Remembering my friend

Published 11:46 am Monday, April 10, 2023

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A couple of weeks ago my friend died. At the request of his widow, I will not mention his name because unfortunately, there are those who choose to victimize a person once it is discovered that they live alone. 

I first met my friend and his wife in 2011, when my wife and I bought the property next to theirs. He and I often met at our fence where we enjoyed a beer and good conversation. 

He once told me that he had felt guilty that men he knew had become casualties of the war in Vietnam while he enjoyed the relative safety of college life. So, in 1969, at a time when some men hoped to avoid military service, he joined the Marine Corps. He learned to fly helicopters but never served in combat, a fact of which he seemed slightly embarrassed more than 40 years later. He left the Marines as a captain and finished his military career flying helicopters for the Army National Guard out of Salisbury. 

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He and I embarked on many adventures. We canoed and kayaked the Green River and took part in the annual Lake Adger cleanup as proud members of the “Flip-flop Brigade”. We bicycled to Saluda for lunch, up the switchbacks of Green River Cove Road. Although he was more than twelve years my senior he graciously slowed down so I could keep up with him. We both volunteered to assist the Green Riverkeeper as water testers. He listened intently when I excitedly told him about some of the things I learned about the river’s marine life. It wasn’t until later that I learned he had extensive experience in aquatic biology. He was a humble gentleman who rarely talked about his accomplishments and was always willing to give someone else the spotlight. Thus, he rarely drew attention to himself – one of the reasons he told so few people of his illness. 

Communication was an intrinsic part of his personality. He would engage anyone in conversation and genuinely enjoyed whatever they had to say. He was especially proud of his children, his son, the surgeon, and his marathon-running daughter.

In June of 2021 the four of us were at a concert in Roger’s Park. A few women were dancing to “Build Me Up Buttercup” and my friend jumped up to join them and danced as if no one was watching. 

Within a year he would be diagnosed with ALS. 

Once diagnosed, he attended to business with the precision of a military pilot. He took care of every detail so as to leave as few chores as possible for his beloved wife. He visited the hospice and got to know the staff who would ultimately oversee his death. He developed a “flight plan” which he successfully followed to the end.

My dear friend died with the same dignity and purpose that he lived and I miss him. 


Jesse Harman

Fredericksburg, Va.