Eulogy for a Good Man

I guess it’s okay to writer about this now — the obituary is now up; it has been posted on social media. 

My friend and mentor, Les Savage, died at 92 last Saturday. 

Les looked like a garden gnome — short, with wild white hair, chubby cheeks, and a beard. He had twinkling blue eyes, and yes, at least one person I know called him Santa Claus. Like Santa Claus, he gave the most wonderful hugs.

He’d led a fuller life than most; his reminiscences were peppered with phrases like “when I had my pilot’s licence”, “when I was in the navy,” and “when I worked in a lab in Glasgow”.  I didn’t learn until his obituary that he also could have included “when I consulted for the Apollo missions.” He was a combustion expert with a PhD in mechanical engineering who led a side business blowing up coal mines (in a controlled manner) to get rid of mine gases. He did carpentry in his basement and had wired up a house-wide stereo system long before Bluetooth made that easy. He appreciated good coffee, good wine, and good whiskey and taught me a little about each.

He also friended a motley crew of folks who needed a father figure and some emotional support. I was one of those folks, having a contentious relationship with my mother, undiagnosed bipolar disorder, and an unlucky love life that absolutely obsessed me. The group I hung out with Les called themselves Saturday Night Group because of their tendency to meet on that night to occasionally cook dinner, watch Star Trek: Next Generation, and talk. Membership rippled in an organic manner — new people showed up, some stayed, and we developed close bonds. I am still friends with many of those people, and I will see many of them at the wake.

He gave. This is what strikes me. He gave to his religious community as a communion bearer, he gave his support to the local LGBTQIA community, he gave to his “kidlings” as he called us. He did not judge us — we who were gay or pagan or atheist or struggling with mental illness or nonwhite or multiracial.  If ever there was a good example of a Christian man, it was my friend Les.

I loved the man. I still do.

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