Bloomington High School SouthClass Of 1989
DARA WATKINS Query
LISA DECKARD Bell
Jeremy, Jeremy. Where to start, buddy?
We lived about three blocks from each other. Close to Bryan Park. We were pretty good friends for many of those elementary school years at Elm Heights, but like a lot of us from our neighborhood near campus, we grew apart over time. Middle school farther. High school farther. And I left the country and had not seen you since. I can't remember how I found out you had passed away. But I wanted to tell you something that had been weighing on me. Perhaps now is my chance.
We had a cool circle of friends in the late 70s, early 80s: Jake Smith, Pat Lumbley, Thomas Matthew, David Backler, Paul Lowengrub, Evan Thomas, Pete Hoff, Michael Chapman and a few girls like Marnie Ward and Dalia Rosenfeld. And there were our friends on the other side of the park, Chris and Frank, and our friends from the country who ended up going to University and North: Mike Martin, Andy Hamilton, Danny Baugh...
A few people came and went like Dan Halpern, Jonathan Murray, Phillip Rogers; new additions like Ross Dinnsen (new and old), Seth Berry, Sammy Cohen, Leslie Cohen, Leora Baude, Molly Gleeson and Jason Vincz. And if I left any out please forgive me. Leanne Coons lived right by us until they moved to another part of town. Maybe around 4th grade?
So Jeremy, you introduced me to some rock music, especially the Who. I know Pete Townsend and Roger Daultry to this day because of you. And Boris the Spider. Creep... crawly, creepy... crawly. The Who has some great music.
It was hard being friends with you. Looking back, it was a little bit like you had some extra demons to fight that us other neighborhood guys didn't have as much. It was hard to understand.
I remember learning about your father's passing, and thinking that it was a tough place to be in as his son, trying to empathize with your situation and life as your father was gone. I honestly don't know much about your relationship with him, but from what I recall it may have been tough. I saw your mom at home a lot more, but usually you had the run of the house solo, and your sister would go on extended trips for health reasons. I think life was lonely at your house. And you always had friends to move on to. But some of us old ones weren't around. Maybe Thomas or others stayed close over time, as adults. But most of us went separate ways, as I understand.
And then when it came to friendship with us original guys, like Pete and Jake and Pat and others, it would seem to fizzle and go wrong. Elementary school years. Something was wrong, and then in 6th grade or so I participated in one of the more shameful experiences in my life and we made fun of you, like mean social bullies. And we had been your friends. I'm sorry about that.
When I went on my religious mission to South America not long after high school, I remember being far from home with distance to think back on my childhood, and I remember wanting to apologize to you for being that mean, or snobby, or a jerk. Sorry, man. And I didn't send a letter, either, which could have done some good, maybe, at least from my side.
I am sorry I said bad things about you. I was not as mature or loving as I thought I was, what my faith and family raised me to be. I remember my sister or sisters both (Jenny BHSS '87) and Monique (BHSS '85) coming down on me for sharing in the teasing in middle school, which was more verbal bullying than simple good natured teasing. We were bullies in that respect. I wanted to tell you that back in 1990, in Mulchen, Chile, when I had some time with my conscience,and I still want to tell you that now. Sorry for being a mean snob.
And again, as I wrote recently for another South classmate that has passed on, I do believe you are still going. Just not with the rest of us right now. And I hope that where you are, you can get messages or updates that people still think of you, appreciate you for who you were in Bloomington, and I, for one, appreciate having known you.
And again, I felt guilty for maligning your name. I think by high school we all had overcome that, but some lessons like that one stick for a long time. Guilt is a strange companion. And I do look forward to catching up with you some day in the heavens. I think there is a good Rock 'n Roll there, at least Daultry and Townsend. Thanks for being part of my life and being in our Elm Heghts circle of friends.
Peace, bro. God bless you.
Updated from original post, now in 2014 (marked smaller font):
Having received feedback from close friends, I have changed some aspects of this memorium and hope sincerely that this memorial tribute is not painful to anyone related to or close to this person referred to below. I have had it pointed out that aspects from it were negative; for that I am sorry. And some facts may not be accurate, but my own perspective, which may be very flawed.
No life has perfection; I guess the main negativity/tragedy of all of these tributes to me is that we lost these comrades so early in life. At the time that I originally wrote this about a Bloomington North friend, while I was overseas in 2012-13, I was dealing with a few negative things. I realize now in April 2014 (one month since my mother's passing at age 73) that it is indeed sad when the younger generation goes first. And of course, death is sad in general, no matter when it happens. But it is a part of life and I hope and pray we may all receive peace with those who have passed on and our own affairs, relations, legacies interconnected with each other, recognizing our relationships to them as they have been and for those of us with faith in the afterlife our future connections to them.
From Jeff Dixon back in the days of South, later to Kelly Chambers and Jeff Hollenback and others, it is tragic that these beautiful people came and went so fast. Also, based on my own personal state of affairs when I undertook this tribute, I admit that I was surounded by some negativity, as stated. Maybe I wrote this as a coping mechanism for me; I did mean to make this memorium flattering to the life of the individual rather than a derision. At the same time, I hope that my perspective, though possibly wrong in some places, does not come across as definitive or slanderous, but hopefully lets people know that I care. I look at people, including myself, warts and all, and realize that our value always exceeds any detractors. And in conclusion, I would like to posit that our humanity and weaknesses do not preclude our inner and eternal greatness. I hope that comes across in the words below.
A little addendum to Jeremy's letter, as I just corrected a couple things like putting Phillip Rogers instead of how I had it wrong before.
Many of us knew friends and acquaintances at Bloomington North, as I alluded to in my Elm Heights days reagarding Jeremy Houston, and I know this section is for Jeremy's part as set up by the BHSS alumni, but I wanted to add something about a BHS North Alum who I will leave unnamed for sensitivity to the family, who passed away in 2001. I think he graduated in 1990, or maybe '89 like us: if he was precociously successful (which he was quite intelligent). I lost a bit of contact when I went away to South America for two years, and then a year after returning home in 1992 I was able to see and visit with him a bit, and then I was accepted to go to school out west and I left the state for another five years. We almost caught up in 2001, but allow me to explain...
He and I knew each other from childhood in church, our mothers were friends, later through Boy Scouts, and later social contacts, many of whom were interested in music. Rock music.
This North alum loved music, He was a gifted drummer and participated in bands in the Bloomington rock scene. Back in the 1980s he was a huge fan of Stryper, which was a popular Christian Rock band, kind of heavy ("To hell with the Devil!"), and they had limited exposure and videos on the television, like MTV. Mostly a niche group, but they did pretty well with a nuanced audience. He would travel to see them play in Saint Louis, Chicago, Indy, wherever. This friend, later as an adult calling himself more formally, had personal pictures with the members of Stryper and he was a friend of theirs, by all accounts. All of this he accomplished when he was a high school student. Pretty outgoing of him, really. He was unique, back then with bright strawberry blonde (red) hair, but then becoming more hard rock blonde, of the bleached variety. He would stand out. He was flamboyant, you might say.
I might add that he had half-sisters through his father that he did not live with, in Bloomington, and that father was advertised as a lawyer all over town. So his last name might be known to a few of you because of that.
While I was in Chile, 1990-91, this friend was married to a nice young lady. I missed the wedding, but they said he was dressed as a midevil knight associated with the reception party (think Heath Ledger in that jousting movie), and his bride as a Renaissance woman. This friend had a flair for the different, you might say.
They eventually moved to Arizona, where he worked with a pharmaceutical company. That is where his interest in writing and film blossomed. He became interested in writing and screen plays for film; he eventually left for California, being divorced, and moved to Los Angeles. However, based on other feedback since, I learned that the move to California was predicated on other factors that had to do with with his company and family, therefore others closer to him know how this occurred better than me, the intents and reasons for the move. Suffice it to say, he was in LA alone when things ended so tragically. And like so many times to so many of us, divorce and separation is part of the narrative.
I had moved to San Bernardino, a city only an hour east of LA, in 1999, so my old friend and I talked on the phone a few times before he moved from Arizona. Then he eventually came to LA; I think in the spring/summer of 2001. I had been accepted to UCLA to start in September (yes, that September after Tuesday the 11th), and I looked forward to getting together with this old friend, having him over at my new place with my new wife and our new baby. It would be cool to catch up with an old buddy from Indiana and eat some meals together, and talk film. Maybe I had been holding up a dream in my life that I would go this route as well! And maybe this person would be my connection or facilitator of some of that pursuit!
A few years of my life I thought that film was my destiny, too. Perhaps, like him, I would be in LA for these purposes. And he, or I, or we together, would co-inspire and collaborate that effort.
But this plan did not work out, because he was found in his apartment, not too many miles north of where I would be studying, all by himself, lifeless. They think his body might have been there about 5 days before being discovered.
The cause? Overdose. Or so I heard originally. Much later other reports indicated that he had a kidney infection; that the medicine diagnosed did not react properly with his body and we went in a coma. Some of this information I was not privy too until much later.
This friend and I shared a few things in life: religion, love of music, art, and even personal struggles that I can identify with and upon deeper reflection, perhaps carry with me to this day, into my 40s. Maybe some of those complexes had to do with self-image and family stresses. I cannot speak for him, but just from my side, I am offering conjecture to our commonalities.
I think there were times in our young teens when he and I (not together, mind you, but upon further reflection, maybe individually) struggled with a few things that affect self-esteem. Perhaps we all do. And perhaps the middle school years are the toughest on most people. But I thought I could see this in him, similar to myself.
But by the time he was 17-18, he was a thin, normal, active dude. Let me correct that: he was above normal. He was always energetic and strong. It is possible, and I have talked this over with his mother, that he might have been suffering anorexia, because his body was very, very thin when found in that apartment by the authorities. But there were other factors at play, like the infection.
So, it was a self-medicated dose that lead to his demise (or not), but as we understand anorexia nervosa, perhaps that was the real root. Can't be sure. Perhaps it was a prescription mistake or accident and faulty reaction of the body related to the kidney.
He was alone, as his mom has been quite a bit these last few years. But we still love and cherish their friendship and memories as a part of us, however far away.
And he, like Jeremy Houston, another red-headed friend from my past, is still remembered while having left so soon.
Lately, there has been some serious discussion about illnesses of the mind in circles that I am a part of; this is a poignant and in my opinion important issue to discuss. Family and friends who suffer from it are not to be forgotten or overlooked. And it is hard to know where a neurosis lies and other problems lurk. It is possible this did not affect this friend at all! But I choose to try to be more open about these discussions because I believe that acknowledging and accepting these very often unseen problems is healthy for all of us to be honest, or at least inquistive about, in order to grow and learn from. Again, if any of these words are painful to those close to or know the persons of whom I speak, who may or may not have suffered these issues, I write this now with increased clarity that we are not defined by our faults. Also, trying a bit to figure out my own brain, it is very possible that I see a lot of myself in those discussed, so I am not trying to put myself above them, but rather empathize with those included and possibly derive some clues about who I am, and who we are as imperfect humans.
Finally (hopefully), this is not a eulogy that I would deem appropriate for a final word on the person in question, but rather an interpretation of how I have been impacted by him, or how I have had feelings about him and others and my thinking in the times that I have dwelled on it. It is not complete nor fully comprehensive of this person, who quite possibly books could be written about.
I appreciate those who have known and loved the person of whom I briefly described, and I wish the best for all us now and into the unknown but bright and hopeful future when we shall meet again.
Now in 2014, having seen my mother and one of my closest friends pass on to the hereafter, I re-dedicate myself to their memories and I know that they make me smile all the time, they have surely blessed my life and countless others. I hope I never forget all their beauty, warmth, energy, vivaciousness, and presence. Warts and all. And it's okay to cry, too. We miss them dearly.
One last side-note about Bloomington North: I went to their 1994 five year reunion when April Ault was the person in charge of it. I enjoyed that. I saw some Elm Heights people that I knew from little, and a few I knew from a play I did there as a senior, with a couple other South students like Molly Goobar.
I missed our 1999 ten year for South and the 2009 twenty year as well, both because of work and distance, but maybe it could work out in 2014?
I hope to see a few of you there. Thanks, again, for letting us have this forum to remember and memorialize our Bloomington friends.
And my friend who graduated from BHSN, like that seven page memorial that I gave to your mother as shared memories and impressions of you back in 2001, I will end this part by saying:
"We'll see you in the stars."
Love ya, bro.
(PS: Me writing these is a combination of two things: I like to recall things and write them down, and I am also very far from my family right now. Thanks again for permitting this site to share.)
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