To the editor:
I attended the memorial/testimonial gathering last Saturday at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum for a dear old friend who passed away, Leo Hart.
It was an amazing tribute to a person who has touched so many people in Gloucester and environs for a period of close to 40 years (Yikes! Are we all that old?).
Many of us got up to share our individual stories of how we came to Gloucester and how we met Leo (a philosopher, gentle soul and supreme jokester) and to reminisce about the way life was for all of us back in the 1970s and ‘80s, and some more recent.
The main thread that came through all the testimonies was the strong sense of community that existed then, and is still in place to this day. Most of the people in the room knew one another, and remember sharing many good times with Leo and with each other over the years, from then ‘til now. Of course, we never seem to say all that is in our hearts and minds at those “on the spot” moments, hence this composition.
After the gathering, I went back to my “world” and all it involves, but found myself thinking about those times shared, and about how Leo fit in, and it came to me that his primary love, and best attribute, was that he was a good listener, and above all, a “story gatherer.” He would take each and every person’s story right into his heart, and incorporate it into the stories he himself shared with friends and strangers alike. And he would always share them with a good laugh sprinkled with empathy and deep understanding.
I realized how much of a gift he gave us with that love of his. He connected us with each other, and with people we’d never met, all interwoven through the world of the story.
In combining that insight with the emphasis at the gathering about community, I came away with a deeper appreciation of both the importance of those in and just outside our long-time circle, the importance of embracing those who have come into our lives since those “early days” and most importantly, the importance of sharing our stories, keeping them alive and embracing the new stories that happen in our lives each day. This is the fabric that holds the community together.
As we all left the gathering, it seemed everyone had a “Leo Did It” button — and that’s a funny story all by itself — or a “Sail on My Friend” sticker somewhere on their jackets.
Let us also “sail on” together and use the sea of community and the wind of the stories to keep us on track through our life’s journey. Our stories and our community will continue to bring us joy, laughter and deep insight as we navigate our sometimes turbulent world.