Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Final Farewell

The early evening was swelteringly hot, but a crowd of us dutifully gathered for a Philly-area memorial to our departed friend and colleague Gary Bredbenner at the Grey Lodge on Tuesday night. Some of his IBM co-workers were in attendance, and a large number of Grey Lodge regulars, beer tour friends and Dangerous Dining Club eaters, all of whom knew Gary from just his comeraderie alone. We framed the picture above in a simple gold frame, sat it next to a big bouquet of zinnias and wildflowers that reminded me of Gary's often wild beard. We all grabbed pints of good beer and slices of rarely-seen Grey Lodge tomato pie, spinach and tomato pie and chicken quesadillas.

We started with a few moments of silence to remember our dear friend. Then I muddled and puddled through a kind of eulogy for Gary, read a surprise letter of condolence from Philly Mayor Michael Nutter, and before toasting him for the first of many times, let everyone know that the framed photo of Gary would be hung in the Grey Lodge, so that everyone could stop in and have a few good brews with him whenever they wanted. Class act that Scoats, keeping our friend's beaming, cherubic memory alive at his place for as long as possible.

Close friend Dan Cosper spoke next, telling a sweet and simple story of how he annointed Gary with the jokey monniker "Evil Fat Man." You could have heard a pin drop.

Beer writer Lew Bryson, read from his online report of Gary's funeral and wake in Danville and Berwick, PA, his voice cracking during the passages that brought tears to all of our eyes, unforgetable emotional moments.

And then we toasted him, toasted Gary for all we were worth, again and again, and ate the very good food of the Grey Lodge, the red curry mussels, red and white fries, cheesesteaks and hot wings, fish and chips and chicken fingers, burgers and fish sandwiches. My twins, Ben and Sophie ate and ran around and lightened the mood, sat on the bar, and even got a few pony rides on Scoats' and Katie Loeb's knees.

There were plenty of warm handshakes, hugs and kisses, and then we left, warmed by the very good food and drink, and especially by Gary's spirit in the Grey Lodge that night.

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