Lee Howard was the organist and choir director at St. Paul's in New Haven when I arrived there in 1980 (Lordy, Lordy, how long ago!)
Lee died several months ago and in this day of people being scattered and delayed funerals, he's being memorialized tomorrow. I'll be the celebrant and preacher, at St. Paul's/St. James as it now is, having merged since I was there. I've been back a few times for funerals, but it will feel a little odd, I think, to celebrate there after all these years (31, since I left there in 1985).
Lee was a guy from North Carolina who never lost his accent in 50 years in New England.
Since I don't know zilch about music, I'm not sure how good a musician he was--but he was passionate and unlike most people from the south, fast moving and fast talking--kinetic, you might say.
There have been a host of priests at St. Paul's since I was there, so I'm not sure why the family asked me to do the service. Perhaps it's because we've stayed in touch with Hanna Howard (a German who never lost her accent) who was divorced from Lee before I met them. But unlike a lot of divorces I've known over the years, neither of them 'got the church' in the settlement. Hanna even sang in the choir under Lee's direction. Sort of Amazing to me.
Hanna comes to our house for Thanksgiving Dinner. She is a wonderful musician herself--a pianist who developed macular degeneration a decade ago (she's 90 now) and can no longer read music. But she plays wonderfully and has little concerts for people in her apartment from time to time.
I've done the funerals of colleagues before--six priests so far. And it's a little spooky. Granted Lee was 22 years older than me, but the space is narrowing....
We'll see him off tomorrow.
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- Rest in Peace, Lee
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