Chapter by chapter, at home and at work, Henry Louis Gates Sr. narrated the ongoing story of his life in tales so engrossing and entertaining that one of his sons thought of him as a talking book.
"My father, if anything, first and last, was a man of words," Henry Louis Gates Jr., a professor at Harvard University, wrote in a eulogy. "He loved stories; he didn’t live for stories, exactly, but I think he lived through stories. I think, like many writers, he loved stories about things he had experienced as much as, if not more than, he loved the experiences themselves."
When family and friends gather Saturday for a final service to pay tribute to Mr. Gates, who died Christmas Eve at 97, they will celebrate a life story that in death is unfolding still. In his 90s, Mr. Gates became a medical pioneer when his genetic ancestry was examined as part of the Personal Genome Project.
"Henry Louis Gates Sr. was and is the oldest person whose genome was sequenced and made publicly available in this project," said George Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School who founded and directs the study. "In a way, part of his immortality is that people will be learning things from his genome for years to come."FULL ENTRY
Between his day and side jobs, Michael Lehane put in the hours to make sure his children had an easier go of it than he did in Ireland, where he was the 17th of 18 children and grew up on his family's farm in County Cork.
"One of the things I can say about Dad was that he raised the bar kind of high for us in terms of how you behave as a man," said his son Gerry of New York City. "He pretty much was somebody who said, 'It's got to be done,' and he did it. He didn't whine about it, he just did it."
Come Sunday, Mr. Lehane set aside work for God and family. The day began with Mass at St. Margaret's Church in his Dorchester neighborhood, followed by an impromptu gathering at the home of one of the handful of Lehane siblings who lived in Dorchester or Jamaica Plain.
"Sunday was always family day, that was guaranteed," said his son Thomas of Medway.
"Family was the most important thing to him," said his daughter, Maureen Welch of Plymouth. "On Sunday afternoon, we'd go visiting. It wouldn't be announced. Somebody would just show up at somebody's house. And there were always stories. Morning, noon, and night, there were stories."FULL ENTRY
Customers calling the Arthur J. Hurley Co. in Boston often sought the guidance of Drew Hurley, who was one of the founder's grandsons and vice president of sales. So many wanted to speak with him that the blinking switchboard lights sometimes resembled a pattern of jets circling Logan Airport.
Worth the wait, Mr. Hurley ensured that all the customers who bought electrical wire and cable from the company ended their phone calls believing their concerns were paramount. He had a lot of practice making people feel that way.
"No matter who you were, even if you met him for 10 minutes, he made you feel special," said his sister Janne Clare of Santa Monica, Calif. "If you were the guy working across the counter at CVS, he made you feel like you owned CVS. He'd talk with people and find out things to make those relationships special. He met people on such a natural, amazing level."
Mr. Hurley, who made sure everyone knew that the two most important people in his life were his wife and daughter, whom he always called "my girls," died of a heart attack Dec. 26 while on vacation with his family, visiting his sister in Kauai, Hawaii. He was 49 and lived in Boston.FULL ENTRY
On Christmas Eve at the Triumphant Cross Lutheran Church in Salem, N.H., parishioners will listen with their hearts, rather than their ears, to hear Ronnie Simonsen perform "O Holy Night," which he always made his own by ad-libbing a line or verse that flitted from his memory.
"This will be the first year in many he won't be singing," the Rev. David Yasenka, the church’s pastor, said of Mr. Simonsen, who died Dec. 15 of complications from leukemia. "I think what we'll do this year is have it played, but no one will sing it. We'll let everyone hear in their minds Ronnie singing, with it just being played in the background."
His charm and intensity heightened by developmental and physical disabilities, Mr. Simonsen no doubt would have insisted he still will sing at tonight's Christmas Eve service, if only from afar, and he would have persuaded everyone to believe him.
He believed simply and purely in God and heaven and the supremacy of his favorite TV actors, none more so than 1970s heartthrob Chad Everett, who starred in "Medical Center." With joyful exuberance, Mr. Simonsen converted many a nonbeliever to those passions in his 55 years.FULL ENTRY
The life force that is music coursed through Billy Ruane as he danced to band after band in club after club, shirt unbuttoned to nearly his navel, swept-back hair tousling to the beat, the beer in his hand never spilling a drop.
"It was athletic, acrobatic -- frenzied moves that no one but Billy could execute," said Pat McGrath of West Roxbury, a long-time friend who helped manage Mr. Ruane's financial affairs. "I've seen pictures of him in various states of levitation that defy physics and gravity."
(Globe staff file photo/1987)
Stone Soup was a lot of things, chief among them a series of poetry readings that Jack Powers launched on May Day in 1971. It also was a bookstore, a publisher, and a place for poets to read silently or aloud -- "a secular chapel," he told the Globe in 1979.
Mr. Powers, who died Oct. 14 and will be remembered during the weekly Stone Soup reading tonight at 8 in the Out of the Blue gallery in Cambridge, got an inkling of the kind of welcoming place he wanted to create for poets when he visited City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, run by the legendary poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
"I met Jack when he still had Stone Soup bookstore," Ferlinghetti said by phone from San Francisco, where at 91 he is recovering from his second surgery to install a pacemaker -- an infection after the first prompted a return to the hospital. "It was on the back side of Beacon Hill, a small bookstore. City Lights was a small bookstore in those days, we were a one-room bookstore for many years, so naturally I gravitated toward a place like that and I met a lot of Jack's friends and hung out with a lot of them."FULL ENTRY
As if he knew his life could not be confined by a mind that never grew out of childhood, Jack Brett would go for long walks as a boy in Dorchester, favoring routes with straight streets where he could gaze ahead, several blocks into his future.
A police officer might encounter him a couple of miles away and chauffeur Mr. Brett home, where his siblings would watch him approach, happy for a ride in a cruiser.
Some leave their mark through work and accomplishments. Mr. Brett left his by inspiring his family, including his youngest brother, who spent years in the Legislature championing the causes of constituents whose political voices are often only a whisper.
“People say to me, ‘How did you get involved as an advocate for people with disabilities?’ I’d say it was my brother Jack who was my greatest inspiration,” said his brother Jim, a former state representative from Dorchester. “I looked with awe at how he was able to overcome his challenges day to day.”FULL ENTRY
(Bill Brett/Globe Staff)
Charles Ansbacher, the founding conductor of the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, whose free concerts at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade and in many city neighborhoods brought live classical music to thousands of Bostonians, died Sunday night at his home in Cambridge.
The cause was a brain tumor, according to a spokeswoman for the orchestra. He was 67.
Mr. Ansbacher was a firm believer in the power of music to lift individual spirits regardless of one's background while also strengthening the bonds of civic life. His populism seemed indistinguishable from his love for the art form itself. He once told an interviewer: "Classical music for me is simply a thing of beauty ... that everybody should have the opportunity to enjoy."
His faith in music's ability to forge or repair community led him to guest conduct far outside the typical circuit. He worked with orchestras in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Macedonia, Moldova, and Uzbekistan and held positions with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, the Bishkek Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra of Kyrgyzstan, and the Sarajevo Philharmonic.
But locally, he was best known for the summer concerts at the Hatch Shell in which he led an orchestra of freelance musicians in accessible programs designed to bring pleasure equally to lifelong music-lovers and uninitiated fans, to schoolchildren and to the passing cyclist.
"Charles's commitment to restoring community, his warmth and capacity for empathy, and his love of music all came together in the Boston Landmarks Orchestra," said Governor Deval Patrick. "What a gift he was to our community."
Mayor Thomas Menino echoed those sentiments: "Charles Ansbacher has added so much to the cultural life of the city since his arrival to Boston. His dedication to music and our parks was tremendous and he will be sorely missed. We are all grateful that his legacy will live on through the Boston Landmarks Orchestra."FULL ENTRY
So enamored of clever rhymes that he once gave a shout out to William Shakespeare in a pop song, Rich Cronin could toss off lyrics and raps with almost breathtaking ease.
Take the time Mr. Cronin's mother picked him up at the airport during the years he dated actress Jennifer Love Hewitt.
"He was in the car with me, and he said, 'Love wants me to write her a song,' " said his mother, Doris, of Kingston. "I said, 'If anybody can do it, you can.' And he wrote 'Girl on TV' while we were riding home. That's how fast he was."
Hewitt was featured in the video that Mr. Cronin's band, LFO, recorded for "Girl on TV," but the song was the lesser known of the pop trio's two big hits. "Summer Girls," cowritten by Mr. Cronin, became a radio staple in summer 1999 with its consumer culture references to "girls that wear Abercrombie & Fitch" and non sequitur couplets that lingered in listeners' minds long after the song ended. (For video links, go to the Globe's Sound Effects blog.)
Mr. Cronin, who was diagnosed with leukemia five years ago, died Wednesday in Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston of complications from treatment for the illness. He was 36 and in recent years had returned to live in Kingston, where he grew up.FULL ENTRY
(Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff/2006)
The fall that altered the last five years of Angie Scardino's life occurred in the seemingly safest of places, a corridor leading to her doctor's examining room.
"I did not have a dizzy spell," she told a geriatrician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston a few days after she tumbled to the floor in August 2005 and broke her hip. "I did not feel light-headed. I just caught my toe and went over. I feel like such a klutz."
Self-consciousness about being a bother is the least of the ills facing elderly patients who suffer a hip fracture. Nearly one in three die within a year, according to University of Maryland School of Medicine research the Globe commissioned.
Defying the odds after her injury, and setting aside her preference for privacy, Mrs. Scardino allowed a Globe reporter and photographer to chronicle in an award-winning series her months of treatment and recovery, and her struggle to regain independence.
Mrs. Scardino, who most recently lived with her daughter in Franklin, but always thought of the house she and her late husband bought in Scotia, N.Y., as her home, died in Beth Israel Friday of congestive heart failure. She was 86.
Allowing herself to become the public face of an injury that claims the lives of so many older patients was, in many ways, uncharacteristic of Mrs. Scardino, who was so private she usually avoided trading stories with friends about the ailments of age.
"I don't want this to make her sound like a saint, but when she heard it could help the next person going through this, there wasn't a question," her daughter, Joanne Hogan of Franklin, said of Mrs. Scardino's decision to participate in the Globe series, which was written by Alice Dembner.
"She didn't do this for herself," her daughter said. "She was happy to answer any and all questions because she wanted to help other people. She didn't do it to be in the Globe."FULL ENTRY
On the beat
Columnist Shirley Leung says Boston mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh should focus on middle-class housing. Read more