From Lenny Glynn

Eleanor Pope

6 Foxleigh Green

Lutherville, Maryland


Dear Eleanor,

I’ve never written a letter like this before. And I am deeply sorry about the occasion that drives this note. But I do want you to know – right up front – that as badly as I feel, as keen as the loss of my good friend Sterett is, I am overwhelmingly glad that I knew him. I feel very happy – and grateful – that I had the chance to spend as much time with him as I did over many years.

I wouldn’t have missed Sterett for the world. My only regret is that I wasn’t in touch more often. I guess I always thought that I could see Sterett or talk to him one more time again.

Because my experience over many years was that when we did connect, we would pick up the conversation/friendship right where we left off…at a high level of intelligence, humor and affection.

The first time I met Sterett is lost to my memory. I do recall that he was recommended to me by a mutual friend, Annette Barbasch – probably in the early to mid-1980s when I was working for a financial magazine called Institutional Investor. Wherever we first encountered each other, we were instantly bonded by similar degrees of intellectual engagement with the history we were living through, a fascination with books, an appetite for good times, a taste for historical war-games of all things – and pleasure in the company of women.

My memories of the past quarter century of knowing Sterett are less of events and occasions than of the temper of our friendship. What we actually did on the many, many occasions we saw each other was simply to get together …a few times a year…either the two of us…or with women friends…sometimes with other guys…and eat, drink, talk, argue, laugh and just enjoy each other’s company.

The dialogue of these events was written in the air…who can remember it specifically…?

I must admit that it was mostly about public affairs…or history…or literature…and not much about friends or family or personal feelings. Sterett was a guarded person…and I guess I was too – at least with him.

What I do remember was a great sense of pleasure in hearing his voice on the phone, seeing him in person…spending time with him and our mutual friends…laughing – a lot — and never, ever, being bored.

Here are a few snap-shots from this long acquaintance.

I remember Sterettt as an usher at my wedding…making my wife Mary laugh and so thoroughly charming a niece of mine that she developed a lasting crush on him…Sterett was alone at my wedding because, I think, Katherine was out of the country at the time. I was proud to have such a smart, charming, exquisitely polite friend.

I ate the single best dinner of my life in Sterett’s company – with Mary – in a restaurant in Brooklyn called 2 Toms…sometime around 1994 or 1995…ordinary wine, routine salad – but platonically-perfect pork chops…and fantastic, funny, loving company…

In a movie theatre in suburban Boston just a couple of years ago, Sterett and I saw the film, Borat – a vulgar, exploitative, but hugely funny film — and I laughed harder than I had ever done in the theatre…laughed until my nose was running and tears were pouring out. I can still recall Sterrett dryly telling Mary, that “it was perhaps for the best that you were not with us for this one, Mary…”

I recall many, many evenings of just hanging out and talking, arguing, sometimes disagreeing violently – in fact often disagreeing – but never being angry with him or of him being anything less than gentlemanly. In the end, he always made me laugh…and he was also very, very bright – as you know.

One unforgettable anecdote he told me involved shaving in the common bathroom of some hotel in the Sudan on one of his explorations…and having a huge welt/swelling on the side of his face…

…So while he is shaving…a large bug of some sort pops through the skin…slithers right through the shaving cream…and flies out into the room…an image that has stuck with me for many years…(though I can’t be sure whether Sterett was telling me of something that happened to him…or something he saw happen to another guy…)

From time to time I would get from him postcards from his travels…never letters…but postcards written in tiny, spidery letters so that they had almost as much prose as a normal letter…brilliant writing. If I can lay hands on any…I will see that you get them.

His humor and his accent stay with me…and I may, in fact, have picked up…or tried to pick up a bit of his style…that understated, dry, mockingly pretentious, always erudite wit.

I knew, of course, that Sterett’s life was unusual…not the typical pattern of graduating, getting a job…getting married,,getting a mortgage…(though he did do all those things, in his own way…)

I always assumed that he chose to live mostly as what the Germans call a privat docent…a self-funded, non-tenured scholar/intellectual…because he could…because he had private income and didn’t need to kow-tow to any boss.

I was friends with Sterett when he met Katherine and they began dating…and my wife and I were guests at their Brooklyn house a couple times…and at one memorable country week-end in Maryland at the Adams family retreat…some years back…

But as I’ve tried to explain, Sterett and I were intense…but not routinely frequent friends…and we rarely talked about personal feelings…as opposed to public – and less emotional — matters.

I’ve lived at least half of the time since meeting Sterrett in different cities than him…Little Rock in 1992, Washington D.C. in 1993-95 and Boston ever since 1995…Which meant that I only saw him occasionally over the course of the 1990’s – much less often than I had when we both lived in New York City in the ‘80s.

But when I did see him…it was as if no time had passed at all.

Some years back…I learned of the end of his marriage to Katherine…which I was not close enough to fully understand…so I have resolutely tried not to “take sides” – but I did, in effect, fall on Sterett’s side of that divide…since I lost contact with Katherine…(until the funeral) but did have touch with Sterett.

For Sterett’s sake, I was thrilled to hear that he had met a wonderful young woman, Samantha…and would be having a child…

But we were in separate cities and only intermittent touch…so I never did meet Samantha or Eddy…though I did once talk with her on the phone at length…

… I had called Sterett and found him on his cell phone…cruising the open highway with Sam…maybe en-route to a country week-end.

A couple years ago, towards the end of that relationship…as Sam was departing…I got another, more distressing call from Annette Barbasch…

She told me that Sam was worried,…that Sterett was totally down, deeply depressed…maybe even in danger…so I reached out to him.

Over the next year or so…I convinced Sterett to come visit me in Milton, right outside Boston…and spend some time with my family…

My wife Mary tells me that he actually came up to see us four times in the next year or two…which must have been between 2006 and 2008…and we had some great times together…just dining, talking, hiking with my dogs…

We were both pleased to see Sterett talk to our son, Jack, with the respect due a full-fledged person…staying two or three days each time…and unlike some guests…never leaving us relieved to see him go…

To the contrary…we’d have like to have him stay longer.

I now remember that I also saw him once in New York – not knowing – how could I? – that it would be the last time I ever saw him. I think it was in the Summer of 2008 — when I went down to visit another friend (of mine, not Sterett’s) named Jim Namrow — who was about to go in for major cancer surgery.

Jim and I rode out to Brooklyn in my mini-Cooper and picked Sterett up to drive to the beach at Breezy Point, Brooklyn…which we did. We hiked there out onto the dunes…but discovered that in the year since I last swam there, the place had been converted to a national seashore…and some young ranger kicked us off…explaining that there was no swimming…

We hied off to my old neighborhood, Sunset Park…on a hill in the middle of Brooklyn…and swam there…in a vast municipal swimming pool left over from the New Deal’s WPA for all I know…but great fun, whatever its provenance.

I can still recall the mood, the weather, Sterrett’s laugh and his squinting smile with the sun too-bright in his eyes.

I never saw him again.

I last spoke to him maybe six or eight weeks ago…just about August…and he told me that he’d been down to Baltimore and helping you…and he said he would get back to me.

Thinking the ball was in his court…confident that our friendship didn’t depend on frequent contact…I let time slide…

I had meant to call him just a few weeks back…to invite him to my birthday party (age 61) which took place this past weekend…on November 7…

But I postponed that call…got busy…and then got a call from Annette in late October telling me the awful news.

I honestly can’t think of anything more to say. All I can imagine is that if I feel as badly as I have – this disaster must be totally devastating to you – and your family…as well as to those who knew Sterett and loved him so much more intimately than I did.

Please accept my sincere condolences.

I do believe that none of us can really understand, in a deep heartfelt way, the weight of the depression that he labored under so long – and fought so hard to overcome.

We have to forgive him for leaving us, take what consolation we can from the sure knowledge that at worst he is now at peace…beyond pain…

We need to forgive ourselves and our friends and family members any of our supposed failings in helping him – and turn that guilt/anger/energy in any way we can to seizing joy from this world…or helping those who need help in doing so.

We need to remember – and cherish – everything good we got from knowing Sterrett, every happy, funny memory – so that we can realize, deep down, that  as painful as this ending was…knowing Sterett was , on balance, worth the pain of losing him.

I hope you’ll one day feel that way too.


Lenny Glynn

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