I’m rarely stumped for a column topic but this time was a little different. After tossing around a few ideas in my head, I found myself repeatedly coming back to the same thing. It’s not the weather, or some escapade perpetrated by my youngest child … I keep coming back to a feeling of sadness after having experienced a loss. A couple of them, actually.
They’re not even my losses, really, since I was not related to either person. But I was connected to them.
The recent loss of Escalon resident Palmer Little in January followed the loss of Marjorie Reichmuth of Escalon in December.
Both of these people were ones I had multiple dealings with, primarily professional but with a tinge of personal because our paths crossed so many times, at so many different venues.
I first came to know Palmer, 82 at the time of his death, through his association with the Escalon American Legion Post; he was always there with information about Post activities, a fountain of knowledge about the organization and nearly anything associated with the military. He also was the father-in-law of my former co-worker Jenni Little, who was with the paper in Escalon and then made the move to Oakdale when the Escalon office on Main Street closed and things were consolidated into one central location. Palmer’s son Chris, Jenni’s husband, loves taking photos and on more than one occasion, got some shots for the paper when Jenni was working here. I would see Palmer with the Honor Guard at Friday night football games, at all the city parades, at Memorial Day and Veterans Day services, just to name a few of his activities.
He was a person I would describe as having a gentle soul, with a ready smile and eyes that twinkled when he was having a good laugh about something. One of my favorite photos of him is one I took at last year’s Park Fete in Escalon, when he was honored as the Grand Marshal. He was riding in an old Army jeep, waving and smiling. I remember the look on his face, the wonder of it all and just the sheer joy, as he was applauded along the parade route. It was a fitting honor for a man who served his country and, later on, his community.
And as much as I like that one, there’s another photo I got that really captures what Palmer was all about.
This past Veterans’ Day, when two young musicians were performing at the Memorial Wall outside the Escalon Community Center, the wind started picking up and began to shuffle the sheet music on their music stand. Wordlessly, Palmer knelt down beside the music stand and gently held the sheet music in place, so the musicians wouldn’t miss a note. That simple act of being there, doing what needed to be done in the moment; that was Palmer.
Marjorie Reichmuth was one of those people that you never forget. Her love of life and her way of brightening a room just by walking in it is a gift that not everyone has. She packed plenty of living into her 50 years.
I first dealt with her through her work at Dent Elementary, having done various stories about programs she worked with there, getting photos of different events on campus. She was all about the kids, and education, sports and family. Later on, as her sons grew, I took pictures of them involved in sports and other school activities and she would always make sure I knew how appreciative she was of her boys being included in the paper.
In all my dealings with her over the years, I always left with a smile. She had a way of making you feel her joy, as she embraced every day. You could not help but be swept up in her boundless energy.
One of the last times we spoke, she hunted me down as I was covering an event we were both attending. She wanted to comment on a column about my vacation to New York and a side trip to New York City I was able to take over the summer. She and her husband Steve had visited the city as well, and she said how much she enjoyed the column because she related to all the sites I described seeing and all the adventures being in the city brings. She was looking forward to going back for another visit soon … I’m not sure she got the chance.
The deaths of Palmer and Marjorie made me realize that you’re never ready to lose people; it just happens.
We shed our tears, share our sorrow with family and friends, but we pick up and go on. Because that is life.
And despite the sense of loss, I am grateful for having had the good fortune to know both Palmer and Marjorie … I am a better person because of it.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times and The Oakdale Leader and assistant editor for The Riverbank News. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.