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A Chance Meeting

The Christening service today was at the University Catholic church next door to and sharing a border with buildings on the Main Street Campus. Of all the priests possible, this one today was Father Jack Ledwon. He knew me right away because we go back to the ‘70s when he was constantly doing operas and I would be called upon to costume them — sometimes with little notice.

My sister Jean and I did an entire show's worth of heavy, richly made rented costume alterations, using dull safety pins, the night before the show was to open. That was how they stayed for his show, too. Somehow the box of big pins I had bought were the dullest imaginable. It was always fast and frenetic but his operas were well attended and well-loved. Only the performers knew the secret of the pins. Theater people are the best and most adaptable out there.

Once during those times, Jack gave me four tickets to see Dave Brubeck at a concert at one of the big churches downtown. Jean and I went with her husband Bob and my date of the moment. We were seated in the front row on folding chairs right next to the performers! It was amazing to be so close to Brubeck, the show was outstanding, and we attended the reception at a nearby hotel afterwards and got to meet and chat with a very cordial Brubeck and his wife, Iola. I had stars in my eyes for a week.

Jack’s shows, like all the operas I costumed, always had an enormous cast for a nice, full chorus. Another time, Jack was so excited to find a lot of quickly needed, easily accessible dresses at a mortuary supplier near UB — only to learn that they were backless.

I first met Jack when I was new to the job at U.B. and was doing a fitting for soprano, Rachel Lewis, in one of the rooms in Baird Hall. This guy stuck his head in asking to borrow a quarter for the drink machine. Rachel said I could trust him to get it back to me because he was a priest. She was notable for one occasion with a previous costumer when asking to have her costume shortened (and got refused). Rachel took a scissors and chopped it — off then and there. Ah, the memories.

Today we arrived after noon mass entering the empty church / cathedral, I saw a priest on the alter prepping christening things and it was Jack! Only slightly stooped and moving like an older man, otherwise exactly the same. He recognized me immediately when we came in and came right over. He asked if I was still doing costumes. (Ha ha.) I figured he was already retired but he said, “Soon.” — after 33 years serving there.

The Christening was lovely — 4 babies. One slept through the entire thing, another cried, Aurelia made a few loud bursts, but there was laughter. She is getting to be quite a character. The service was brief but meaningful, if you could hear, which I never can but I always deduce the gist of things and follow well enough. The church is vast and so beautiful. The funeral for my coworker and scenic designer, Mike English was held there, and I saw Jack then and another time, years ago at a service for a Kenmore East classmate.

Write and write some more. Capture things when they are fresh. If only for yourself but others, too. Our journals are waiting for you to fill them.

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