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Humanist Essay for August 2011
"Remembering Sidney"
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I was saddened to learn of the death of one of our most loyal members, Sidney Stone, on July 9. He was with his daughters and their families in California when he suffered a stroke on June 27. How fortunate for him to have his family gathered around him in his final weeks, but how unfortunate for us to have wished him off on his summer vacation never to see him again. And yet, as I write, I see Sidney clearly in my mind's eye. He has on a neat summer suit with a bolo tie, and his halo of white hair is only outshined by his smile.

I didn't know Sidney well or long, but I spent an afternoon with him last summer when we traveled to San Jose for the AHA Conference. We found each other in LAX waiting for the flight to San Jose. It was nice to have a travel buddy, while we took turns watching the luggage and wandering the terminal. We managed to sit together on the plane (he boarded ahead of me and used that crisp jacket to save me a seat). Once all the protocols and safety instructions were completed and we had taken flight, Sidney turned to me and said, "So, do you want to hear my story?"

I sure did. He told me much about his life and his work, about Marcia and their two daughters, of whom he was so proud. He was modest about his own accomplishments, though clearly he still relished the memories. As an astrophysicist with Los Alamos Labs he'd had a seat in the front row of history when the great minds of the day were developing the weapons that would put an end to WWII, and he'd come through a humanist.

Rarely does one wish for a plane trip to be longer, but I did that day, along with wishing I had a recording device, but we were on the ground before I knew it; all those fascinating details of Sidney's life already fading from my memory as we traversed what seemed like an endless maze of corridors. I couldn't believe how far we had to walk to get out of that airport. It turned out that one of the terminals was under construction and we'd had to go all the way around it to get to the shuttle stop out front. More astonishing was the way Sidney, at 88, trucked along without a pause or a whimper - unlike me! I think the man could have walked a few more miles without getting winded.

"To know him is to love him." This was not a mere platitude in Sidney's case. But more, to know him was to feel loved. Sidney, in simply being who he was, the way he was, was about the best advertising for humanism we could have. My experience with Sidney was part of the inspiration for our Humanist Lives project, in which we will be collecting oral histories from our senior members and producing them in a variety of media formats. We are quickly moving from the planning stages to actual taping sessions, thanks to our Humanist Lives co-chairs, Lisa and Ashley. If you should get a call about participating in the project from one of these formidable young women, just say Yes! The project is as much about the continuity of our own organization as introducing a wider audience to humanism through stories of how people come to, and live out, humanist philosophy.

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Copyright © 2011 Zelda Gatuskin

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