How does a community say goodbye to a dear friend they know they’ll never see again? They hold a party and drag out the memories — and then do it all over again for those who couldn’t make the first one.
Such was the case for Jeannie and Dave Gordon of Brookings, whose friends held two parties in the past week to get together one last time and reminisce about the couple’s 12 years in Brookings.
The Gordons moved to San Jose this week to be closer to friends and family; a Bay Area hospice will care for Jeannie.
Friends acknowledged it didn’t look like she was ill, as she laughed and hugged people who sat with her to tell her how much she’ll be missed. The parties were held above Gypsies on Chetco Avenue.
“So many angels are waiting for you, watching over you,” an anonymous author penned in a book being passed around the room.
“I’m heartsick,” wrote another, “but I know how tough you are.”
“What a model of courage and graciousness you are,” wrote Janet Richey. “Would that we all traverse life with your dignity and grace.”
While both Gordons were mainstays of the community, the party was primarily held in honor of Jeannie, whose illness prompted the couple to move south. She sat amid a cluster of friends and pinned small scraps of bright pink plaid flannel on each.
The Jewish people, she said, pin a black strip of ribbon on mourners to honor those who have just died; the swatch is typically worn for seven days.
“But I don’t like black,” Jeannie said with a grin. “So I got a pair of new pajamas I’d worn once and cut them up into little pieces.”
Tears flowed freely but were quashed as quickly as they broke loose.
“I love Jeannie,” said Kidd Stubbs. “You can talk to her — you can say anything.”
“She’s spunky,” interjected Richard Leathers.
“She’s one heck of a woman,” Stubbs agreed.
Dave was not to be left behind in the review of accolades from his friends.
The couple moved here a dozen years ago and opened Copy-All, a print shop in Harbor. Dave got involved in town politics in 2003 when he was appointed to the city Parks and Recreation Commission.
When he was named Volunteer of the Year for the city in 2008, the city penned a list of Dave’s accomplishments: a board member of the local Chamber of Commerce, Vietnam Veterans of America, Brookings-Harbor Youth Association and the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority.
He joined the Rotary club, ran for election and served as a city council member for eight years before he retired in 2012. He served as the city’s liaison to American Music Festival, Brookings Planning Commission, Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative, the Del Norte Airport Commission, Local Public Safety Coordinating Committee and the watershed council.
Many of the men spoke of Dave’s dedication to his community, through his work with the city, and his dependability with his involvement with the Vietnam Veterans of America.
“I had a bunch of brothers in the VVA since the day I moved here,” Dave said. “We have a bunch of great guys here.”
During his years as a councilman, Dave actively pursued getting the police department fully staffed, and has been involved with — and remains adamant about getting approved — the home rule charter that faces voters in May.
He was involved in opening the Outreach Gospel Mission in Harbor, the teen center and raising money for the Fourth of July Fireworks until the Veterans of Foreign Wars took over that job.
Jeannie is a Soroptimist and helped start the Community Baby Shower; she is also active in the Manley Art Center, where she knits and paints.
San Jose, California
The Gordons left town Thursday.
Dave laughed when asked if he planned to get involved again in politics.
“No,” he said. “San Jose’s too big. I’m going to get Jeannie settled. We’ve got a son there, a daughter in Concord, my mother, sister, nephews and nieces. … They’ve wanted us to move back for a long time.”
“Love to you in your journey into better circumstances,” wrote Margaret Cowley. “I know I’ll see you soon and kiss your cheeks again.”
“You have spread your love and light to all of us,” Stubbs wrote. “I thank you for your gifts of friendship and your great sense of humor. Safe journey, my friends.”
“You came into my life at a time I didn’t yet know I needed you,” wrote Melanie McVay-Rutledge, a fifth-generation Brookings resident. “You’ve been so great to me, and I’ll never forget the fun we had together.”
“I told her I’d paint her some red poppies,” Cowley said. “I did, and I tore it up. I did it again, and I tore that up, too. I might just have to do it again.” She paused before adding, “I have a big, empty space in my heart.”
“These people are the most precious things I’ve ever had in my entire life,” said Tamara Garcia, who dates the couple’s son, Curtis. The two attended grammar school together but didn’t really meet until they both coincidentally moved to Brookings. “I met Jeannie before I met Curtis. I fell in love with her before I fell in love with him.”
“We pray God will hold you both so closely in His compassionate hands, that you find strength and comfort in each other to travel this next journey,” wrote Marilyn Busch, “that you are filled with His love that surpasses all understanding, this peace that your hearts may not be troubled, and His comfort that you are not afraid.”
“The hardest part, the things we will miss, are the people and working with the people in this community,” Dave said. “We’ve moved a lot, but I’ve never been as emotional. I’ve enjoyed a lot of time here.”