Thursday, December 31, 2009

As the Year Winds Down...

Another 90 minutes until 2009 ends. Melinda is working tonight and tomorrow, so a low-key holiday for me. I've been working on an optics project I'll post about eventually... This evening I've been searching through my boxes of photos looking for ones I've visualized the last couple months - of friends lost this year.

The news came in early October that my friend Glenn Losey died in Cedar Rapids. He was 71 and died of lung cancer - I've never known him to smoke, but I've only known him for 15 years. I met Glenn in 1993. I had flown into Sioux City, Iowa to take part in the annual celebration of the bicycle called RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa). Well, through a series of circumstances, United Airlines had "misplaced" my bicycle. Fortunately, though, there was another biker who suffered the same situation. She was coming in from Seattle, and their team driver was Glenn Losey, waiting curbside for her, and a smile and handshake for me. He offered to bring me back later for my bike, meanwhile me and my camping gear were welcome to join "Team Toad". Well, my bike wasn't "found" for 24 hours, so that first day of the ride, Glenn had me as assistant support driver as we exchanged life stories. He was just about the friendliest guy I had ever met, and seemingly had an endless supply of silly t-shirts, as illustrated in the photos. We only saw each other the week of the ride every year, but it was if I were family, and we kept in touch by e-mail the rest of the year - he put me on his mailing list of "groaner" jokes, and had about a thousand questions when he and his wife Barb adopted a mother cat and kittens. He stopped driving for the group after a few years, and I only saw him only occasionally when they loaded the bus for the continuing RAGBRAI trips. I stopped going myself this year, so I had lost track of the health of him and others in the group. Then the bad news from Carl, our team leader about his death - a shock of sadness knowing his smile will not greet me on my return... Sad indeed.

And then another e-mail from a friend in mid-November - another good friend, John Gregory, had been killed in an auto accident, and his wife Carolyn was critically injured when a driver drifted across the center line. John and I had been friends for about 20 years - we met at the Texas Star Party - a gathering of telescope nuts, some to use them, some to make them. I was just getting into the optics biz and he had been a lens designer and telescope maker for decades. Interestingly, though, the thing that brought us together was that my mother had died of cancer, and his first wife was going through a similar circumstance, eventually dying. We consoled each other in our grief, and became friends with repeated visits either at TSP, or his trips to Tucson or when he and his second wife Carolyn flew their "Cindy Cessna" to take part in the Grand Canyon Star Party, which I organized for nearly 2 decades. Again, a great guy - a renaissance man, really - he surprised the heck out of me when at a dining hall he uncovered an old upright piano and started playing honky-tonk music. So besides optical design, telescope making, he played music and made jewelry as well! He certainly had the energy of a man much younger than his 82 years! The photos are of him and Carolyn arriving at the Grand Canyon about 10 years ago, and a picture of him at a talk he gave about his experiences in optics in 2006. The picture on the screen is of John back in the 50s (I suspect) and his 2 little boys - I love it! I had corresponded with him only a few weeks before his death, so the suddenness again is so shocking. Another friend I will miss dearly.

So with the unpleasantness over with, have a better 2010! To our distant friends, we can't wait to see you again. To those of you we've not had the pleasure to meet, we look forward to it! One hour left to the New Year - almost time to break out a beer and dig out that piece of chocolate cheesecake in the fridge - Melinda left me a piece from the one I made yesterday for her staff party tonight!

1 comment:

Mike Jones said...

Hi Dean and Melinda,
Mike Jones here. Actually, it was John's second wife, Marion, that died from cancer. I never knew Randy and Rick's mother, John's first wife. Marion was a sweetheart as well, very open, welcoming and giving. She and my wife got on like lifelong buddies. Her last months of life were very hard on John as he watched her waste away in great pain. I don't remember how long it was after Marion passed that John met Carolyn, but it was several years. Like Marion, Carolyn was a kind, caring friend and wife. Their wedding was a lot of fun, remember?
Take care, y'all.