smiles from grandmothers. …

COVID-19 Claims the Life of the Last Surviving Monuments Woman

Motoko Fujishiro Huthwaite had — by any account — an amazing life. Born in Boston on August 24, 1927 to Japanese citizens, her father was a prominent dentist and professor at Harvard. As noted on the Monuments Men Foundation website: “The family was befriended by Langdon Warner, the legendary scholar of Asian art and future Monuments Man in Japan following the end of World War II. The Fujishiro household became the center of the Japanese community in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Japanese students, professors, and scholars from the many universities surrounding Boston would flock to parties expertly hosted by Motoko’s mother.” She and her mother and brother were forced to relocate to Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor, however, while her father was arrested for espionage and put into an internment camp. He later returned to Tokyo a broken man. Motoko survived the war and became one of 27 women who worked for the Arts and Monuments Commission — popularly known as the Monuments Men. After the war, she reinstated her United States citizenship, lived in …

Remembering John Prine

There is no better way to honor the memory of the late John Prine than to pull out an acoustic guitar, play his music, and tell stories about this American Oracle. It is certainly how many who knew John best have been remembering him over the past week. In recent days I’ve been looking through YouTube, print media, television, and blogs to sample the flood of tributes that his musical fans — famous and otherwise — have posted about the songwriter that many called our generation’s Mark Twain. What most of the tributes lack in technical excellence in this time of sheltering at home, they more than make up for in sincere love for the man and his music. The always inventive folks at the NPR Tiny Desk Concert series have pulled together one of the most satisfying remembrances, gathering six singers and songwriters to perform in a “tribute from home” to John Prine. It is among the most touching Tiny Desk concerts ever. Margo Price and husband Jeremy Ivey, begin — appropriately enough in …

I’m gonna make you laugh until you cry: R.I.P. John Prine

And now it claims John Prine. Damn. Anyone who ever cared about “a word, after a word, after a word” is grieving today. America lost one of its greatest songwriters to the coronavirus when John Prine died on April 7th at age 73. When I wrote about Prine and his music just a little over three weeks ago, on March 14th — before the world learned he was suffering from the symptoms of COVID-19 — I said it was a good time to recall the work of the man who wrote the classic line, “To believe in this living is just a hard way to go.” Now that he’s gone, we’ll have to be content with what is an amazing body of work by any definition. The origin story could come from a classic Prine song. He was a postman who wrote during his breaks. On a dare from friends (and under the influence of a few beers) he stepped up to an open mic and sang Sam Stone, Hello in There, and Paradise, three …

Lean On Me: R.I.P. Bill Withers

If you are of a certain age, you know Bill Withers and his soulful Lean On Me. This anthem of love, community, friendship, and support could be heard everywhere in the 1970s. “Sometimes in our lives we all have pain We all have sorrow But if we are wise We know that there’s always tomorrow Lean on me, when you’re not strong And I’ll be your friend I’ll help you carry on For it won’t be long ‘Til I’m gonna need Somebody to lean on” Here in 2020, the song has helped many people get through these first few weeks of the Coronavirus crisis. Just this morning, I received the monthly e-newsletter Culture School from Amira El-Gawly at Manifesta, where she brought the song back into my consciousness when she wrote: “Bill Withers knew what he was talking about… back in 1972. I’ve loved the song “Lean On Me” since I was a little girl — it spoke of something I had a sense for but didn’t fully understand as a child. And today it hit me. This is …

R.I.P. Virginia Governor Gerald L. Baliles, Advocate for Preservation

Former Virginia Governor Gerald L. Baliles, who passed away on October 29th at age 79, has been appropriately recognized as a quiet but effective leader. His “boldly cautious” style was credited for gains in increasing the number of women and minorities in statewide leadership positions, as well as for increased support for transportation and the environment. But the Jerry Baliles I remember was also one of the most effective advocates for historic preservation at a time when development pressures in Virginia were pushing forward at the expense of its past. His leadership led to much needed changes at the state level that played an important role in all that has happened to save the best of Virginia’s past in the almost three decades since the end of his term as governor in 1990. During his campaign for governor, Jerry met with representatives of the state’s preservation community. He listened intently to the challenges we put before him and promised, if elected, to be a friend of historic preservation. He was true to his word, and …

Connecting to Our Best Selves

The Honorable Elijah E. Cummings, who represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District which included his beloved city of Baltimore, passed away on October 17th. His was an especially difficult death for many of us to process, because he regularly and effectively spoke truth to power at a time when that trait is sorely lacking in our civic conversation. Yesterday’s Washington Post had a Cummings op-ed written in July entitled We Are in a Fight for the Soul of Our Democracy. It began, “As I pen these words, we are living through a time in our nation’s history when powerful forces are seeking to divide us one from another; when the legitimacy of our constitutional institutions is under attack; and when factually supported truth itself has come under relentless challenge. I am among those who have not lost confidence in our ability to right the ship of American democratic life, but I also realize that we are in a fight — a fight for the soul of our democracy. As an American of color, I have been …

Wonder

Imagine living 99 years inspired by a sense of wonder. Entering into the world as children, we began with the curiosity and amazement found at the heart of a wonder-filled life. Yet along our journeys, most step out of this sense of wonderment and instead become cautious, cynical, hardened, haughty or any number of other traits designed to protect our egos and allow us to function—or so we believe—in the adult world. In taking that step, we too often lose a generous, more imaginative perspective. Wonder came into my consciousness last week while I was in Charlottesville for the memorial service of a long-time friend, Anne Worrell. I met Anne soon after moving to Virginia in the early 1980s, and over the years I came to know her primarily as a historic preservationist, businesswoman, newspaper publisher, philanthropist, and convener extraordinaire. With her husband Gene she founded their first newspaper, the Virginia Tennessean, in Bristol, and together they grew the company to be one of the largest chains of small dailies in the country. Anne, who …

Toni Morrison, R.I.P.

Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize-winning author and arguably our First Lady of Letters, passed away last evening, August 5th, at the age of 88. She left this earth as a new book of essays, The Source of Self-Regard, along with a recently released documentary entitled Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, introduced long-time fans and new readers alike to her towering intellect and broad vision. These works could not have come along at a better time. Now that she has died, we will have to rely on the power of Morrison’s words; the clarity of her vision for social justice; the love of art, music, and literature that permeates the meditations in The Source of Self-Regard and the interviews in The Pieces I Am more than ever. At the end of “Peril,” the very first offering in The Source of Self-Regard, Morrison makes the bold statement that, “A writer’s life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.” And through 350 pages of speeches, essays, and meditations, she shows why. There are 43 pieces in The Source of Self-Regard, …