Monday, July 05, 2010

Independence Day 2010: Missing Friends

Our guests lined the top of the levee behind our house, with a few thousand other Rome citizens,
as the fireworks began a little after nine Sunday evening. I really like this picture.

Those Missing
Our Independence Day Celebration for 2010 started on a somber note as we remembered the three missing friends who have died in the last few weeks.

Charles Reichel attended the Fourth of July get-together several times with Sharon in recent years. Their daughter Carlyn is a dear friend of Brannon and one of our "extra daughters" from Brannon's school days. Their other children Carsten and Cara are former students of mine from my days in the gifted program. Cara and her husband Peter Mills, are the founders of Prospect Theater with whom I performed in a musical theater revue about ten years ago. Charles was the director of the National Creative Society, a Lutheran pastor, a loving husband and father, and a man of deep commitment to all those roles. Charles died of a sudden heart attack.

Here are a few of the early arrivals at last year's celebration. We grieve that we have lost three dear friends this year, each very suddenly: Cleve Burton (facing the camera in light blue shirt at the right) and Wint Barton (suspenders and cane), and Charles Reichel (not pictured)

I have written about Wint Barton several times. How he enriched our lives, the last few years especially. As our pastor pointed out at Wint's funeral, you don't expect the obituary of a 97 year-old to include the words "died unexpectedly". Wint's did. And it was very appropriate because he was such a vital, interesting, and interested nonagenarian. Wint began attending our Fourth of July parties about four years ago and was always the life of the party.

Then just a week ago Thursday, Cleve Burton, my good friend since 1962 (another, another, another) was struck by a massive heart attack in the middle of the night. His funeral came one week before the Fourth. I was unable to attend because of my involvement in a Rome Little theater show.

Cleve, a lawyer, was a person of remarkable integrity. He was scrupulously ethical in all his dealings. He loved the law. The Constitution and legal foundation of our country were precious to him. He would have made an excellent judge.

Cleve and I performed folk music together when we were in high school. We were MYF friends. At one MYF party at Cleve's house we got to watch a movie from his glassed in porch. They had sold West Rome Drive-in the property and had finagled the glassed-in porch and speaker as part of the deal. We went to Camp Glisson together. I bought my first guitar from Cleve.

Cleve and his father, Joe, taught me to play poker. Cleve's brother, Mike, became (and remains) one of my closest friends after Sheila and I moved back to Rome. Cleve's wonderful mother, Burnita, arranged so many singing engagements for me that I jokingly referred to her as "my manager."

Cleve and Terri have two children whose ages match those of our children. Keenan and Brannon were best buds in their preschool years. Daphne and Lillian were inseparable from toddlerhood through elementary years. We visited each other's houses for game nights, birthdays, chili, etc. Cleve and Terri make one of the world's great chilis. Sheila and I took squaredancing with the Burtons for several months in 1986.

Cleve and his family were almost always in attendance for our Celebration on the Levee from its inception in 1993. We grieve for him and will sorely miss him, especially at this time each year.

David had already removed most of the meat by the time I got a picture.
It sounds as if it would have been difficult to wedge in one more drumstick the smoker was so full!

About 150 old, new, and renewed friends joined us for the celebration and barbecue.
This is taken from the levee.

Fireworks over the world's greatest barbecue smoker.

You soon can read about and see more pictures of our
2010 Independence Day Celebration on my Facebook wall.

Here's a bit of John Adams for your Independence Week viewing:

1 comment:

  1. This is a lovely story about dear friends. Cleve was a good friend and his mother, Burnita, worked every month in the Community Kitchen with me.

    Charles Reichel was a wonderful gentleman too. I knew him before Nicole got to RHS through his children when they were involved in RLT.

    Uncle Wint was one of my favorite characters in Rome. He was Leland Bagwell's uncle and I have and treasure one of his split oak baskets. He made it for me and it is signed.

    I guess there are always some that we miss from year to year but all three of these men were exceptional people and wonderful ambassadors for the Rome/Floyd County area.