July 21, 2004
This edition of WM was to be light reading—stories of the sort you’d tell among friends at Homecoming or the family during a reunion. A leisurely read for late June that told you things you didn’t know about members of the Wabash community. Summer balm for a hectic winter and spring.
Then Wabash junior Tony Lobdell was reported missing in Argentina, and there seemed little solace to be found in such tales.
Stories are the best way I remember what most matters to me about those I love—touchstones for my memories of them when they are far away. I tell anyone who will listen to write their stories down, put them on tape, tell them to their children. Place those details in dozens of safe places so that, as memories fade, you can return to them to be replenished by what you’ve learned and who you’ve loved.
Retired Air Force Colonel Jim Roper ’68, when explaining why he’s written books that tell the stories of his fallen Air Force comrades, says that the death of his best friend, Craig Morrison, in 1994, “reminded me that life is fragile. So I began to write to keep the memory of fallen brothers alive. The saying, ‘No one dies until he is forgotten,’ is very real to me.”
But even that powerful conviction seemed wishful thinking at Tony Lobdell’s memorial service, as his fraternity brothers fought back tears and struggled for words to help those who didn’t know Tony realize just who it was we’d lost. The most inspiring story was temporary comfort at best. At that moment, nothing short of Tony walking through those Chapel doors could ease the pain.
But all we can do is tell stories. About Tony Lobdell. About Joe Martella ’69, the big brother who Tom Martella ’71 lost last fall. About Dick Neidow, for whom Ted Steeg and the Class of ’52 grieved this winter.
“Help us to be reminded of the fragility of life, and to savor the friendships we have,” Professor Bill Placher prayed. So we tell stories about those good friends still with us: Professor Raymond Williams getting chased by a bear; Ken Ogorek on a road trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame; John Fischer’s jaunt along Hadrian’s Wall.
It’s not enough. It doesn’t resurrect anyone or bring distant friends to our door.
But we tell stories, and we remember.