Friday, May 17, 2013

Cool Dude

“A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity,” attributed to Buddha

The headline of a Northwest News announcement read: IU Northwest mourns the loss of Garrett Cope.  Steve McShane called him a charmer with a heart of gold.  Ellen Szarleta said he was passionate in his dedication to the community outreach programs that he directed, such as Kids College, Senior College, and Glen Park Conversation.  Labeling him an icon, longtime friend Anne Thompson recalled: “He could sing and dance and direct.  He was a tremendous costume designer.  He could build sets.  He knew everything there was to know about theater.”

It was with a heavy heart that I drove to Manuel Funeral Home in downtown Gary to pay my respects to one of the coolest dudes I have had the pleasure to know.  Walking into the room containing Garrett’s open casket, I hardly recognized my dear friend, who had grown a mustache, neatly trimmed for this final viewing.  Chatting with son Michael was Carol Federenko, effusive in relating how influential Garrett had been on her development in theater.  I mentioned that my sons had been in three of Garrett’s summer musicals in the mid-70s.  “Which ones?” Carol asked.  When I answered, “Finian’s Rainbow,” she said she had played the mute girl Susan.  She’d also been in “Hello Dolly” with them.  In the background was the voice of Garrett singing Broadway songs.  We have the same CD at home and once attended Garrett’s one-man show, accompanied by Mrs. Tatum on piano, at a Merrillville club.  As I was leaving, I ran into Robert Buggs and Donald Young.  Buggs worked for Labor Studies and Young was a campus police officer, “A” student of mine, and excellent photographer.  Both knew what a vital link Garrett was to the Gary community.
Friday at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church on Gary’s West Side, along with the funeral service program ushers handed out a beautiful booklet entitled “In Loving Memory of Garrett Livingston Cope.” It included a brief biography and photos showing him at all ages, including several in costume as a performer.  In the pew in front of us were former administrators F.C. Richardson and Bill Lee.  Rick Hug, Steve McShane, John and Lillian Attinasi, former chancellor Hilda Richards, and Chancellor Lowe were also in attendance.  Michael spoke of moving his family back to Gary a few years ago to be close to his parents.  Garrett Cope, Jr., saying he’d once been an Episcopal acolyte but was now a Buddhist, made some wise and inspiring remarks about the meaning of life.  He and a saxophonist played a spiritual during communion.  Afterwards, Father David Hyndman, one of three priests taking part in the service, told me he had Christ Church records dating back a hundred years, including letters from Judge Elbert H. Gary, for the Archives.

During a repast luncheon at IU Northwest I told Delores Rice that Marianne Milich hoped her story in the Post-Trib would inspire nontraditional students to attend college just as Delores had influenced her.  Soon afterwards, Marianne caught sight of Delores, and the two embraced.  Barbara asked Kathy Malone read a letter from former chancellor Peggy Elliott that referred to Garrett as a cornerstone of the university.  About a dozen folks spoke of how affectionate and caring he was and various nicknames he’d given them, including “Pretty Lady” and, in my case, “Jim-Bob.” Several expressed the hope that Glen Park Conversation and Senior College would continue, even though it would not be the same without him.  The program ended with Aaron Pigors’s short documentary about the “Spirit of Tamarack Hall,” first shown last year at a ceremony where the contents of a copper box found in the cornerstone of Gary Main were opened, after IUN’s first building was razed.  Lori Montalbano and I were in it, but Garrett, eloquent and dapper in an IU polo shirt, was the star.  He was with the university for nearly a half-century, and many of us already sorely miss him.
Our 71 year-old neighbor Sue Harrison passed away two nights ago. Noticing fiancé Dave huddled with her son Wes, I suspected that’s what had happened.  She’d been in the hospital for weeks and the news recently had been grim.  At midnight the family contacted a priest, who arrived within a half hour and administered last rites.  Dave said a Buddhist prayer and wished that somehow he could have taken her home to see “her girls” (their two Yorkie puppies) one final time.  We had him over for a couple beers, and Toni put together a plate of shrimp and sauce for me to take to the daughter and two sons who had arrived (two others are on their way).

The latest American Historical Review contains Christopher Manning’s critique of George Derek Musgrove’s “Rumor, Repression, and Racial Politics: How the Harassment of Black Elected Officials Shaped Post-Civil Rights America.” Between 1968 and 1992 Republicans, who controlled the executive branch of government for all but four years, scrutinized African-American officeholders to a degree that constituted harassment.  In a chapter entitled “Prosecution as Political Warfare in the Reagan and Bush Years,”  Using startling statistics, Musgrove points out that the Justice Department targeted black elected officials much more zealously than whites and authorized the FBI to launch sting operations based solely on rumors, ignoring procedural safeguards and hounding suspects, such as Washing DC mayor Marion Barry, until they cracked.  Gary mayor Richard Hatcher survived countless investigations, and the harassment left their scars.  House Republicans are going after Obama with similar relish, playing to their racist base, attempting to elevate an IRS investigation of Tea Party front groups seeking tax exemption to the level of Watergate.  FOX news has referred to Benghazi, the IRS affair, and the investigation of Associated Press phone numbers in connection with national security leaks as the “trio of Obama administration scandals.”
American History Review contributor Jennifer Evans examined the erotic photography of Herbert Tobias, who’d pick up “rent boys” such as West berliner Manfred Schubert (above, shot in 1955) and take “trophy photos” of his conquests.  In illustrating this account of “queer desire,” the journal used a couple dozen photos, some quite erotic, but none showing frontal nudity.  Once considered pornography, erotic photographs, Evans argues, “create a much-needed space for historicizing the productive role and potential of desire, opening up ‘new acts of seeing’ the past, politically, aesthetically, as well as emotionally.”  To her Tobias was a liberating hero, “providing same-sex desiring men a palette of visual pleasures with which to reaffirm their sense of self, while animating (and therefore legitimizing) their own fantasies, longings, and desires in the process.”  There was a time when I’d have scoffed at such pretentiousness.  Now I’m not certain what to make of Herbert Tobias’s place in history.  Perhaps previous generations were negligent not to have followed Alfred Kinsey’s advice and delved further into matters of sex.

Tennis season is over for Coach Dave, but it's on to Senior Week, and he is senior class adviser.
Niece Lisa’s son Oliver volunteered to be the "shopper" for his weekend Boy Scout camping trip. She noted: “He and the boys in his patrol selected this fine menu of Doritos, donuts, and honey buns.  Nutella sandwiches, and hot dogs are the healthier items they will be surviving on this weekend. I'm sure it will be heaven for them, but I am grossed out by this shopping cart.”

While an IUN student Mike Certa frequently took the bus from his home in Brunswick to the university, transferring at Fourth or Fifth and Broadway. One night in 1964 the bus taking him home stopped at Seventh Avenue because Lytton’s, Gary’s premier department store, was on fire.  Mike wrote: I got off and started walking to Fourth Avenue.  As I did, I saw all of the fire trucks and emergency vehicles by Fifth Avenue.  As I got closer, I could see the flames coming out of the upper windows of Lytton’s.  It turned out to be a total loss.  Despite some brave words in the next day’s paper about reopening in Gary, it never did.” Another time she struck up a conversation with a girl named Leslie across who had quit school at age 15 when pregnant.  He recalled: She was on the bus alone because she had a dental appointment and her mom was taking care of her kids.  As often happened, our bus was stopped at Bridge Street and Fifth Avenue for a train.  We chatted for a while, but as time wore on, we started running out of things to say.  We sat there in silence for what seemed like a long time.  Finally, she turned to me with a big smile and said brightly, ‘Isn’t this a long choo-choo?’”  What a sweet memory.  Where is Leslie now, one wonders.  A single mom’s life is a rough one, then as well as now.

My condo neighbors and I are worried about Dave.  Since Sue Harrison died, he isn’t eating and appears to be chain-smoking, something he’d given up.  Mike’s young son Josh loved seeing him walking the two Yorkies and gave him the nickname “Cool Dude.”  Recently Dave and the dogs passed the pre-school where Josh goes, and kids in the playground spotted them.  Following Josh’s lead, the others now also call him Cool Dude.

Frank Bertucci died at age 85.  He served in the navy during the Korean War, worked at U.S. Steel for many years, and was very active in the Portage Little League.  He was an OK guy, but my first encounter with him was rather unpleasant.  Dave was the pitcher on a team of eight year-olds, and when the umpire failed to show up his coach, the league president, drafted me in his stead despite my protestations.  Bertucci was coach of the other team and when he got wind that my son was on the mound, he started razzing me.  The worst was when a kid on Dave’s team ducked to avoid an inside pitch.  Technically he probably broke his wrists (that’s what Bertucci asserted) but clearly he was just rather awkwardly protecting himself.  Bertucci never let me forget that “bum call.” 

No comments:

Post a Comment