It’s been almost a year since that preternatural, noonish pre-Christmas Saturday at The Bar when I was sitting with Barry Hawthorne, the Executive Director of the Advanced Technology Institute, and Mark the Professor (with Lisa the barmaid attending to our libations). Barry received what seemed to be an ordinary cellular telephone call as I was chatting with Mark about something trivial. But, then, I noticed Barry’s face (he’s Irish and Scottish) had turned the ruddiest I’ve ever seen. He looked at us and said: “R.J.’s dead. That was Amy. She’s with him at the Henry Ford Hospital in Dearborn.” I thought he was being his usual prankish self; an impression which was short-lived after I saw him swivel his portly frame around to make for the door and his truck parked outside. When we all arrived at HFH, R.J. had expired, still on a gurney with state-of-the-art, life-saving intubations not yet removed. I could not believe my friend had passed away from an insidious clot that attacked his arteries as he was running on a treadmill only a football field’s distance from the hospital in which he died and a mere five minutes from where we were sitting in the expectation we’d be seeing him for a drink.
R.J. is seen here at his son Warren’s wedding in New York. He was always keen on dressing properly for every occasion and projected a somewhat dandyish mien that endeared him to everyone.
I was not able to clear my memory of the many oft-repeated bouts of pixilated badinage to which we sacrificed our hours after work, for I started to imagine him coming into the Bar, braces and all, to regale me with his favorite question, uttered deliberately in a mock British accent reminiscent of Field Marshall Montgomery – obsessively nasal – pithily popinjayish: “Well, Ziad! Can you guess who made the tie I’m wearing?” Five got you one it was Brooks Brothers, but it never hurt to pretend you didn’t know.
We always broke into our dipsomaniacal rendition of the theme from Lawrence of Arabia, one of Maurice Jarre’s masterpieces which was a favorite of R.J.’s. R.J. loved to banter about the role of the Turkish colonel played by Jose Ferrer, whips and all. R.J. and I enjoyed movies like Mutiny on the Bounty with Laughton and Gable, impersonating Captain Bligh’s: “Keel haul that man!”, or my somewhat fuzzy rendition of: “Set me adrift 6,000 miles from the nearest port of call? I’ll show you Christian. I’ll show you all. I’ll see you all hanging from the highest yardarms in Portsmouth!”…. or something like that.
So, almost a year passed with only fleeting images of my friend wafting into my mind’s eye once in a while, but almost always when his employer and friend, Barry Hawthorne, was seated with us, a happenstance that inevitably reminded me of R.J. But, then, I received an invitation to attend the dedication of a new athletic field house at the charter school (Advanced Technology Institute in Dearborn) in which R.J. worked as an assistant to Barry and as in-house legal counsel. I didn’t know what to expect other than a building was going to be named eponymously for him.
The field house fills up with many people attending to show their respect for R.J. and to revel in this new addition to the Advanced Technology Academy in Dearborn.
Barry Hawthorne, seen here at the podium, addresses the audience.
I must thank Mark the Brit for helping me to finally transfer photographs from my camera to this infernal computer.