I’m numb. This past Tuesday we lost Pat Thurman, K7KR. He had been struggling with multiple medical issues for a couple of months, and at some point they simply overwhelmed him. Flesh is fragile, even when the spirit is strong.
Like many people, Pat knew of me from my books and my magazine work, and when I announced in my DDJ column that Carol and I were moving to Arizona at the beginning of 1990, he sent me a note and told us to get in touch once we arrived. We did. Pat and his wife Sue became instant friends, and within a year, neighbors, out in the wild dirt-road country at the northern tip of Scottsdale.
Pat was a DXer and contester of formidable skill. While I watched in awe, he put up a 75′ winch-up tower with a highly engineered ground system and a couple of very large steerable beams. (I contented myself with a 200′ longwire and a 6M vertical.) His thunderous signal was heard around the world. His official DX count is 245 countries. (There are 340 right now.) Mine? 17.
We did a lot of offroading in the Tonto National Forest in his high-clearance Jimmy, and visited Sheep’s Bridge. On one of those early trips, Pat stopped the Jimmy for a tarantula in the road. We got out and gathered around the tarantula, which was the first (though it would not be the last) that I had seen in the wild. I wanted a picture, and for scale Pat tossed a quarter onto the road about a foot away from the spider. I worried that the quarter would scare it away. Not so: The tarantula pounced on the quarter so quickly we figured it just teleported. Then once it realized that quarters weren’t edible, it ambled slowly off into the brush.
Pat and Sue were early and eager beta readers for The Cunning Blood, and the inspiration for my Filer Fitzgerald character came from a character in one of Sue’s shows that promoted reading for grade schoolers. It was for that same show that I built The Head of R&D, as I mentioned here some time back. We ate a lot of dinners together, drank a lot of Dornfelder, laughed a great deal, and talked about all kinds of things.
If I can point to any single force that hauled me out of the spiritual mailaise I’d been in for twenty years back in the early 1990s, it was Pat and Sue, and their aptly named parish, Our Lady of Joy. My childhood religion was grim, Hell-centric, and focused on self-denial well beyond what I would call “a healthy discipline.” We originally attended the Sunday night “teen mass” with Pat because Pat and Sue had twin teen sons, and Sue was in the music group. I was astonished: The music they played and sang was downright exuberant: “Send Down the Fire,” “The Canticle of the Turning,” “One Is,” and many more. It made me wonder if there were more to Catholicism than a celebration of human and divine suffering. Our Lady of Joy allowed me to imagine a Catholic tradition that celebrates the physical world, and a God who will not settle for partial victories. Pat and Sue didn’t follow us to Old Catholicism, but without their influence, Carol and I would never have known the journey was even possible.
The older I get, the more I’m certain that friendship is the cornerstone of the human spirit. Alas, the older I get, the more I see my friends leaving this world for other realms. I’m 61 now, and I know enough math to understand that that’s just how things work. Does friendship even have a point, if death can end it so easily?
But…maybe it does, because…maybe it doesn’t. If you get my drift.
K7KR DE K7JPD / TNKS GUD LK ES 73 CUL SK.