America’s Best Friend, R.I.P.

A funeral can sometimes seem like a going out of business sale, an occasion for taking stock, not so much of the deceased as of your friendship with him.  It is strange that, presented with such an opportunity, pastors and friends usually do so poor a job of evoking the life of the departed.  One of the finest eulogies I ever heard was John Howard’s tribute to Leopold Tyrmand at the Philadelphia Society, in which John struck just the right note of objective admiration and personal friendship.

Perhaps the task of summing up is difficult because most of us lead such muddled lives that the memory of our misdeeds is likely to outlast whatever good we might have done.  “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”  There was nothing muddled or unclear about John Howard, and the eulogists at his memorial service all paid touching tribute to his kindness, his integrity, and his selfless patriotism.  Allan Carlson did so fine a job that he left little for me to offer except a few reminiscences.

When people, over the years, have asked me what John was like, I have always begun with the same sentence: John is the last American Boy Scout, a man who believed in his country and its traditions, who always said what he believed and believed what he said.  He was the best boss anyone could have, as kind as he was fair.  When he asked me, 31 years...

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