by Deborah Steele Hazen
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promentory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” – John Donne
John Donne’s famous meditation “The Tolling Bell” is one of the pieces of literature that I turn to when I am in mourning. Not because of its final famous phrase which sounds rather ominous when taken out of context, but for the thoughts about “any man’s death diminishes me,” which makes me think of the closeness of this community.
As I grow older, and the ties that bind me not only to my family and friends, but this community in general, grow ever tighter, deeper and entwined in my heart, I feel that diminishment of which Donne writes every time I report the deaths of beloved local residents.
Almost every week, this newspaper carries the obituaries of people whose loss diminishes our community. If we wrote in this column about all of them, we wouldn’t have the time or space to report on much else. But there have been three recent losses which I am compelled to mention – not because of their deaths – because of their lives.
Terry Erickson, who died unexpectedly last week, was our friend and the husband of Chief staff member Sandi Erickson. He grew up in Quincy, graduated from Clatskanie High School, put his life on the line in combat in Vietnam, served for nearly a quarter of a century with the Oregon State Police, then returned to Clatskanie where he became a leader in the local veterans organizations – inspired by not only his Vietnam experience, but by the loss of two uncles in World War II. During the past year, he had also become involved with the Clatskanie Historical Society.
Terry’s life was an example of honor and service, courage and integrity in the military, in his profession, and through volunteerism in his “retirement.”
He was also a beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.
Those of us who knew Terry will remember how he gave of himself to his country, community and family, but we will also remember all the interesting conversations and the laughter.
When I picture Terry – still expecting him to come through The Chief office door at any moment with some funny anecdote or incisive observation – I smile.
I also smile when I think of Dewey James, whose fond, fatherly presence eased the growing pains of literally thousands of local children during his 17 years as principal of Clatskanie Elementary School.
I missed Dewey’s memorial service last month because I was booked as Santa’s elf that day. Somehow, I think Dewey would have understood – and smiled.
I also will remember Shirley Ward’s smile and sparkling eyes, but most of all I will miss the warmth of her voice coming through the telephone when she would call – completely “out of the blue” – just to tell me she appreciated something I wrote, and that she appreciated me.
I cannot count how many times Shirley’s encouraging words made my day. I appreciated her immensely.
Shirley was a “homemaker” – in the best sense of the word. She devoted herself to her family. But I am quite sure that I was not the only recipient of her random acts and words of kindness.
The loss of Terry, Dewey and Shirley – and many others – have diminished our community, but their lives should inspire us to spend our days in ways that will make us missed when we are gone, and remembered with a smile.