Maybe it is going to become routine. Maybe these sad days will become more frequent as time rolls on. This weekend a bunch of us came together to remember one of our own, fallen. The day arrived as a reminder that time is not a static thing, but memories are.
Stories were told, pictures were displayed, and people spoke. No bitter, angry, or remorseful words were spoken. We all came together to honor a friend, an icon, and perhaps lament the passing of our own youth.
John Pat Leavy loved and was loved. He was at times an impassioned debater, who was certainly up on current affairs and the ways of the world. I never heard him speak unkindly of anyone. Everybody knew John, and it seems John knew everybody. Even if you didn't share a beer with him, which by the way was one of his favorite things to do, you were at least peripherally familiar with John, if you spent any time in Marshalltown. John was confined to a wheelchair from age 12 or so. Actually, confined is not the proper word. Nothing confined John. He joined in all of the activities any young man would in those years I was in his circle of close friends.
John Pat Leavy
I first got to know John in 8th grade. All of us from three different schools, Haverhill, St. Henry, and St. Mary, all attended St. Mary as a combined 8th grade class. There were two floors in the school, and for one of the classes, it was part of my charge, with Tom Underkofler, to "hump" John up the stairs for class, and back down to ground floor after the class. Others shared in the duty for other classes. It was just a part of our routine, and nobody minded.
As a teenager, besides hanging out on Main Street in Marshalltown on the courthouse square watching the cars drive by as they scooped the loop, John joined a core group of us in other activities. It didn't matter if it was swimming, fishing, or just taking a walk, John joined in.
I shared an apartment on Webster street in Marshalltown with another friend for a while. John was a frequent visitor. I built a ramp to the side of the stairs so John was free to come and go, and we made sure he knew he was always welcome. John spent many a night in that apartment.
It was an old house that Keith Drummer had divided into apartments. The floors leaned to the east. I know this because many times when I'd get up in the morning, John would still be there, slumped over in his wheelchair sleeping. Gravity pulled him down hill, and invariably he'd be asleep against the east wall in the living room.
I left Marshalltown in the mid 70s. I left Iowa in the early 80s. But every time I came back, I always made it a point to look John up and attempt to catch up.
John could ask the best questions. He always asked how my parents were, how my brother was, how my sisters were. He'd go through the entire list, every single time. It wasn't idle conversation either, John genuinely cared.
John was a poet. So was his mother Kathleen. Poems from both of them graced the pages of pamphlet which was put together in celebration of John's life. I leave you with both of those poems. R.I.P. John. You will be missed!
By Kathleen Leavy
If you should need someone
to count the stars, for you.
Or fetch the moon from out
the midnight blue, for you.
Just call my name, and I'll
come smiling through, for you.
There's nothing in this world
I wouldn't do, for you.
By John Patrick Leavy
Of all the days gone by my friends,
we all knew they would come to end.
For from the very day of birth,
we are destined all to leave this earth.
And for those of us who remain and bawl,
like babies, we too shall fall.
And if life doesn't turn out
as it should and seems,
remember life is but our dreams.
And when they put us neath this earth
it's the end somehow, but also
it's another birth.
Kiss me farewell and don't you cry
for it is farewell and not goodbye.
Until next time-
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In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2005 - 2013 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.