For those of you that know me best, you know I tend to keep my private emotions inside; not always a good thing, but for me it has worked. The last decade or so I’ve been more open with those feelings and haven’t been ashamed to show them outwardly.
When my dad died and I was 17. I didn’t really know him very well, he had only recently turned 45 and I was still a teenager. That loss hurt, but nothing like the loss of my mom 23 years later of the same terrible disease that took my dad. I had gotten to know her as an adult, not a teenager, and I’m not ashamed to say she was a friend. I guess that is a transition that is made as you grow older and mature.
I’ve lost other great friends in life; some I’ve served with in the military, others in the fire service, some in law enforcement and many I’ve made throughout life’s journey. Along that walk through life I’ve learned there is nothing more important to me than my family and those I characterize as my “friends.”
No one has been a better friend to me than Weldon “Wedge” Hoyt. He was 25 years my senior and we became friends in 1970 when I joined the Penacook Rescue Squad and the Concord Fire Department as a career firefighter. We shared a keen interest in the emergency services field and would work side by side, all times of the day and night in many perilous situations that we never gave a second thought to.
I was fortunate to become part of his extended family, especially after my divorce, which would leave me alone for many of the holidays, as I chose to withdraw from most around me and concentrate more on work and related travel. Needless to say Wedge, his wife Geri and their four children would be a big part of my life until I moved south almost 30 years ago.
They would also become a sounding board for me during the two terms I served as a city councilman in Concord, New Hampshire, and during my term in office as a state legislator and as a county delegation member. They, and a few others would become my “kitchen-cabinet,” as I’d discuss legislation and issues with them all around the kitchen table at the Hoyt’s home.
Geraldine’s brownies and Wedge’s dry sense of humor would become a staple in my life during those years and will always be a memory I will cherish.
Oh, there are so many funny stories I could tell you about our excursions around the country, as Wedge would love to go with me to visit different communities when I’d travel to sell fire trucks in the early days. Our trips out to Indiana to pick up demonstrator vehicles and the adventures we’d have on the way back to New England will always bring a smile and a chuckle as I remember them fondly.
There are many definitions of the word “friendship” that can be found. I’m not sure any are worthy of the relationship that Wedge and I had. Therefore, it was so hard for me to accept the fact that this man, this great individual had been afflicted several years ago with such hideous ailment such as Alzheimer’s.
This disease had stripped the vitality, memory and spark from the man I loved like a brother. It was me, however, that was selfish in not being more mature and having a better depth of knowledge regarding his affliction and the pain being felt by all of the family and not just myself.
In time I would realize my responsibility was to the others, while adjusting and summoning the resolve to accept what I could not change, while keeping the great memories as a lifelong gift from my wonderful friend. The walks with our two dogs, the travels in Bob Newman’s plane or the responses we’d make as emergency calls came across the radio. Going out to Sunday breakfast with the group or the stories he’d tell of his time in the Navy in WWII, stories I’d never get to hear from my dad for he left us all too soon.
During this time that Wedge had been ill, his wife Geraldine was by his side every day. It reminded me so much of my mom and the dedication she had shown to my dad as he suffered during his battle with cancer and the devotion she had shown him.
I’m not sure any two men could have ever received greater love, care and loyalty from another, than those two men from their spouses.
Nor could I have ever asked for a better friend than Wedge, and the gift he had bestowed upon me as his friend of over 47 years. I learned much from you; your integrity, commitment to family and community, as well as your bravery will always be immortalized in the memories I will always carry.
Now every time I hear a siren wail, a golden retriever run by or an airplane fly over my thoughts will go to those great times. Godspeed Wedge, you are missed.
Steve Stefanides, well-known by his nickname “Stef,” is an experienced award-winning reporter of local civic and public interest news. Stef’s More Straight Talk column (and its predecessor, Straight Talk), on a variety of subjects, is a favorite of readers who trust him to bring them the facts. A Marco Island resident, Stef contributes to the community in many ways, having served on a number of city committees, charitable groups, boards and local organizations. Contact him by email at Stef@coastalbreezenews.com