Art Callaham: Loss of three friends is cause for reflection

August 26, 2012|By ART CALLAHAM

My dad always told me that the toughest part of growing old was burying your friends. Friends are the people you grew up with, your school chums, your buddies from your days in military service, the people you work with, the ones you respect or admire.

I’ve written a couple of columns about my heroes and some of those folks were my friends. But recently, as I grow older, I want to pause to consider my friends. Why? Because, in the past few weeks, I’ve seen too many of my friends buried: Jack Hershey, Jack Corderman and Bill Stryker, just to name three.

An old superstition recounts that “deaths come in threes.” I guess I could say that the deaths of friends always seem to come in threes and point to the last few weeks to prove the merit of that superstition — at least for me.

I don’t remember it that way, the “three’s thing,” when I was younger. Bobby Williams, an agile, underweight outside linebacker died in a horrible car wreck when I was in high school. One of my best friends, D.K. Porterfield, home from the Navy on leave, died when I was in college. Stan Bossert, an Army friend, died while I served in Vietnam, and Roxanna Trump, a friend to all, died while Ruth Anne and I were living here in Maryland. 

That “three’s thing,” just like growing old, seems to catch up with all of us later in life. I’m sure the insurance companies have a table that proves the superstition.

Those of you who read my column know of my friendship with Jack Hershey. So I’ll not rehash the respect and admiration I had for him.

Bill Stryker might never have known that he was my friend, but I knew he was. We played a little golf together, served on the Coffman Nursing Home Board of Directors together, I knew his wife, we sat at the bar in the Club and had a “taste” in salute of who knows what. That’s what friends do.

I lost track of Bill a couple of months ago and didn’t know he was ill. That’s not what friends do. It makes me sad that I can’t keep up with friends as much as I used to. So, rest in peace Bill Stryker, and know that your friends remember and miss you.

In many ways, Jack Corderman was bigger than life. Washington County Circuit Judge Kenneth Long, in his eulogy for Jack, said “Jack lived two lives in one lifetime.” That statement was a fitting tribute to Jack’s largeness and to the many lives he touched.

From Hagerstown to Palau (you pick the direction, go east or west, to get there) and points in between, Jack Corderman was known.

Several years ago, Jack was speaking at a conference center at Rough River State Park in Kentucky. After Jack announced that he was from Hagerstown, a young red-headed man approached him during a break with the query: “Do you know Art Callaham?” To which Jack replied in typical Jack style: “Wouldn’t admit it if I did!” With that reply, Jack made a new best friend of my wife’s cousin (who was probably as hard-pressed to admit knowing me as was Jack).

Among his many areas of service to his fellow man, Jack was a Rotarian — to the bone. I bet he bled royal blue and gold. Jack was past president of the Hagerstown Rotary Club and past district governor for our region. I remember when I was club president, I could never recite the “Four-way Test” correctly. Was it first, second, third and fourth or was it one, two, three and four? Jack knew and was always there to remind me I had said it incorrectly.

I hope I’m over the “threes” for a while, so rest in peace Jack Corderman, and may you be happier, more joyous and free. And if you see Jack Hershey and Bill Stryker, and I think you will, tell them Art said “hey.”

Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.

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