Columns

Codger’s column: Too many memorials

Codger and Crone attended memorials last weekend for three more Shelter Island friends gone. Between COVID, old age and perhaps a climate of hopelessness, this has been a time of disability and death. The 20th anniversary of 9/11, on yet another beautiful day at the end of summer, was a further bittersweet reminder of the fragility of life and the lingering pain of tragedy.

Last Saturday’s memorial was for Forrest and Jeanne Compton, who died last year 11 days apart. He was 94; Jeanne, his wife, 84. Forrest, a soap opera star, was reportedly the Island’s first COVID death. Up to his finale, he was the guiding light of the Shelter Island Friends of Music, which presented wonderful solo and ensemble concerts.

On Sunday, also at the Presbyterian Church, Lynn Franklin was honored. A literary agent, her true calling was bringing people together in ecumenical spirituality, be it through the informal visits to the Island from one of her clients, Archbishop Desmond Tutu; her dinner gatherings; and advocating for the rights of adoptees to know their biological parents. She was 74.

This has put Codger in an unusually pensive mood. And because of Crone’s involvement — she was a musical lieutenant of Forrest’s and a decades-long friend of Lynn’s — he’s also found himself unusually open to peace and reconciliation in a time of controversy and provocation. At the least, he will avoid glaring at the unmasked in the post office and the IGA.

He will also try to convince himself that the best energy should go to keeping ourselves going, even if it means just preaching to the choir about water quality and use, affordable housing, vaccinations, and the lessons learned from lost friends.

Until his energy faded, Forrest was the president and genial host of the Friends of Music concerts, a handsome, elegant, courtly man whose kindness and sly wit decorated all occasions. To be inspired by Forrest meant to stay the course.

Lynn Franklin offered a gentle presence yet there was a steeliness once she had made a plan. The best of that came in her resolves to advance social justice and to stay alive in a long, grueling battle with metastatic cancer.

Codger found encouragement in their lives. They never gave up. Time ran out on them. As it will on all of us. Until then, we don’t need to give up either.

On Oct. 3, there will be a forum, sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Shelter Island Association, for the many candidates begging us to hire them on Nov. 2 to tell us what to do. Observing them in debate is a chance to figure out who among them will truly represent what the Island needs going forward.

So far, Codger hasn’t seen much vision here. The current supervisor, whose strong arm is appreciated in some aspects of governance, has made it clear that a Comprehensive Plan is no priority for him. He may well have been complicit in blowing up the attempt to institute one. To complicate matters, his idea of transparency is telling us what he’s just done. He can do that because he’s running unopposed.

Two other incumbents, the deputy supervisor and the town clerk, have opponents who may challenge their records. That could be worth attention. The other challengers are a mix of serial candidates and relative newcomers, welcome to offer long-range planning for a town that has operated for too long on yesterday’s stale go-along customs.

Codger wonders if we need the contemporary ideas that might come with a professional administration, a town manager, for example, along with a comptroller. The passion of amateurs can be invigorating, but it can also come with conflicts of interest, nepotism, egotism and inexperience.

Both amateur and pro need oversight, audits, code enforcing, an ethics advisor. Any politician who disagrees with that has something to hide.

Even though he feels the clock is ticking as misinformed decisions endanger our lives, locally as well as nationally, Codger admits that, like others, he’s bored by the blather of political campaigning. But he knows we need to dig in and listen.

Maybe this time we can do it in the spirit of Forrest and Lynn, rare listeners who actually leaned forward and grew still when someone was talking, even if it was only Codger in a blustery rant.

While Forrest is quoted as saying, “There are more good people than ones who are selfish and self-serving,” Codger remembers him best cocking an eyebrow in skepticism at the promises of local politicians. He was nice, but no fool.

Same with Lynn. Among the gifts she left was a stubborn search for the connections among people of all persuasions to find a way to light a path through a weary, stormy world.