In October 1970, while I was a student in Rome my best friend Jack Murphy died in an automobile accident. Devastated by his death I could not fathom how this incredible life force suddenly ceased to exist.
Jack was the whole package when it came to being an extraordinary person. Bright, compassionate and ever the teacher, he had a wide birth of acceptance for all people. His innocent boyish Irish face was the perfect façade for his zany, wonderful sense of humor. Once in the middle of a freezing January day, Jack and I were waiting on line to enter a café in New York that featured opera singers. Tired of the wait Jack left me and entered the building. In a few moments he returned and told me that there was no longer a need to wait, we could now enter. From the gleam in his eyes I knew that the leprechaun had hatched a devious plan that would entail some major acting on my part. I inquired “What have you done?” Nothing really, I merely told the Italian proprietor that you were Dr.Tagliareni, the very famous heart surgeon, visiting from Rome.” As we entered we were greeted by the owner who ushered us to the best table in the house. I speak Italian, but it would be obvious to a native that I was not the real deal. When the owner gushingly greeted me in Italian I responded in broken English “While I am in your country I wish to speak only English.” First hurdle cleared, but surely not the last tense moment in the story.
The next embarrassing moment was when the lead soprano dedicated her Aria to me, and I was introduced, and had to stand and take a bow. I asked Jack “nice going lunatic, what happens if someone has a heart attack?” He never missed a beat, “just jump on him and start pounding his chest.”
I still smile whenever I recall that day, but most of all I feel the gratitude that I had the privilege of knowing him. Thanks Jack, for the memories, and for all that you brought to my life.