Andrew Greeley 1928 to last Thursday
“Andrew Greeley, Priest; Wrote Steamy Novels” was how Chicago’s most famous presbyter feared his obituary would be headlined. And why not? He did write, in his much-reprinted 1982 novel The Cardinal Sins, “His touch was gentle despite the fever in his blood. Tenderly he caressed, probed. She gave herself to his explorations, sighing softly with pleasure.” As titillating as his fiction got, it could not compare to “exuberantly combative” non-fiction, at one point calling the nation’s bishops “morally, intellectually and religiously bankrupt.” And like any good sociologist (which Greeley somehow found the time to teach at the University of Chicago) he reveled in upending received wisdom: “his research debunked the received view [in the seventies] that Catholics had low college attendance rates” (indeed, white Roman Catholic women and men receive higher education degrees more frequently than other whites). But what Greeley leaves behind most is an admiration of “the practical wisdom and religious experience of ordinary believers” found in the background of his his ‘steamy novels’ or the foreground of his sociological research that is priesthood at its finest.
Arturo Vega 1947 to Saturday
Arturo was minding his own business in his Lower East Side apartment when the soon-to-be Dee Dee Ramone (his name would change as he founded the band that shares his adopted surname) pops his head in from the street and asks Mr. Vega to join this incipient punk rock outfit. Arturo being an artist more visual than musical demurred. Instead of playing with the boys, he did everything else–running lights at shows, designing merchandise, even offering his apartment as practice space to the young rockers. Mr. Vega leaves behind that Ramones t-shirt (you know, the one with the presidential eagle and the names of the Ramones all around it) ubiquitous at all-ages rock shows, the popularity of which indisputably contributes to the continuing popularity of that great American punk band:
Privacy God-knows-when to last Wednesday
The last remaining hope for having anything resembling a private life evaporated with the conscience-driven revelations of the tortured (then by his conscience, in the future by the CIA (and yes, I know the NSA’s listening)) Edward Snowden. Privacy leaves behind those good old days when 1984 was just a Mac commercial:
Chen Xitong 1930 to two-weeks-ago Sunday
To vastly oversimplify, this was the guy who told those tanks to run over that dude with the grocery bags in Tiananmen Square. The tanks didn’t waste the protester but do leave behind this, one of the quintessential images of the eighties: