I hesitate to write down all the thoughts and memories rushing through me right now – don’t want to suggest that my place in John’s life even approached what he had with Abby and his two daughters. But I did want to share, like everyone else here, my affection for the man and his impact on my life. Of course, he was hardly a “man” when we first met. We were all on that threshold between childhood and adulthood, college freshmen together at Harvard. I had the great good fortune to be in the same dorm as John that year – Weld Hall South – and the even better luck of being the name John drew out of a hat that first winter of Secret Santa. Not content to shower his Santee with anonymous gifts of cocoa or flowers, my Santa somehow wrangled a dorm’s worth of men/boys to stand in the snow under my window in the Yard and sing (with instrumental accompaniment) “Mame,” deftly rewritten to feature his Santee whose name also happened to start with M. In a single evening, John Solomon catapulted himself in my mind from “sweet, sweaty guy with a basketball” into John Solomon Creative Genius, for whom nothing was too big an effort.
After college, when we both landed in DC, John somehow worked my apartment in Cleveland Park into his regular jogging route. Soon that sweet, sweaty man -- someone I had generally watched and admired from a distance at Harvard -- became a near-constant companion. We spent much of our 20’s together -- or, as Alice T. says, we grew up together -- cooking pasta with his roommates in Woodley Park, sharing Chinese take-out with Andy B. on 86th Street, hunting for the dish with the “most food” on any restaurant menu, and (to burn off all those food memories) running around the reservoir in Central Park, and, of course, joining the aerobics craze that swept the nation in the 80’s. John, tongue out and legs kicking to Donna Summer, was almost always the only male in the room (a distinction he no doubt relished). And he may have been the only six-foot-four Collegiate graduate to play a game of pick-up basketball on a blacktop in Guilin, China in May, 1989. Tongue out (still), sweat dripping, face glowing with the adventure of it all, he didn’t need to say a word to draw a crowd of admirers even there.
He often joked that he wanted to be the first Jewish President. In quieter moments he would tell you that what he really wanted to be was a Congressman (not the more glamorous Senator) because those were the ones who were really on the ground working with their constituents and making a difference in daily lives. It seems that in recent years he shifted his ambitions higher still, taking on the role of “community organizer” in his work with emergency preparedness. I can only guess that he reveled in the power of the Internet to reach even more people, to touch even more lives with his gentle, persuasive leadership.
While John was finding his own way in the world, he helped me navigate those early years of adulthood with unflagging optimism, always seeing and encouraging the best in me, just as he always found the best in the people and the world around him. It was a true and deep love of life, with all its light and shadows, that drew people to him for 47 years. His ready laugh, self-deprecating humor, quiet confidence, steadfast integrity, unwavering sense of fair play on and off the court, willingness to jump in, help out, and persevere, whatever the situation, won him friend after friend -- and I don’t think he ever lost a one. His parents, Ann and Dick, and his brother, Jimmy, clearly gave John the firm and loving foundation that allowed him to give so generously to others (something that Abby and his girls no doubt fortified in recent years). Almost daily, it seemed, he sought their company and counsel, as they sought his. And they laughed together more than I imagined possible (or normal) in a modern American family. But there it was. Joy.
Like all of you, I grieve that he was not able to give the world -- his daughters in particular -- more decades of that joy. But we had him for 47 precious years, and I, for one, will carry him with me forever.