Uncle Tommy always knew exactly what he wanted, including the details of what would happen after he died. I don't know how he's doing on his end — probably running deep pass patterns or digging for second on balls hit into the gap — but at this end he's getting what he asked for. He died in the Napa Valley and was buried in Hopland, and today we honored his request for a memorial in Santa Rosa for his many friends here.
Mom (his sister) and his significant other Nannette were the hosts of what they decided to call a celebration of his life. It was an informal celebration in a hall donated by friends of the family. Suzanne brought cookies and coffee. Mom and Nan had each gathered photos of Tom from throughout his life, along with pictures of the people who were important to him. None of us had any experience in organizing this type of event, and we had no idea what to expect.
What we thought might happen would be that the few people we'd contacted personally would show up, and maybe a few more who read the announcement in the paper. It was heartwarming and very satisfying to see people start trickling into the hall well before the appointed time. By the time the ceremony started, more than thirty people had found their way to our little celebration. A few of us were family members, but most either knew him in high school, back in the early fifties, or were friends he'd made in later years.
Mom told stories of her brother's early years, and Nan brought us up to date on the last twelve years when she and Tom were together. Everyone who spoke, either to the crowd or in conversation over coffee, mentioned his sense of humor. It was clear that all who knew him admired his courage and perseverance in the face of tremendous obstacles throughout his life. He loved his friends and family, and he was loved and respected in return.
It's an admirable legacy to leave behind. His children — my cousins Sharon, Chris and Kelly — and his grandchildren and great grandchildren will carry on, remembering what he taught them and inspired by the example he set. All of his family and friends will miss him, but we will also cherish a lifetime of special memories that transcend his brittle body and celebrate his shining spirit.