By Lou Bernard in Opinions
February 16, 2012
Today’s column won’t be one of those fascinating ones, filled with adventures from the past. I’m not in the mood for that, today.
My friend Matt Connor, freelance journalist, passed away on February 1, 2012. Matt lived on Water Street. He was from New Jersey, and attended Lock Haven University just a few years ahead of me. He got his start writing for the Eagle Eye, and went on to write for several newspapers, publish books, and work briefly for Marvel Comics.
I first met Matt a few years ago, when he came into the museum to research ghosts. He was writing an article about the local haunted houses, including my own. He was excited to hear that I live in a haunted house, and he wanted to hear all about it. We sat in the museum and discussed ghosts, and from that first meeting, a friendship grew.
We did historic research together. We talked about ghosts, dogs, and old houses. One time, he told me about the time when he worked for Marvel, at a convention. He ended up in an elevator with Spider-Man.
There were at least four Spider-Men running around, all played by various actors that Matt had been introduced to the night before. This one, in the elevator, had the full costume on, including the mask. Matt asked who he was, underneath the mask.
The Spider-Man whispered, ”I’m Peter Parker.”
(If you didn’t get a laugh out of that, you don’t read enough comic books. I always laughed, when Matt told the story).
This was Matt: Exciting, amusing, fun. He always wanted to learn more, to investigate the unexplored. Often, as we talked, I’d mention some offhand historic event, and out would come his notepad and a pen, scribbling it down for future reference. And two weeks later, a column would appear in the Express, as if by magic.
Almost two years ago, Matt found out that he had cancer. He was determined to fight it. If I ever get that sort of bad news, I hope I handle it with the courage and dignity that Matt did.
When he went for his treatments, he would ask me to stop by his house and take care of his dogs. Matt had some friendly little Boston Terriers, Tillie and Rose, and an adorable pug named Annabelle. He’d rescued Annabelle years before, and she adored him. Sometimes, I would call on his cell phone and put Annabelle on the phone, to hear his voice. When I came over, she was friendly to me, but I was clearly not the human she wanted. She would hang her little head, and mope. The message was pretty obvious: “You’re not Matt. Where’s Matt?”
“I think she’s jerking you around, Lou,” said Matt when I told him. “She knows you’re a sucker for that.”
“She loves you, man,” I said. “It’s true that I give her pretty much anything she wants, when she does that… but you’re her person.”
The last time I saw Matt was a few weeks before his death. He called me up out of the blue to ask if I was doing anything. I wasn’t, and we had lunch together. We sat down for burgers and fries, and chatted, as friends do. We talked about the usual: Ghosts, the museum, our columns. Nothing special, in other words. Just a casual lunch between friends.
Would I have changed anything, if I’d known it was going to be the last time?
I don’t think so. We had a nice talk together, joked and kidded, and just basically hung out. You really can’t ask for more than that. It wasn’t such a bad way to say goodbye.
I’d like to think Matt would be proud to be featured in the Eagle Eye. He always took pride in having written for it, back in college. It seemed like a good idea, to remember him in these pages. Matt would have told me not to cry for him, to go on with my life.
But I can’t stop thinking about little Annabelle, sitting on the floor, wondering when Matt will come home. She’s going to miss him, too.
And me? It’ll be a while before I can read Spider-Man without crying.
I’ll miss you, Matt. You’re going, now, to be part of the history of this community you loved.