The Old Men’s Club.
When I die and someone writes an obituary listing my lifetime affiliations, there may not be a whole lot to say. But one group whose membership I am eternally proud of: I was once the token female in the Old Men’s Club.
The other members were fellows older (from four to 24 years older) than myself, all erudite, lively, all in some capacity involved in the world of biology and ecology. Three university professors; a reclamation engineer; a professional tree-hugger; a landscape designer. Brilliant and heartfelt, all of them. I first encountered them as a group at a multi-course sit-down dinner they planned and executed, based on wild-caught foods, right down to dessert.
How I first got invited to join them was a fluke. That they kept me was a gift. We’d meet for lunch semi-regularly. The conversation was always vivid, inspiring. Hopeful, even in the dire turn-of-the-century days.
We hadn’t met for a few years when, in October of 2015, our first member died at the age of 77. Peter Lassig always referred to himself as “the church gardener.” In fact, he was the man who designed the LDS Temple grounds. He was a maverick under his gentle and quick wit, the best example of a Mormon I’ve ever met.
Last month, going through an old notebook, I found a list titled “Fun Things to do with Ty.” It was mostly a how-to list of things I wanted to learn from member Ty Harrison, Westminster College biology professor—cloning roses, growing moss, that sort of thing.
But I was too late. Days before finding that page, Ty died. He was 75.
A few weeks later I got a call from Ardean Watts, the heartiest of the club—musician, professor, founder of the Utah Mushroom Society, world traveler, highly skilled at thinking, doing and being. He had just weathered a weird illness and come out the other side. He was facing triple-bypass heart surgery in the week ahead, but felt confident.
“My life continues to be blessed,” he said.
He died within the month, age 89.
I called one of the remaining members. “We’re going to see more of each other,” I pretty much ordered. Hikes. Lunch. Random conversations. “Some day” is an illusion. Corner the ones who make your heart sing, especially those older and wiser. Prioritize them in your life. Learn all you can from them.
I am grateful for my time with these amazing men, and if I will carry their spirit with me, the rest of my life, too, will be blessed.
Greta Belanger deJong is the founder, editor and
publisher of CATALYST.
photo: Ardean Watts (Greta deJong)