To the editor:
After my husband Joe's passing, I discovered a rough draft of what would have been Joe's last column.
While his handwriting was difficult to decipher, Joe did refer clearly to Gloucester as "this magical place."
So my thanks today would be to Joe for helping us to focus on the visual beauty as well as the gifts of the sea which largely define the magic of Gloucester. And thanks to Joe and all of those who have cherished and protected this magic.
Joe would not have survived to scribble that last column had it not been for our ambulance corps that brought him to the emergency room ten minutes away in the hospital he loved. He would not have recovered so joyously had it not been for every nurse, doctor, therapist, support staff, and his fellow patients and family.
He lived his last weeks so happily expressing his joy, and endless appreciation of his harbor home, of his neighbors, friends, colleagues, craftsmen and women, sailors and fishermen, artists, journalists, teachers, children, historians, librarians, archivists and those political leaders who were and still are part of the magic.
The Oct. 1 remembrance program printed a sonnet, written by Joe's father, Dr. Joseph Garland, which ends with the phrase
"They have not gone, nor can they dwell apart,
Who still have a place within a living heart."
Following is Joe's final letter or column. Joe would never have submitted a "first draft" so it is a joint responsibility among about four of us who had to decipher his penciled notes that the message this time was more important than his high standards of editing. There are still a few words we could not decipher.
Joe wrote the following sometime in July or very early August of 2011.
"In our hey day, we were the greatest fishing port in the world with the greatest history.
"During our Revolution, we suffered more grievously than any other American community, not only from the British blockade of our fishing and maritime life that came close to starving us out (in 1775). But from the attack of the Falcon to burn us down which we repulsed in one of the greatest maritime (???) in our history which I have identified as the crucial turn of events that resulted in the retirement of the British forces from Boston and thereby their abandonment of their hold on the critical (???) of our emerging independent country.
"No other community in the U.S. has played such a critical role in our history.
"The resolve of our ancestors to fight for their liberties to the very end.
"Now, here in our Gloucester, should be the National Museum of American Fisheries. Our leadership here in Gloucester and our congressional delegation and NOAA should be out there fighting and lobbying for it
"We are in another critical point in our history, faced with urgent challenges. We can get it together and pick up the challenge, and regain our togetherness and our pride or be overrun by interests that want to exploit this magical place for their own benefit once more ... and perhaps for the first time leaving us to pick up the shattered pieces — this time after it's too late.
"I suggest you consider the irony of the ability of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to spend more than $27 million to replace the bridge that has brought the world into our very midst, in many respects that are beyond our means to cope with while our school libraries and fire stations have been closed — and 128 truly becomes a time bomb for the destruction of what we cherish as the most unique community in the United States.
Unless we can meet this challenge, unless we can pull ourselves together as we did years ago when faced with life or death as a community prepared to give its all for freedom.
Start with the resolution (???) of life or death for freedom."
Submitted by HELEN GARLAND
Eastern Point, Gloucester
for Joseph Garland, 1922 — 2011