More than nodding acquaintances

Seemingly it is part of my cognitive blueprint to crave an historical account. Yesterday afternoon on a warm summer day my inner yearning was appeased by a lengthy conversation with local personage John Hawley Kerry while sitting on the veranda of his sprawling Elgin Street residence in the Town of Almonte. Our fortuitous conference was entirely extemporaneous. Initially my intention was to return to him two plastic key chains which he (as our Landlord) had provided three years ago when we rented a condominium apartment from him and his wife Donna Nield-Kerry. We subsequently purchased smaller versions of the chains suitable to our needs. Though this was the nominal mission the real purpose was to share with him my new Lincoln Continental automobile. John and I are shameless car buffs.

In any event – and notwithstanding the superficial motive – the result of our casual congress was fulfilling to an Olympic degree. No doubt I should have expected as much as John and I go back many years. It was for example he and the late Judge C. J. Newton (who coincidentally used to live on the same street) who were among my first acquaintances when I arrived in Almonte in 1976 as a fledgling lawyer. It later became our habit to rally every morning of the business week at the Superior Restaurant on Mill Street where we and other denizens put on the nosebag and shared local intelligence. Just as then our confederacy yesterday tapped into an endless fount of information and detail about current and recent affairs. I pleasingly listened as he mentioned the names of persons whom I haven’t heard for a very long time. I should add that this unscripted foregathering completes the cycle of what I unwittingly began upon our return to Canada in April after our winter’s hibernation on Hilton Head Island. For whatever reason I felt compelled to reunite purposively with many whom I had not spent time with since the flurry of my retirement from the practice of law in 2014. It is only lately that I pronounced to myself my satisfactory adjustment to this startling new vernacular. And it seemed appropriate to recapitulate with those whom I have valued over the past forty years.

John is unquestionably the senior surviving businessman of the Town of Almonte. His career as a local funeral director and community-minded entrepreneur easily surpasses the fifty-year mark. For example John shared with me today that it was only recently – after some sixty years – that he withdrew from active participation in the Lions Club of which he was a stalwart and popularly recognizable member. With the usual twinkle in his eye John quipped about the Lions Club raffle tickets which he unrepentantly inveigled me and other cronies to purchase year after year.  He – and lately his wife Donna – were familiar faces each year on the MacLan Bridge in Town during the voluntary “toll booth” fundraising drive for the Lions Club. He also regularly condescended to roll up his sleeves and serve plates of food at the annual United Church suppers sponsored by the Club. His dedicated contribution throughout was nonpareil.

It is illustrative of John’s personal magnanimity and common touch that, while we sat resplendent upon his patio today, he interrupted himself to thank the garbage collector who was performing his weekly duty at the roadside. I have learned from John that it is a mark of distinction to appreciate the contributions of others to the well-being of our community. It was never beneath John’s dignity to participate in whatever manner he was capable of affording at the time. He always led by example.

Lest my chronicle should sound lachrymose I hasten to add that John is able with equal fervour to joust with the best of them in the political forum.  Serendipitously during our animated discussion Councillor Jill McCubbin passed by on her way home from the Elizabeth Kelly Library. In keeping with my intention to reunite with others I hailed Jill to address the recent vitriol which she has been obliged to endure as part and parcel of her office as a municipal representative. Unhesitatingly John weighed in upon the tête-à-tête and pricked Jill’s conscience regarding a topical infrastructure issue (which to Jill’s credit she directly addressed in specifics). I admire John for his deliberate evasion of pusillanimity; his blunt though gentlemanly confrontation of issues always sparks candid and meaningful discussion. Parenthetically he acknowledged the privilege of others to speak their mind on any subject while at the same time strengthening the right to disagree.

Certainly much of our chatter was aimless, buoyed by that exuberance which is peculiar to familiar acquaintances and former business colleagues. Finally our rambling conversation lapsed into matters social.  John and his wife Donna notably strike a fine figure not the least instance of which is on the dance floor. To my unending admiration he recounted a recent outing and the background related to the first time he asked his wife to dance. As I have always maintained, suavity is not lost on John!

It was with a degree of regret that it was necessary to wind up our bubbling convocation. Imperceptibly the late afternoon shadows had lengthened and as though to close the circle we returned again to the putative reason for reuniting – namely, I announced I must take my new car for a wash. As ever we parted refreshed by our communications.