Dewey Beach, Lewes, Alice Walsh, Dave Truitt and Joe Biden
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2019
Politics is about people. People are about politics. Funerals are about people and politics too.
Family and friends joined the family of Dave Truitt for a funeral last Friday at Bethel Methodist Church in Lewes where he faithfully attended and served for decades. Dave served as a Democratic committeeman for many years, worked every election at the polls for decades, won three seats as a member of the Cape Henlopen School Board, loved the Eagles and the Phillies and hated the TV stations that couldn’t figure out a way to broadcast their games locally. A left-handed pitcher of considerable talent in high school, Dave had to pass up a chance to play minor league ball with the Phillies organization. When she found out that the arrangement would involve playing baseball on Sundays, Dave’s devout mother withheld her blessing. Ever faithful, ever loyal, Dave wasn’t about to cross his mother.
The first hymn sung at Dave’s funeral was On Eagles Wings. Dave was a season-ticket holder for more than 50 years. The last song the congregation sang was How Great Thou Art. The organist pulled out all the stops for the final verse of Dave’s favorite old hymn, the congregation stretched out its vocal chords in kind, and Jesus prayed to God quietly in the stained glass window that cast a loving glow over the whole sanctuary. Dave’s humble and unpretentious spirit filled the whole scene.
As the funeral directors rolled his flag-covered casket out of the church, the organist hit the keys again, this time playing a spirited rendition of Take Me Out To The Ball Game. Once more the congregation, including former Vice President Joe Biden, joined in song. Joe wasn’t about to forget how Dave and his family helped him out in 1972 when he came to the area campaigning as a 29-year-old for his first term in the U.S. Senate.
It felt like Lewes.
Outside the church afterwards, Joe and I chatted. I offered him a ride on my bicycle. He declined.
“You must be spending a fair amount of time on the park trails since you bought the house in North Shores,” I said.
“Not as much as I’d like,” he said. “I’ve only been there about ten or 12 times.”
“I know you’re busy with other things.”
Talk about the Cape Henlopen State Park trails spurred Joe’s thinking.
“Do you know what is the most important thing I ever did as a Senator? Getting that land back from the military so Delaware could own it and create Cape Henlopen State Park. That wasn’t easy, but I’m so glad I did.”
So are a lot of other people.
Two days later, Steve Montgomery and the family of Alice Walsh opened the doors of The Starboard for a Celebration of Life for Alice. One of the original commissioners for Dewey Beach when the town first incorporated, Alice died recently after a long active life that included raising eight children and serving her community as an elected official. Members of the Truitt family including Dave’s wife, Helen, joined in the celebration for Alice, also part of the local political structure.
People ate crab cakes from Woody’s - one of Alice’s favorite Dewey haunts - as well as bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches - another Alice favorite. They laughed, wiped tears from their eyes and traded stories. They drank beer and wine, soft drinks and hard liquor. They watched a rolling slide show of Alice’s life which showed a lot of beach and a lot of fun.
They stopped their conversation - mostly - when oldest daughter Denise took to the stage, picked up the microphone, thanked all for attending, sang an Irish wake-inspired original song with a loud and irreverent F*** You about dead center in the lyrics, and heard no argument when she said all that spirit was designed - as tradition would have it - to send Alice’s deserving soul off to the spirit world called the Summerlands.
Family members gathered on the beach before the celebration. They watched as youngest son Francis waded out in his wetsuit to commend Alice’s ashes to the natural world of Mother Ocean from whence she arrived 87 years ago.
It all felt like a good way of life. It felt like Dewey Beach.
So much positive vibe reminded me how closely we’re all connected - locally, nationally, globally, universally.