Back when I fully committed to writing this book on the USS Nashville, long before I had done any relative research, made any phone calls or conducted any interviews, I had correctly anticipated many of the challenges and frustrations, expenses, tasks and most of the emotions that I would experience. But I did not fully comprehend nor appreciate how I would become, not only friendly, but true friends with many people, how attached and engaged I would become with some of them. And when you become attached to people in their 70s, 80s and 90s, you have to expect, to anticipate, the inevitable.
At first, one or two passed away every couple of months. And for some reason, they seemed to be the ones I had not personally met but had a phone conversation with maybe once. Later, the frequency increased slightly to perhaps one person a month yet it was men whom I had not met, but had spoken to or corresponded with once or twice. That is not to say their passings did not elicit an emotional response from me, but I could easily intellectualize after a moment.
In the past year these things have changed. The frequency of the crew passing away has accelerated as most of them reached their mid-80s. And inevitably, the rollcall of Taps began to include men I had become friends with, men I had met with repeatedly, had multiple in-person conversations with, had dinner with, shared stories over a drink or two, introduced them to my wife or Mom, got to know very well.
And then, this year, we entered a new phase of reality. There are those people in life whom you connect with immediately, who show you kindness and love like you are a family member. If you are lucky, you know exactly what I speak of. In May of this year, I wrote of the death of one such person, Don Hill, USMC, a true hero in every manner, by any definition (“We Lost A Hero Last Night” 5/25). Don was my friend, as I was his.
Today, Thursday July 29, 2010, Goldie Hill, Don’s loving, loyal and generous wife, passed away at home, engulfed in the love of many family and friends. Goldie was as much a member of the Nashville crew as anyone. She was the driving force of the reunions for the past few decades, she project managed and gave many people and their families truly wonderful, once in a lifetime experiences. Loyal yet independent, strong yet supportive. I was able to speak with her several times during this past week and am extremely grateful for that opportunity. She enriched the lives of everyone that knew her. She was my friend.
God Bless you Goldie, we all will miss you.