While I was at my high school reunion, Deb Johnson told me that Mr. Leroy Steele, father of my old friend Gary Steele, died a short while ago. I was taken by surprise by the news, although I shouldn't have been; Mr. Steele has been in increasingly poor health for several years, and had finally been forced to leave his house and stay in the care of others. Even so, I had assumed he would improve under the watch of people concerned about his health; apparently he went into a rapid decline, however, and passed soon after.
Deb and I went to school together, but I got to know her even better because her family lived right next door to the Steeles. Gary and I were steadfast friends through high school, and I spent many weekends at Gary's house; as a result, I got to know Deb relatively well, even though she didn't have many classes with me.
Ironically, I had spoken to Deb's mother just after Mr. Steele's health forced him to leave his home; when I was unable to reach him, I looked up her number and called, and she told me about his condition.
I wish now I had left her my phone number so that she could have called me when he died; I would have liked to have been at his funeral to show my appreciation for all the role he played in my life. I frequently benefited from his hospitality, and I learned a number of skills from him.
Deb's husband told me that he thought Mr. Steele was in his 90s, which may be true; he was older than my father, and I sometimes wondered if those extra years contributed to Gary's emotional rejection of his parents. I will never know; Gary is no longer in contact with me or any of his old friends, and in fact Deb said that finding him to let him know that his father had died was next to impossible. They got the feeling that he had no interest in ever returning to Rome again, and they did not anticipate his accepting any attempts at contact from those of us who once knew him.
Thanks, Mr. Steele; know that you were never forgotten.