16 November 2010

Back to Buffalo, Part 4

Beverly had close friends going back to her grade school years in Buffalo, and I had the good fortune to speak with two of them: Kathleen DeLaney and Carol Bauda. They offered some wonderful memories of Beverly during her school days. Kathleen and Carol told stories of a Bev who, in addition to being a stalwart and big-hearted friend, was the instigator of pranks, a skilled athlete, an articulate and intelligent public speaker, a poet and writer, and an artist who revelled in the free atmosphere of the art room in Sacred Heart Academy. Here, the girls could find refuge from the strictures of the rest of the school, and listen to records, gossip, dream, and let their creative juices flow sitting at their easels.

The stories I was told will help me paint an accurate portrait of a life lived fully and well.

12 November 2010

Back to Buffalo, Part 3

During my visit to Buffalo, I was guided to some of the places that were important in the life of Sean Rooney by his sister, Cynthia Blest. Certainly a formative influence on Sean's life were his years at Canisius High School. In the photo on the right, Cynthia is pointing to Sean's portrait in the Class of 1969 picture, which hangs in a large room outside the auditorium/gym. In a number of media accounts, including this article in the New York Times, Canisius is given as the place where Sean and Beverly first met at a dance. So I was eager to see the gymnasium, where such dances were held. But after speaking with several people, I learned that the 16-year-olds actually met at a dance at another school. (You can read the book to find out which one!)

Another place I was taken to was the first house in which Beverly and Sean lived. Here began a tradition of grand nest-feathering, with Sean taking the lead and Beverly ably assisting in home renovation projects large and small. The fine wooden beams that Sean had created in the kitchen were still there.

09 November 2010

Back to Buffalo, Part 2

I went to Buffalo in search of stories from the early lives of Beverly and Sean, and I returned from my trip with plenty of them. I was especially keen on getting details about the young Sean Rooney, because I had only gotten a few vignettes from Beverly. On one sunny day, Sean's sister, Cynthia Blest, guided me around the parts of Buffalo that had been touched by Sean.

This is the house on Dorchester Road the Rooney family lived in when Sean was growing up. Beverly had told me the story about the time Sean had dismantled a 1951 MG TD in the driveway when he was a teenager, and rebuilt it piece-by-piece. And Cynthia recounted with a smile an episode involving Sean, some gin-and-tonics, and a botched repair job on the front steps. It was in the kitchen of this house, helping his mother, Rosemary, that Sean absorbed the lessons of how food and love could combine in magical ways. Many times it is the lessons we learn when we are young that carry us through in the years to come.

08 November 2010

Back to Buffalo, Part 1

I drove up to Buffalo in October to continue my research for the book. I focused on gathering information about Beverly and Sean during their early years, speaking with their friends and relatives, and visiting places that were important in their lives.

Karen Eckert kindly shared her memories of Beverly, and guided me around Buffalo. One of the places we visited was Forest Lawn Cemetery and Crematory, where the Eckert family placed a beautiful bronze plaque over Beverly's resting place. Karen said that she and the other siblings (Susan Bourque, Margot Eckert and Ray Eckert) had devoted a great deal of thought and care to the words on the plaque. It is a difficult thing to summarize in a short space the talents, accomplishments, spirit and love of an exceptional person. I think they succeeded:

Born May 29, 1951
Died February 12, 2009

In the crash of Continental Flight 3407
In Clarence Center, New York
Widow of her beloved high school sweetheart
Sean P. Rooney
Who died September 11, 2001
In the attack on the World Trade Center

Beverly was a tireless advocate for the families of the victims of 9/11
A leader in the establishment of the 9/11 Commission
And Co-founder of Voices of September 11th

A lover of beauty
A writer, an artist, a poet
A constant source of amazement and fun
Generous of spirit
Dedicated to her family and friends
And the principles of justice
She lived her life extraordinarily well

Devoted in love, Beverly and Sean are together now
"Happily Ever-Aftering"

"...The evening sky has deepened into darkness on a soft summer night. We are sitting on the stone step near the kitchen door, watching the fireflies rise in the backyard over the newly mowed lawn. Friends are expected for dinner. A steak is on the grill, a glass of wine in hand.... we are laughing.... we are content."

-Beverly Eckert-