Ed Denon’s eulogy as delivered by George Oliviero, St. Paul’s Church of Hingham,
Monday, July 24, 1995
“Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and the muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.” *
It is a devastating and very sad time for us. Our long time and dear friend, Ed Denon, passed away, peacefully, Thursday, July 20. When he retired a year ago, he took even more pride in his lawn and garden area. That day, after some time doing the cutting and trimming, he came into his home, sat down and his very warm, big heart stopped.
“Let airplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message that he is dead,
Put crepe bows around the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.”
There was hardly ever a favor that Eddie would not do for his friends; however, the real measure of the man was in his steadfast loyalty to his family. Three sisters – Denise, June, and Sheila – and his mom. Ed, at the early death of his dad, became head of the household in many ways. Conversation after conversation, for the thirty years of our friendship, began with: “my sister, Denise; my sister, June; my sister Sheila, my Mother ….. ” As the years passed, other names, those of his many nieces and nephews were added to the list. He would say, “I am going with …” or “I am taking … “; or “the whole family is coming for Thanksgiving and I am cooking.” Supportive, generous, loyal and loving. These are the words which describe Ed Denon, the family man. Our hearts ache, not only for ourselves, but for the family in which he was an anchor of strength and a center of activity. His nieces and nephews have hundreds of memories of him which they will cherish always. They will be proud to emulate his approach to family.
“He was their North, their South, their East and West,
Their working week and their Sunday rest.”
For those in the drum corps activity, Ed has been a fixture for literally decades. I remember watching the Norman Prince corps perform in Braintree, and Eddie played a solo in “Sweet Georgia Brown.” As a 16 year old, that performance made an impression that has remained with me to this day and was an inspiration to that teenager who was about to begin his drum corps career.
Over the years, we’ve all worked with Eddie in many capacities. He and I worked together with the Boston Crusaders, St. Agnes Band of Arlington, and we taught at the same public school. Those days in East Bridgewater were marvelous and bring a warm feeling even today, a generation later. Can we ever forget the musicals with which he helped? Junior high school students presenting quality work. Can we ever forget the Christmas parties when he played Santa? Can we ever forget his impish ways? There was a magical day, when after he had been interrupted several times in his classroom by a fellow teacher, he took his measure of good natured revenge: he suited up the band and had the band march through the back door of her room, out the front door, playing all the while. It was hilarious and the stuff of legend.
Can we ever forget bringing the Crusaders to practice in East Bridgewater, at the time a small farming community? Well, the police arrived with our dear friends Jack Curley and Officer Charlie Thomas, both of whom we knew quite well. Evidently, the Crusaders had sent the farm animals into a galloping frenzy. I remember the cookouts, years after we had left East Bridgewater. So many wonderful memories.
“The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun…”
While we all have our stories and memories, let me share a couple of my other favorites.
There was the very cold day in Maine, at a band show. One unit was struggling with the “1812 Overture”. When they finished, I leaned over to a still-talking Ed Denon and said, “looks like Napoleon finally won.” Ed guffawed in that basso profundo voice of his and had to click off his recorder. I remember his penchant for a cool car in the heat of summer. One day, on the way to rehearsal, I entered his car wearing, in August, full winter gear. His laughter still, 25 years later, rings in my ears.
Can I ever forget being summoned to his car during the Crusader rehearsals? The window would slide down and my face was greeted with a blast of cold air, while my ears were filled with Ed’s orders. There was never a punctuation. The window simply rolled up into its closed position. The conversation was, therefore, over.
Oh, the loyalty. When my mom was home, he’d talk with her more that with me. When she went into a nursing home, he’d go visit her after school frequently. She, incisive as ever, always ended her Ed Denon sentences with the same tag: “what a nice man”. She would say, “your friend, Ed Denon, called, what a nice man”, “your friend, Ed Denon, was here to visit me, what a nice man”. Ma was right again, what a nice man.
On one of the saddest days of my life, I came home to an empty house and was feeling completely crushed. The phone rang, crashing into the silence of my home. It was Eddie, asking how I was. Slowly, surely, carefully, he talked me out of an awful moment. That was nearly ten years ago, and I will never forget. How many of his friends had that same experience, for I know I was not alone.
What was the volume of goodness that poured from his heart for his family and friends? The answer is simple: infinite. What was the area of that heart of his? The answer is simple: infinite. How much love was stored inside of him? The answer is simple: infinite.
In all the years, as I reminisce, it was never any different for me in that I always looked forward to seeing him. Funny at times, he was always intelligent and interesting. There was, of course always the recipe to share. Even when there was nothing to talk about, we talked about life. When our judge’s association needed something, he would help, no matter how small or large the task. He loved his Saders, the men and women who were the boys and girls of his Boston Crusader days. There is a song the Crusaders sing before going into a contest. It begins, “This corps is made of giants, it will never die…” Well, the Giant of Giants has left us, and though he is dead, we know he is alive in us. Just as, in all the years of friendship, he was sustained by Faith, Hope, and Charity, we will be supported in our loss by that great trio.
My only regret is that in all those years, the obvious was never spoken. Now taking Eddie out of our lives is like taking Monday out of the week, and I feel overwhelmed, unable to comprehend this example of the great mystery of our lives. When the message came of his death, my heart ached. Why not before, why didn’t you ever say it when he was alive? And then, I realized, why not now, yes it is still ok now … Eddie, you have loved us and we thank you, and Eddie, I want you to know, we have loved you.
Eddie, may God grant you eternal peace.
- From “Funeral Blues” by W.H. Auden