Tuesday, December 06, 2005

IN THE NEWSROOM toward the end of my shift Friday night, I heard one of the Metro people talking about a big fire at the Leisure World retirement community in Silver Spring. Hmm, I thought, my uncle Joe and aunt Clara just moved there -- the way you might make a mental note that you have a friend in a city where there was just a triple homicide or where a winning Powerball ticket was sold.

I even thought of calling over there -- I knew that my version of the Post-It notes that my brother Kenny passed around when we were up in Pottsville for my father's funeral, with the phone number and the Leisure World Boulevard address and apartment number, was atop the pile of I-must-get-to-this-soon stuff on my desk at home. But I didn't call (I'm horrible about that sort of thing), and I went home secure in the knowledge that early reports indicated no injuries.

If I knew there had been a fatality when my brother Terence's e-mail arrived after 1 a.m., I hadn't known for long. You guessed it: Nine thousand people at Leisure World, and the one fatality is my uncle. The one who moved to Leisure World because his family, quite logically, didn't think it was safe for him and Clara, with their limited mobility, to stay in their house in Pennsylvania. The one who I had just seen at my father's funeral, who had always argued good-naturedly with Dad about who would be the last surviving member of their big family. The one who had barely spent any time in the Leisure World apartment because he was with his wife, who was hospitalized with cancer.

Joe was a lot of fun, always ready with a story about boxing (of which his knowledge was encyclopedic) or his law career or his military career. We'll miss him.

The Pottsville paper published a nice obituary.

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