Commander In Chief
I want to tell you about Eds memorial service.
was held on November 12th at Riverside Chapel on 76th and Amsterdam Avenue in
Manhattan. It had been clear all week, but it rained that day. A large crowd of
family and friends gathered Im not sure how many, but Id estimate
maybe 150, and there was standing room only, which, as someone remarked, would
delight any actor. Since Ed was cremated, he wasnt physically present, but
there was a large photo of him at the front of the room. It had been taken by
his son Jonathan last year, and Ed had sent me several prints from this shoot.
The entire service was memories of Ed shared by friends. A cousin recounted
the events of his life. Shed pulled facts from the Web, and I recognized
a lot from Solar Guard, Roaring Rockets and the book write-up on amazon, because
few people there knew much about his war experience or Space Patrol. I dont
think anyone present had known him then. Some spoke about his passion for politics,
joking that they were afraid to argue with him because he was so adamant about
his beliefs (Thats our Commander!). Several recalled how hed given
them money or kind words when they were going through a crisis. Fran always said
that Ed couldnt say no to anyone in need.
I spoke about the last
e-mail I got from him, a few days before he died. In it, he did something hed
never done before. It made me smile at the time, but after his death, I understood
Ed insisted he wanted to wait until the book was published to
read it, but he did see the preface, and I tricked him into reading Chapter 1
by sending it to Fran. Of course, I respected his wish to wait for the finished
version (which he didnt), but I enjoyed teasing him by e-mailing a draft
of the cover and when they arrived, at last a sample page proof.
Id warn him with a menacing subject line, like CAUTION: PAGE PROOF ATTACHED.
He liked that, and (against his policy) would always look. What Im getting
to is what happened with the back cover. For some reason, I wasnt sure if
I should send it to him. I hesitated. By the time I got it from McFarland, we
were only a month away from publication, and he was going to see the whole book
soon. But something urged me to ask him if he wanted to see it. He said yes right
away, to my surprise.
you should know this about the back cover: It makes a good case for Space Patrols
impact. It has a blurb from Leonard Nimoy saying that Space Patrol was groundbreaking.
(Ed really liked that Nimoy gave me that quote.) And Ed is featured on the back
cover, too. It calls him a real-life World War II hero and notes that,
50 years later, he was still receiving letters from ex-kids who claim that Space
Patrol changed their lives. Ed had some problems accepting both these things.
It was only recently that hed come to terms with the enormous impact hed
had on so many as Corry. I write about his struggle with that in the
book, and at the memorial service I recalled how, when I first met him in 1984,
he was pushing all that away, keeping it at arms length. I told how many
of us had written him through the years, reminding him of his impact on our childhood
and our lives. Of course, it wasnt always easy to put that into words, but
we tried. I told how (in the book) I confront him with some evidence
of his impact quotes from people whose lives he touched profoundly. But
even though he had slowly begun to accept this, he balked at the real-life
hero tag; he didnt like that one at all. And now, here was the back
cover, playing up all this stuff hed resisted for years. Which brings me
to his last e-mail.
In it he said the back cover looked great
and he was really looking forward to reading the book. But what made
me do a double-take was the way he signed this final note. Above his name, he
wrote in quotes: A real-life hero. Now, that was totally out of character,
and I knew he was teasing, as if to say, Boy, they just had to stick that
in there, didnt they? But, looking back, I think that maybe there
was a deeper meaning. I think he was saying that he finally got it
that, for a second, hed glimpsed in himself what we saw in him. And
though he was clearly joking, I sensed that, on some level, hed finally
owned it that hero thing that stalked him all his life, no matter how much
he pushed it away. Maybe he let just a bit of it in; at least, I like to think