Mrs. Neil, Tom and Laura,
Thank you so much for sharing John with Jocelyn and me.
John was this family's rock - he did everything for us, whether it be picking up from daycare when I was stuck in traffic, attending a school function, concert, ballet recital, class trip, etc., inspecting, fixing and remodeling my succession of houses, bringing us medicine when we had numerous plagues and no one else would come near us, or driving me 37 miles each way to work and back because I had gotten a nail in my tire over the weekend and he (notice I said he, not I) could not find a replacement anywhere. John did all of these things with a sense of humor and with a "look on the bright side" attitude.
John was well known to everyone on Jocelyn's swim team, as well as to her teachers and guidance counselors, as her avid fan, mentor and role model. He reviewed videos of her swim races with her and they discussed how she could be more successful. I remember him sitting with me at a large national meet, screaming even louder than I was. He put his hand on my back during Jocelyn's swim, started jumping up and down and said "Oh my God, I have chills watching this!." I think he realized just at that moment how invaluable his guidance was for Jocelyn. When I was too harsh with her, John was the first to let me know it. She shared all of her quarterly report cards with him, and he gave her gigantic fist pumps/bumps and a stack of scratch off lottery tickets when she did well. She loved them. John often took Jocelyn on bike rides to the lake near our house to give her an opportunity to complain about me or talk about whatever was on her mind. Many times I heard him tell her when they were putting her bike in the garage: "There is a lot I can deal with, but never disrespect your Mother." They giggled constantly together. He was simply the greatest Uncle ever!
For me, John is an irreplaceable friend. He had to have been the most loyal person I ever met. The kind of friend you don't need to spell everything out for, you know? He just knew, and always knew how to make me laugh, no matter what the circumstance. John taught me how to pay bills when I did not even pay attention, and he taught me how to keep my own personal filing system, although I don't keep the mountains of paper he kept! When I put my little dog down two years ago, John showed up unexpectedly. I thought I was doing fine, but then John started balling when he reached over my shoulder to pet the dog. Leave it to John to love a little furry creature, and not be afraid to show it. You know, once I rear ended John's jeep when I was following him because he stopped suddenly to get out and take a turtle out of the road! He didn't even get mad about the dent - "Oh well," he said. I think maybe he just pretended to be hard sometimes and was nothing but a big softie at heart. When I was staying with my Mom in hospice in New Jersey last August and September, it was John who talked to me every day and looked after Jocelyn, my dogs and my house, and it gave my Mom comfort to know Jocelyn was with him. He was just that capable. His buildings are breathtaking. Jocelyn and I just drove by one on Sunday. As we often did, Jocelyn and I enjoyed dinner with John at our home a few days before his passing. It was just pot roast, but to hear John tell it, you would think I had served filet mignon and caviar. John and Jocelyn compared their musical selections and then Jocelyn explained to him that when she called someone a "schnack," that meant the guy was cute and her crush. She had him in stitches. John tried to explain to her that boys could be real jerks and she shouldn't fall for it. Then, as usual, the two of them stood at the sink and washed the dishes. It was a beautiful evening, with a beautiful person, who is very loved and will be very missed.
We are so grateful for the time we shared with John, and will remember his smile and our laughter always. We pray that he is at peace.