Friendship! Mysterious Cement of the soul! Sweetener of life! And Solder of society! Robert Blair, 1699-1746
The sudden death of Jonathan Revere after a severe heart attack has shocked and saddened his many friends and colleagues, especially at MVTV. I’m included in that circle, and the nature and value of friendship, especially his friendship, has been much on my mind.
As time marches on and one ages, the opportunities to make new friends diminish, and one cherishes all the more those friends who have endured and survived. So when one is lucky enough to have made a new friend late in life the loss of that friend is all the more painful and sorrowful.
It was hardly destined that Jonathan and I would become friends, in fact it seemed highly unlikely. Sometime around 2000, shortly after I moved to the Island full-time, I got an unexpected call from Jonathan. We had never met. He was very direct, as was his nature. “Are you going to run for selectman?” he asked impatiently. I only knew him by word of mouth reputation.
“No,” I said, “What makes you think I’m interested in doing that?” I had written a commentary published in the Vineyard Gazette about some hot issue, I don’t remember which one, and he concluded that I had political ambitions rivaling his own. That was my introduction to Jonathan. He did run, unsuccessfully, and of course we met subsequently, as I became more interested in town affairs.
But it wasn’t a friendship in the beginning. Several years later, when we did know each other somewhat better, I refused his entreaties to involve myself in some other hot town issue, he dismissed me derisively, as only he could, with, “Oh, just go home and sit in your hot tub!”
A sharp tongue, an incisive wit and a heartfelt dedication to righting the wrongs he perceived everywhere, especially in town government, those were some of Jonathan’s hallmarks. He put off a lot of people years ago, much less so later on, with his abrupt approach, and the certainty of his own position. How we emerged as friends out of our differences in both style and views of political reality remains a mystery to me to this day, but friends we did become. And to have Jonathan as a friend, I quickly learned, was a gift beyond value. I miss him all the more.
Now once you were friends with Jonathan you were added to his daily route, which always included a long stop at MVTV. He had friends all over the Island, and he interacted with more people in a day than many of us would in a week. His Nissan Versa of recent vintage, eighteen months or so, has about 22,000 miles on it, all of it from doing his rounds. It wasn’t unusual for Jonathan to drop in on you several times a day, especially if he came upon some bit of information he just had to share. And he came upon them often. Some of us were on the breakfast circuit, and some on the cocktail circuit. Some were on both. Regardless, you could count on seeing Jonathan often. You came to count on it, and missed him, his interesting conversation, his enthusiasm, his delightful humor, when for some reason he adjusted his route, temporarily, to exclude a stop at your house on a particular day. I expect him now to burst through the front door at any moment, wearing a lottery-winner’s grin indicating some news he wanted share over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.
Unfortunately, many people never got to see that ultra-friendly, ultra-human side of Jonathan, as they will attest, that I experienced. Certainly he mellowed considerably in recent years, especially as he became immersed in writing his novel.
Oh, his tongue never got dull, and his ability to rattle off a hilarious pun, maybe at your expense, never failed him, but Jonathan the friend had your back, and more than anything his loyalty was fierce, as any of his friends will verify. Whatever he could do for you he would. And you could count on it.
What I hope everyone realizes by now is that one of Jonathan’s best friends, in his mind anyway, was West Tisbury, not the town government necessarily, but the town as an entity. He was loyal to it and always, in his own mind anyway, acted in its best interest. Not everyone, I realize, saw it or him that way, but as he and I became closer I came to understand how passionate he was about open and transparent government, about doing the right thing, as he saw it, and wanting to be a part of it. Every town needs a Jonathan Revere. We need one now, too.
For many of us he has left a void that will probably not fill. His heart failed him, a heart that always had room in it for his many friends, but sadly we couldn’t keep it beating.
Rest in Peace, Jonathan. We miss you very much.
Richard Knabel lives in West Tisbury and contributes occasionally to the Gazette.