Memento Mori

Dateline: Mon 20 Jun 2011

I've been re-reading Muriel Spark's great and insightful novel, "Memento Mori," (from the Latin, which translates into English, as all Catholics and many others know: "Remember, you must die").

The first time I tackled it, during my 20s or 30s, I raced through it and skimmed parts (no doubt, being callow and young, looking for sex passages). How could the lives of British crumudgeons (artists, poets, writers, and those who work in their service), many of whom kept getting a chilling phone message, "Remember, you must die?", affect me?

Back then, it simply did not, really. I was nonetheless highly amused by what I did read, and more than anything, by the idea Muriel Spark explored, but I failed to understand the basic messages -- that most people begin their decline in their 70s, if they've lived that long; that old people are no more sweet or innocent or kindly than anyone else (in fact, as we age, we become MORE the way we are); that humility is always a good breakfast on the day one must die, and more importantly as a preparation diet leading up to that lean time.

Alas, my new understanding of aging -- the metaphor is a battlefield, with participants/survivors engaging in a war, and the drama is nothing less than constant loss -- makes it no easier to share news of death.

Today we honor two "greats" from the old days of journalism: Carolyn Pickering, 86, who won more awards than I have Kleenex in my home (investigative reporter, first woman to cover cops, extraordinarly talented jock whose favorite sport later in life was golf, real estate agent, etc,. etc. etc.) and Golden "Goldy" Faris, 89, a veteran of two wars (WWII, Korea), gifted in languages (he was a Japanese translator), a Marine Corps colonel, and ultimately head of production at the Star.

I knew Goldy as someone who always wore smart black suits and ties, and smiled charmingly at everyone in the elevator or the lobby -- his reputation as a tough guy preceded him (he was also successful as a Golden Gloves contender). Star greats Dick and Lynn Hopper let me know he was no slouch in the braind department; what did I know? I believed my betters, and they were of course correct.

"Pick" I never met, although she once reamed me out for some forgotten column I wrote, even writing a scathing letter to the editor. I felt she had entirely missed the point I was making, but I understsood she had a position that allowed her to rant at will at underlings, and I accepted her criticism as my due (reporters rarely get the chance to respond to angry letter-writers -- the idea has always been, "You had your say; now let the public speak." I did speculate, quietly, that perhaps she was unwell, but I'll never know; she never contacted me personally, simply fired off the letter. Although colleagues told me she suffered miserably with a crippling arthritis...which obviously did not stop her letter-writing.

Goldy died June 7 and is now entombed; Ms. Pickering died June 16, and her obit has yet to appear in the paper she worked so hard to embolden, but I'm sure it will. Former city editor/exec editor Larry "Bo" Connor, has been asked to speak at her funeral Wednesday and has agreed to do so, I am told.

I can't get quite worked up enough to post their obits here, or even the links, but you can find them at (Golden Farris, archives) or the Leppert Mortuary website (Ms. Pickering).

As for me, I'm content to contemplate the message composed so eloquently and completely by Ms. Spark, in her wonderful novel...remember, you, even you, (even me) must die.



Rita Rose [unverified] said:

Pick's teeny obit was in Sunday, but there should be another one, probably tomorrow, with more details. Services are 1 p.m. Wed. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1600 Kessler Blvd. (down the street from Chatard). She was a great lady and I'm glad I was a colleague back in the day.

2011-06-20 20:52:33

ruthholl [Member] said:

Thank you, Rita. Appreciate the details and your experience with Pick.

2011-06-20 21:37:40

Rita Rose [unverified] said:

Mea Culpa: I got the date wrong on Pick's funeral. It'll be June 29, not this week. Sorry!

2011-06-20 21:46:07

B2 [unverified] said:

Ruthie: I would call "Pick" a newspaperman's newspaperman except, of course, she was a woman. But what a woman and what an ink-stained wretch of a scribe; a mentor to this young journalist, a sportswoman and sports fan who was a helluva golfer and loved her Butler Bulldogs; I just can't say enough about how much I admired and respected her.
As for Goldie, he was my Dad's boss but also his friend and supporter; they had an incredible work relationship. Pick and Goldie are so representative of the days when 307 N. Penn was more than a place to work; it was home to an extended family.

2011-06-21 07:43:50

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

Somewhere in my file of old letters, I have a note from "Pick" complimenting me on a police beat feature I wrote about a thousand years ago.The story was about a teenage girl who blinded herself with a gunshot wound to the head in a suicide attempt. I can't say I knew Pick personally, but she was a legend professionally -- especially among the cop/lawyer/bondsmen crowd that used to hang around IPD in the early 1980s. That was why I kept the note. As for Goldy, he was one of those guys "down the hall." Part of the personalities that like B2 said, "made 307 N. Penn...more than a place to work."

2011-06-21 08:28:57

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