You would think that the older you get the more you get used to friends your age passing away.
Not so much.
I heard today that my good friend George Cherry passed away. I haven't seen George in years, but the news hit me like a punch to the gut. I was lucky enough to work side by side with George for about two and a half years teaching color guard. They were without a doubt my best years in the activity. George's creativity, enthusiasm and rapport with the kids was something to behold. From the moment he arrived he elevated everyone to a different level - and challenged me to do the same.
George was passionate about the activity and he "got it" : the pursuit of excellence, the push to drive kids to reach for things just beyond their grasp and then reach a little more. His joy for life and boundless energy was an epidemic that ran rampant through our organization while we were privileged to have him with us. The guard was never better.
George touched countless lives - here in our backwater little town, as a founding staff member of Jersey Surf, as a performer and a person. I'd lost touch with George over the last several years, but I'd always here from someone who'd heard from someone about how he was doing. Even though I hadn't seen him in forever I thought of him often - of his passion for excellence, his love of the activity, and just his approach to life every day. Even when he was privately down about something, when the kids came around the game face was on and he was ready to go.
I've yet to work with a better motivator and educator in the color guard world. The kids all loved George, even when he was telling them like it was. George had a profound effect on my career in the color guard world, coming along just at the right time to give me new enthusiasm and challenge and push. His love of the activity and the kids was unequaled.
One of my favorite George memories is seeing The Pride of Cincinnati's "First Circle" show for the first time at a regional performance in Ohio. Before they finished I leapt to my feet, tears streaming down my face because it was so damn _good_ and _right_ and I had taught kids in that show early in their careers. I looked over at George, who was a couple of seats down, and caught him looking at me with the same tears on his face. We both burst out laughing, tearing up and clapping, caught up in the joy of the moment.
And that was George - caught up in the joy of the moment.
He touched hundreds, if not thousands of lives, and will missed by many and forgotten by none.
For a time he was "my best good friend" and I will cherish his memory forever.