Walking through the parking lot towards the hall, I could not help but be impressed with the vast number of very shiny, and mostly brightly painted, all-American muscle cars. A blazing red ’57 Chevy, a black as coal ’55 Ford, a jade green ’30 Ford Roadster, etc., etc., etc. The hall was filled with many round tables and about 500 people sitting at them. It took me several minutes to locate someone I might know. Then finally I found Cliff from my former fly-fishing club. He, and all the rest of the crowd, was gathered for the memorial service of John Wayne Sadler. Age 60, John was one of those larger than life individuals who come around all too rarely.
I suppose the fact that he was born and raised in Port Angeles, Washington helped fill this Community Center hall. But this was no surprise to anyone who knew John: about how loved he was. What may have been a surprise, if anything, is there was not twice that number of people present. Besides being an absolute character, which his first and middle names provide an easy give-away; he was an avid fly-fisherman, hunter, golfer, and friend.
As I sat in the memorial service I pondered what there was about this guy that will create such a big hole. While he certainly had his demons, it was his love of life that smacked you right in the face when you interacted with him. I never found him to be without an opinion, or words to express it. I can only imagine that John would have made a fair number of enemies throughout his life, but I personally am unaware of any.
Actually I left the daylong service after the crowd was dismissed to stand in line for lunch food (one of John’s other popular sports). I have no doubt that the hall remained actively open for many more hours after lunch, since the plan was to allow people to tell their stories about John. I’m guessing some of those stories could make even a mob boss blush.
As I walked out of the building, I could not help but be drawn back in my memory a few years—to another memorial service. This one was in Wisconsin. There was another larger-than-life guy. This one was named Jerry. I first met Jerry in 1970. He was married to my wife’s sister. I have often said that Jerry looked like, and often acted like, Robin Williams.
When you were with Jerry, it was very difficult not to be wiping tears from your cheek–because you had been laughing so hard. Not only could Jerry exhaust you with his humor, but he also loved to have pretty involved philosophical discussions. He often thought about, and talked about, important world and cosmic issues. Like John Wayne, Jerry was another man who never starved for opinions.
Jerry was without a doubt my brother…from another mother. Throughout the many years—we shared countless experiences, discussions, and stories. If only everyone reading this post, could have the experience of riding on the back of a motorcycle throughout the streets of Bangkok, Thailand with Jerry. Everyone should know what it is like to weave between the mazes of cars, barely missing auto, after truck with your kneecaps.
I would also like for all of us to know what it was like to pull your best friend out of the top of a 50 foot oak tree he was roped into, while trimming it with a chainsaw. In Michigan that morning, the branch broke loose, and Jerry kicked his wrist with the ever so sharp chain. He began bleeding so profusely that he was almost unconscious by the time I was able to lower him to the ground and apply pressure. The race to the doctor was terrifying.
It is a complete treat to have a friendship like that. I feel great sorrow for those who have never experienced such closeness.
So why bring up the lives of John and Jerry? The conclusion I drew yesterday is that of those 500 people in the room…most of us likely have not lived life to it’s fullest. John and Jerry did. I would wager that most people in the room, what ever their age, simply know nothing about how good that can be.
I certainly do not want to be Pollyanna-like in my thinking. Both of these guys had their challenges. Both of them crashed at least once. But what perhaps set them apart—is that they did not stay down. They learned to get up again. The vast majority of us are driven by fear. We are so afraid of crashing, that we won’t take the risk of the high reward.
Thanks John and Jerry: for being our examples.