My friend Vaughn Fuller loved meaningful conversation.
Several months had gone by since I had last heard from him, and since we corresponded semi-regularly, when an electronic letter I sent to his distinctive email address (email@example.com) bounced back, I donned my electronic detective hat, typed his name into a google search, and hit my keyboard’s “return” button. Seconds later I learned that my friend Vaughn Fuller had died.
I can’t remember the exact content of the long-ago letter to the editor of the Portland Press Herald I had written that had initially gotten Vaughn’s attention, but whatever it was, he took the trouble to write and let me know he staunchly agreed with the views I had expressed. I was impressed not only by his kindness, but also by his having taken the time to find my home address; apparently I wasn’t Maine’s only skilled Internet sleuth.
Because I’ve never been able to resist responding to thoughtfulness with more of the same, I wrote him back, which began an enduring friendship. Vaughn and I had similar senses of humor, and our thoughts on many issues, both historical and contemporary, were often remarkably similar. And on those rare occasions when we differed, my first reaction was to question my own opinion, since Vaughn always cheerfully expressed his beliefs eloquently, and in terms that were equal parts logical, thought-provoking, and civil.
“Uncle Vaughn” (he signed most of his correspondence that way) told me he was a retired educator. A devoted dad and granddad, he and his wife Marie were married for 68 years. He coached baseball and basketball in his younger days, which gave us something else in common. Even though he was retired, U. V. had no trouble staying busy, but despite that (and the fact I had three young children of my own) we arranged to meet for lunch in exotic Damariscotta one summer. I brought the oldest of my brood along for company, and we had a delightful time. Vaughn was every bit as great in person as he was via correspondence. He also made sure to involve my young son in everything we chatted about; inclusiveness was instinctive to him.
Time kept passing, life kept happening, and our chats became less frequent. But it was always a red-letter day when I’d hear from U. V., and I trust he felt the same way when he’d get something from me, either via email or, if I was inspired, in his actual mailbox.
Uncle Vaughn’s obituary made great reading even if you’d never met him, because it made it clear what an amazing 90 years he lived. He’d mentioned in passing that he’d been a teacher and a coach; but I hadn’t known he had coached a state championship girls basketball team at South Portland High School in 1977, or that he had a Master’s Degree from an Ivy League school. I didn’t know that because he had never brought it up, any more than he ever boasted of having been, in no particular order, a naval aviator, a Maine Guide, an architect, an artist, and a bush pilot who loved paddling canoes and taking motorcycle trips. In retrospect that makes perfect sense. Vaughn didn’t care much for braggadocious self- promoters.
But while he abhorred narcissists, as a former athlete and mentor Vaughn greatly admired baseball immortal Jackie Robinson, whose tombstone reads “A LIFE IS NOT IMPORTANT EXCEPT IN THE IMPACT IT HAS ON OTHER LIVES.”
If there is indeed an afterlife, I expect that Mr. Robinson and Uncle Vaughn are currently enjoying numerous conversations that are both meaningful and impactful.Andy Young
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