I Have Lost My #1 Blogs Reader
My dear friend Jack Corderman died this week. I will have the honor of hosting and speaking at his service tomorrow morning at Tri-State Fellowship.
I have often seen and heard people register a “huh!” of surprise when they find out that we were pals and Tuesday lunch-mates for many years. We don’t immediately seem to have a lot in common. Our backgrounds are very different. Jack was a Democrat (though he changed later) state senator, judge, and lawyer – working in the most secular of jobs. I have been a Republican Party Chairman and have spent my life in the most non-secular of jobs. Jack was in earlier years a heavy drinking and bombastic fellow full of strong opinions. Though my New Jersey opinionated verbiage has at times gotten me into trouble, by comparison I am surely a much more reserved, guarded person … and from a family of non drinkers to the extent that an ancestor is the ultimate originator of the 12-step program concept. Jack travelled somewhere around the USA almost every weekend; I go months at a time without ever leaving Washington County. And the biggest: he is a multi-generational local, whereas I just recently stepped off the bus 18 years ago.
In my early years here in this community I knew Jack very causally through Rotary and through his occasional visits at my church. Dave Swacina – our other lunch partner – was warmly acquainted with Jack dating back to Jack’s survival of the letter bomb attack upon his life. Those two guys were already meeting for lunch on Tuesdays at the China King. Apparently one day Jack said to Dave, “Who does Randy have as friends he can really open up with and talk to? We should invite him to join us.” That was about 13 years ago – at least.
So most weeks we have gathered at the same table – first in the old restaurant location north of the Hagerstown Police Department, but since in the new location on the south side of the same. We’ve all become good friends as well with the Chinese owner – Kevin – an American success story and all-around good guy.
For all his gruff and crustacean exterior, Jack is one of the most kind and warm-hearted fellows I’ve ever known. He is also a bottom line guy. In the book of Proverbs it says that Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Jack was a faithful friend who would tell me what I needed to hear, not what I wanted to hear. That is an invaluable person to have in your world – given the self-deceit and the self-everything we are prone to accumulate in our natural state.
Jack Corderman’s friendship was a watershed event for me. Just before coming to TSF and to Hagerstown in 1994, I had graduated from my doctoral program that Spring. What followed was an exciting time of establishing TSF and moving us to our current facility, building a house, and watching my kids become high school runners at a high level of success. But I was sick of books. After a 9-year college/seminary program with the doctoral addition not long after, I had seen about enough books for a lifetime. I stopped reading other than what I had to for the job. But Jack was always reading something and talking about it. I was ashamed of myself for not knowing what he was talking about. So I started reading again, and we began to exchange books and book suggestions. He got me back on the track I needed to be on – that of a lifelong learner. I was back to a life of reading, writing, researching … including my Antietam associations (which Jack so encouraged and enjoyed) down to the writing of these several blogs.
Jack was my #1 reader of the things I write. I’d sit down on a Tuesday at lunch, and one of the first things he would talk about is something that I had just written about the Civil War or another topic – even the mundane or humorous things I often include in this blog column. Those of you who’ve read this blog of mine know that I’ve located some long lost family from my biological past before my adoption. The last time I saw Jack (who had advised me on how to approach a relative who had no idea I was out there and who would be obviously skeptical), I told him about this and he was so fascinated by the results of my search.
So we were friends – even though I’m 13 years younger. And honestly as I ponder it, this is the first loss of my inner circle of closest guy friends and associates – though I continue to miss my right arm in the 2010 passing of Beth Ostoich. Yes, I’ll miss Jack terribly. I am sure that every Tuesday at 12:30 for the rest of my life I will think of him and fondly remember the ways he enriched my life through our conversations.