Twenty-six years ago today, I lost one of the six best friends I've ever had. Greg was killed in a car accident between Timmins and Iroquois Falls. I'll spare you the gruesome details, other to say it was a Friday night, he had been in Timmins and was coming back to Iroquois Falls to catch last round with the rest of us.
Greg was 22 at the time. He would have turned 23 in September. He died the day before Terry Fox did, and if you look at the photo, you'll see the physical similarities. In fact, a friend I have made in the last couple of years saw this pic of Greg on the bookcase in my dining room and thought it was Terry Fox. Terry was also our age.
It's hard to believe today that Greg has been dead longer than he was alive, but it also reminds me that his favourite song was Trooper's "We're Here For a Good Time (Not A Long Time)".
He and I and the other five guys made up what our parents called The Dead End Gang when we were teenagers. The seven of us were almost inseparable. The surviving six haven't all been together in the same place in almost 20 years. We don't do the greatest job of staying in touch either, but we know -- and have talked about this often -- that whenever you need one of the other guys, he's only a phone call or email away. We have supported each other through weddings, relationship break-ups, and the loss of parents.
The Gang formed -- actually just kind of happened -- when we were all about 14 or 15. We did a lot of partying and growing up together. When we were all 16 and 17 (six of us were born in 1958, and the pup of the Gang -- Karl -- in '59) we supported Bill through the death of his dad. We also ran the family business -- the local movie theatre -- for about a month, until Bill's mom decided whether she wanted to continue to run it alone. That was a lot of responsibility for a group of teenagers, but also a great learning and bonding experience.
Greg was the Romeo of the Gang. He loved the ladies, and they fell for his charms. He was also the biggest joker, but when you needed a pick-me-up or a backhanded kick in the butt to get over whatever teen angst you were going through, you could count on Greg.
There are four or five days at the end of June, 1981, that I remember, but through a fog of shock and grief. I was a pallbearer for my buddy. He, Bill and I had coached the local Juvenile hockey team with Greg's dad, and every one of the boys from that team were at the funeral, acting as an honour guard. For that, I am proud of them to this day.
In my column that week at the newspaper where I worked at the time, I wrote that friends might die, but good friendship never does. Looking back 26 years, I can confirm that. I think of Greg and the rest of The Dead End Gang every day, and am thankful that fate made us friends.
I have visited Greg's grave at least once every year, and will continue to. Of course now, I also have my Mom's grave to visit in the same cemetery.
Here's to you, Greg. You packed a lot of living into 22 years. I only wish it could have been for a lot more years.
And to The Dead End Gang: As we've gotten older, some of the macho barrier that prevented us from verbalizing how much we mean to each other has gone away, and it's easier when we meet, to express that. As fate brought us together more than 30 years ago, may it bring the six of us together soon for a time of fun and reminiscing. I just know it will feel like it had only been a few days since we last did.