The cemeteries are filled with irreplaceable people, as the old saying goes. It’s true and not true, since we are all diminished by the deaths of those who have dedicated their lives to doing good, but there are always others who pick up the fallen standard to replace them.
The Island mourned the deaths in 2016 of many who have made our community a place we’re all proud of, and among that number are Ben Jones and Charlotte Hannabury.
As Bob DeStefano wrote in his page one tribute to Ben in the January 21 issue of the Reporter, it’s remarkable that the death of a 93-year-old man could come as a shock. It’s a testament to Ben’s life that friends and acquaintances viewed him not only as a strong, healthy man, but also his measured optimism made him seem indestructible.
A family man, married to Betty for 71 years, father of three and grandfather of five, Ben was a veteran of World War II, serving in Europe.
He devoted a large part of his life after a successful business career to helping others; Ben’s work as a paramedic was exemplary. Awarded the prestigious 2013 James O. Page Charitable Foundation Special Lifetime Achievement Award in EMS by the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, the proclamation read, in part: “… he could have retired very comfortably. But he wanted to make a difference, a real difference, in people’s lives.”
Prepared for every call, a first responder who was an even-tempered pro under all circumstances, Ben saved lives and helped bring them into the world, delivering 11 babies.
Charlotte, who died in September, was an active member of our community, including her work through the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church, where she served as a deacon. A woman of many accomplishments, perhaps her greatest was Cheryl, her daughter, who bravely fought non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and inspired everyone who came in contact with her. When Cheryl needed a second bone marrow transplant, the entire community came together for the Island Gift of Life Foundation benefit.
The foundation began as Cheryl’s and her family’s dream, and was brought to life through the dedicated and difficult work that Charlotte continued after her beloved daughter’s death.
The Island Gift of Life Foundation continues to provide financial support to families of people suffering life-threatening diseases — particularly expenses not covered by health insurance — carrying on Cheryl’s and Charlotte’s heroic efforts.
Charlotte said, not long before she passed away this year: “Cheryl’s dream lives on. The hope that others could be healed. That is the kind of person Cheryl was.”
We are certainly diminished by the loss of Charlotte and Ben, but are stronger because of the lives they lived, demonstrating the need to always keep dreams alive.
And speaking of picking up fallen standards, our first issue in January will reveal the Reporter’s Person of the Year, someone who would make Ben and Charlotte proud.