I never knew his name over all this time. But his name was John Fuchs. I only learned this after he died at age 67 and I always figured him a decade younger.
Sweetheart came home with that news after John's wife Deirdre came up to her at the grocery store and said, "I don't know if you know or not, but John passed away last March."
Sweetheart was stunned, as I was when she came home to tell me the news. Deirdre filled in as best she could until it all became too overwhelming for her once again, and she had to say goodbye and walk away.
I would later scroll the Internet to backtrack into Brattleboro news, Rutland news, Bellow Falls local news where John and Deirdre lived.
John had been at a town meeting and had risen from his chair to address a question about the local library — of all things — this local bookman and lover of books, and dropped then and there of a heart attack midpassage.
A tall and lanky man, quite carefree and common placed, we would always meet at used book sales over the years and wait in line together, his wife and mine. Unlike many booksellers there was no push to John, no grab and muscle, no greed; he took his time and methodically handled through all of the history books, often buying these as a scout for another bookseller. He'd be happy with a small box of books and consider it a good day's find.
Our conversation never concerned itself by name, strangely, we just picked up where we had last left off, which was often a season or two passing and here we were again in a line waiting and catching up on news: snow loads, mud in the roads, gardens growing or not, maple syrup run, "How was the book sale in Weston?" John would tell me, shrug of the shoulders or briefly excited. A mild mannered smile. It hurts to lose someone like this.
In one of the obituaries for John I read how he had an earlier life in New York City: teaching at a Catholic school, gardening, avid landscaper. He and Deirdre tried their hand at an early Vermont hardscrabble life in the 70s and went back to NYC in the 80s, only to make a final return over the last decade, which is when I would run into them. Often together, like Sweetheart and me. I guess likes do attract.
I also liked what one of John's sons, a fireman in New York City, said about his father, “He was into local politics big time, very involved. He always liked to be in on the story, he just liked knowing what his money was being used for,” his son said. “He was a very fair person and a very loving father.”
Straight ahead; and of course John and Deirdre would raise a fireman.