Remembrances of Jeremy, part II

Photos of Jeremy Wilber’s memorial service by Dion Ogust

Thanks For All The Love And Support

I have barely the words to thank you for all the love and support you have given to Jeremy, me and our family over the last few months. It’s been overwhelming. Without you, we wouldn’t have been able to take care of Jeremy at home for two months.

We are grateful for your unstinting emotional support — the visits, and phone calls, cards and emails — Jeremy loved seeing and hearing from you all; the generous offers to put up visiting family members in your homes; the much-needed walks and coffee-dates.

And words can’t express how important your practical support was to us: every single night since Jeremy came home from the hospital, there were delicious dinners waiting for us, prepared by a long list of friends and acquaintances.

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Finally, we are grateful for the support from Ulster County Hospice, which made it possible for Jeremy to remain at home in comfort and without pain.

Thank you to John Kirkpatrick who donated the perfect Woodstock location for Jeremy’s service, to Eric Mann and Dan Leader who provided refreshments, and to the Bearsville Theater staff.

I’d also like to thank the Woodstock Police and Fire Departments, all the friends and family who participated in the service, and Rabbi Jonathan Kligler for officiating in his uniquely Jonathan way.

My biggest thanks is to a friend who does not want to be publicly acknowledged, but who did just about all of the legwork in planning the service. It would not have happened so smoothly and perfectly without him.

We called Jeremy’s memorial a celebration — and it was. He would have loved it.

Fran Azouz
Woodstock

 

Our Precious Time

Like so many people, I am deeply saddened by the January 1, 2017, passing of our wonderful Woodstock Town Supervisor, Jeremy Wilber.

I first got to know Jeremy in the 1990’s when he wrote and directed the Woodstock All Stars, to raise money towards replacing the Woodstock Playhouse that had been destroyed by fire. This play with a cast of hundreds included many leaders and independent thinkers in Woodstock. Jeremy’s caring for Woodstock was clear. His direction was smooth and effective. He listened to people, made adjustments based on their input, and led this large and diverse group to work towards a common goal. The production was a success, and thousands of dollars for the playhouse were raised as a result.

With the Woodstock All Stars production, Jeremy demonstrated his talent at leading leaders. We greatly needed that talent in our Woodstock government, so I nominated Jeremy for Woodstock Town Supervisor to represent my party in the 1997 election. He did not win that year, but I nominated him again in 1999. He did win that year, starting his term in January, 2000. I nominated him for re-election in 2001. By then, well into his first term, many people recognized Jeremy’s value to Woodstock, and he was cross endorsed by the other major party that year.

Thank you Woodstock for electing and re-electing Jeremy so many times.

Thank you Jeremy for leading this town with grace and dignity, wit and wisdom, dedication and determination, compassion and care. Your love of Woodstock was continuously evident. Your vision and communications were clear. You listened to input from others, and thanked others for their contributions. Your accomplishments were massive. Your legacy is strong.

Our time with you was precious. It has gone by too fast. But the memories live on.

Laura Ricci
Woodstock

 

True To Himself

Most people don’t know this but I was Jeremy Wilber’s first campaign manager. We had just completed three years of work on “The Hamlet Sewer Advisory Committee,” which gave rise to my favorite Wilber quote — “A good compromise leaves everyone equally unhappy,” which I believe always served him well. He lost that election, but he persisted and without further help from me, went on to become Woodstock’s most beloved and successful Supervisor.

Jeremy you had an amazing life, from being a kid on your own on the streets of Woodstock to becoming it’s Supervisor, to rubbing elbows with the Dalai Lama.

Husband, Father, Community Leader, Artist, always true to yourself…what more could anyone wish for.

I will miss you my friend.

Art Smith
Woodstock

 

With Jeremy’s Help

When my mother was in the hospital, Jeremy came to Buffalo to visit. I was already in her room when he arrived. Overnight she had slipped into a deep sleep, and I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to do. Jeremy began to calm me down by telling me a story; he was a great storyteller. He told me about his best friend’s mother who had practically adopted him. He was there with her when she was dying of cancer. He explained how he had talked to her, even though she was unconscious, knowing that she could hear him and how he had done everything he could to make her comfortable. After he left, I continued to talk to my mother and make her comfortable. She died that night.

Thank you, Jeremy, for making her passing better for both of us. God speed!

Sue Grabenstatter
Buffalo

 

Jeremy’s Warm Acceptance

Despite having lived in Woodstock since 1969, I only fairly recently had the good fortune to get to know Jeremy Wilber, even a little. When I reluctantly found myself in charge of the Senior Recreation Committee after the death of our very capable chair Anita Yuran a few years ago, I called on our Town Supervisor. He was most grateful to learn someone was ready to step in, but more important, he made it easy for me to do. It was clear he took pride in this program of activities for seniors, far more extensive and lively than in any other town in the area. So, when I learned Jeremy was in Hospice care, I wanted him to know how much I, the committee, and indeed the community of Senior Rec participants, appreciated his unstinting support and how I have come to enjoy this volunteer job.

I wrote the following e-mail, hoping he would read it, not expecting any reply.

Dear Jeremy, On behalf of the Senior Recreation Committee, I wish to thank you and the Town Board for your continued, and expanded, support of our program. In early 2013, when I agreed to temporarily steer this committee, I had no idea of the depth of enthusiasm and appreciation among its participants. These activities enhance both the physical and social well-being of a significant portion of our older citizens in a town we all know is not getting any younger. This continues to be a very satisfying undertaking for me. Edwina Henderson…

Edwina, Your note makes me very happy. Thank you for all you do to make the Program as wonderful as it is. Jeremy…

That he did reply, and in such a warm way, sums up the many reasons he will be so missed by so many.

Edwina Henderson
Woodstock

 

Talking About You

It is more telling about Jeremy than about myself that upon reading his words, as recounted in Brian Hollander’s editorial last week, “I remember being impressed several years ago by someone defining life as ‘a material that maintains its form through a change of substance’” I wondered whether he was recalling our first conversation, in the ’90s, when he was grilling me about an abstract painting of mine that hung on the wall of his sister Alix’s home in Seattle.

I say it’s more telling about Jeremy because I love the image of multitudes of others wondering the same thing: “Was he talkin’ about me?” Because in a personal conversation with Jeremy — unless he was recounting an almost certainly true, however unlikely, event — it always felt like he was talkin’ about you.

And while perhaps we are all correct, in an abstract sense, only Jeremy knows the literal answer, because his bear-trap Wilber memory would have heard and stored every word precisely as it was uttered, whether the year was 1967 or 1997.

It is also the kind of comment that Jeremy routinely, uniquely, evoked from others: His penetrating curiosity and challenging wit more than once urged me to reach for more thoughtful reply than I would have reached on my own, undared.

It is a dear and continuing gift in my life having been a friend of Jeremy’s and his whole “wonderful, bizarre” family, in the recent phrase of one family member — his beloved soulmate, Fran, and the adored fruits of their loins, Abigail and Lee, who have absorbed their parents’ influence as multifaceted, irreverent, all-questioning, talented, compassionate Zen beings — along with assorted parents and siblings, with a special emphasis on Jeremy’s sister Alix, who could pass as his twin if need be to break into the front of the line at the Vatican.

I will miss the certainty of having future unexpected and unpredictable conversations with Jeremy Wilber. But if I try very hard, as he would urge me to, I will gradually remember many more, enough to provide sustenance for years to come.

Sally Anderson
Seattle

 

For Jeremy 

From the moment I could look up
You were that which I looked up to
The lessons of cool
Of life
Instilled, imprinted, embedded
On the person I would become
Am still becoming
So many, still becoming
Because of those lessons
So freely given to all
But so gravely learned
By you
The lessons being
The sum of your scars

1/3/17
Jeff Wilber

 

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