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jstribute6EditX480John Stewart's Funeral (Lindsey Performed)

 By Tom DeLisle

 John was laid to rest this past week. I'll let a letter from his friend Tom DeLisle supply the details ....

 John Stewart was laid to rest in a private ceremony in Coronado, California on Wednesday, January 30, 2008.

Held at an Episcopal church just a short distance from the hotel where he was stricken on the evening of January 18, the service drew on Catholic and Buddhist religious influences in a celebration of John's 68 years of life and music. The event was attended by an estimated 100 family and friends. Buffy kept the memorial private and the family issued only verbal invitations to keep the service from drawing media distraction. She said she wished she could have "invited every one of the Bloodliners and Fantasy Campers and fans," but kept the guest list short for obvious reasons. A larger public memorial is being considered for the near future.

The 110 minute service was followed by a reception in an adjoining church library, Famed rock photojournalist Henry Diltz supplied a running slide show of John's life and career in the library's reception room. He also displayed several large mounted photos of John and Buffy; several of which also adorned the church. A large portrait photo of John was placed next to the altar.

There were many musical highlights included in the program. To many, and to me, the most affecting being the group-singing of "Daydream Believer" at the end of the service, with Dave Batti, John Hoke, Chuck McDermott and Lindsey Buckingham providing guitar accompaniment on the altar. Halfway through the song, it occurred to me to do what must be done -- and I yelped my final "whoop!" to the fabulous music of John Stewart. For, oh, what can it mean...

Other musical tributes included bagpipe and violin performances before the ceremony as guests were being seated by John's nephew Mimo and grand-daughter Noel, respectively. To open the service, Dave, John, and Chuck sang a beautiful rendition of "Jasmine" on the altar. "And oh ... here come those highways again ... and I go..." It sounded so perfect you looked to see if John might walk out to take the lead.

They were followed by the Kingston Trio singing "Chilly Winds," with Bob Shane giving a short personal introduction and singing lead. Lindsey Buckingham did an emotional and hypnotic version of John's Kingston Trio song "Lock All the Windows," which left room for only the proverbial pin-drop at its end. It was one of so many breath-taking moments during the service.jstributeEditX480

That emotion was ratcheted even higher when Buffy went up to read a poem she had written to John, followed by her rendition of "If You Should Remember Me." And all my love was holy art ... that I might live within your heart...

The scheduled speakers were led by John and Buffy's son Luke, who absolutely floored the crowd with his touching, dry, and hilarious tribute to his Dad. I believe Luke is 28 now, but he looks and handles himself like someone 28 going on 48. He was markedly in control, laid back, cool, and collected. His stage presence reminded you of ... well, you can imagine. Likely the biggest laugh he got while reciting a list of "My Dad..." points (such as "My Dad ... could make a hand puppet out of anything") came when he said -- an in-joke to those who knew John intimately -- "My Dad ... was a dentist." The church erupted in laughter, with most in attendance thinking back to John's decades of working on his own, and everyone else's, teeth with tools both professional and primitive. (Luke promised to send us an e-mail of his church tribute; when we get it we'll forward it to Bloodlines.)

Other speakers included basketball legend Paul Westphal, an old buddy of JS; Max Kennedy, son of Bobby Kennedy; brother-in-law Marc Ford; Lindsey Buckingham, and -- I apologize -- a representative of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (and I also apologize for spelling his name like that) possibly named Bonnie Reiss, whose last name I'm not sure I have correctly, and who spoke of her involvement with John in many 'green' and social political efforts in California. Following the scheduled speakers, others who went onto the altar to say their goodbyes included John's boyhood and lifelong pal George Yanok, brother-in-law Skiff Ford; John's longtime bassist Brian Garofalo, and me, whose last name I remember.

A special moment was offered by Dayananda, who flew to California at Buffy's request from the ashram John and Buffy attended in Virginia during the 1980s. She recited a story and special prayer from Gurudev, their spiritual inspiration.

And it could not have been a Stewart affair without this touch: The priest who oversaw this wide-ranging observance, Father Ron, called the family grandchildren up to the altar for the blessing of ... are you ready? ... the donut holes, John's "favorite food." The donut balls were wrapped in cellophane, and after they were blessed, they were dispersed to the crowd and eaten, pew by pew, at the urging of Father Ron, who handed them out from wicker baskets. Andrew Dean Fergus of Scotland, the man who once, actually more than once, said of John's music that it is "too good for the pooblic," ate about four of the blessed donut holes, cleaning up after anyone who felt it just wasn't time to ingest a glazed ball.

Other tributes to John came in a letter from Rosanne Cash, which Buffy read. And Leslie Reynolds, the wife of Nick Reynolds, who was too ill to attend the service, read a beautiful tribute to John from Nick ... who referred to JS as "my Johnny ... my pup." Nick and Leslie live only a block from the Episcopal Church, but Nick has not been well since John's passing and his own health difficulties following another hip surgery. Buffy, John, Leslie and Nick spent JS's last night at the Reynolds house, listening to the recent re-release of the Trio's "Once Upon a Time" CD, and warmly recalling their old days in the group. Leslie recalled how the last thing John had said to her was "Take good care of my Budgie," John's nickname for Nick, as he and Buffy left the house to return to their hotel that night.

The final touch of the church service came, after the group recital of the Apostles Creed and the Lord's Prayer, with the voice of John Stewart floating out over the crowd, one last time in concert, singing the striking "Walk on the Moon." Friends who were here now they're gone ... why does it happen so soon? ... and as they were closing their eyes ...

The reception next door lasted about two or three hours, with so many people catching up for lost time, meeting again -- and perhaps for the last time -- with so many of the terrific and amazing people who seemed to gravitate to John Stewart. From grand-kids to showbiz stars, they all seemed richer for the experience of having been around JS, the coolest guy in the world. I remember thinking in church ... that the footprint he leaves is bigger than that building.

For a classic Stewart moment, and an indication that the Stewart humor is alive and well: I was struck during the service by son Mikael Stewart's children (Mikael, Jeremy, and Amy and their families were in attendance, along with John's first wife Julie). Mike's kids were too shy to go up to the altar for the blessing of the donut holes, and clung to their dad in their front row pew. Mikael hugged both kids to his side, his arms wrapped around them tightly. Later at the reception, I asked if his kids had been spooked by the moment, and said what a beautiful sight it was to see him clutch them to his side. He looked at me and said "Those weren't my kids."

To throw some booze and final remembrance into the mix, many of those attending retired to the Coronado Hotel (the La Coronado or some fancy-ass name like that, the fabled hotel with the pointed gabled roof where Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis chased Marilyn Monroe in "Some Like It Hot") for a last meeting at the hotel's large bar. All the Stewart kids and their mates and children were there, along with the Yanoks and that SOB Fergus and the Batti family and John Hoke and Greg Jorgenson and his too-cool-for-school daughter Rachel, herself a special friend of John Stewart.

I should point out, lest I forget, that the Bloodliners and Campers were represented at the service by Jorgenson, Art and Jean Faller, Dave "Dave," Jay Hovdey and legendary jockey wife Julie Krone, and -- a special surprise -- Kristen Nielsen with her new husband and sister. (Her husband is new; not her sister.) I hope I'm remembering everyone, though I'm sure I'm not. There were a few Bloodliners mentioned that night that caused Buffy to say "oh, we forgot to invite ...." and some I know were invited who could not or could not bring themselves to attend.

Other notables spotted in the crowd included Joey Harris, John's old lead guitar player, and drummer Dennis Kenmore. Jay Hovdey said he saw astronaut Scott Carpenter in attendance, though I didn't see him. But I was so revved up and weirded out by the whole affair that Yuri Gargarin and Captain Video could have been there, in full uniform, and I wouldn't have noticed. I just recall now how hard the leave-taking was.

The last call for the guy who used to say "I'm not good at goodbyes," was a tough farewell. I figured, beating the Alzheimer's condemnation that awaited him, that he got out of town a step ahead of the sheriff. And that it all ended like a Lone Ranger episode. Where at the end, when everybody wanted to thank the hero for what he had done for them, what he had given ... he was nowhere to be found, but instead was seen at the far end of town, waving goodbye ... remember, "where IS that masked man?" ... and pulling his horse up for one final glorious kick salute ... and that last "hi-yo Silver!" ... he waved his hat ... and suddenly, impossibly ... was gone.

The most "with us" man of our time was gone. And as you can imagine, his final encore -- like everything else over the past couple weeks -- was a surreal affair. I can't remember much of what I said when it was my turn to speak. I know I SHOULD have said that he was certainly the coolest guy I ever met, really the coolest guy in the world. I should have said that he leaves a footprint bigger than the church. I should have said that in his leaving he takes the color out of my world, leaving me with only whites and browns to paint with in my remaining years. I tried to drink myself into some kind of forgetfulness at the Coronado bar, but since my illness I can't drink worth a damn anymore. I can't send myself into the kind of oblivion one needs to cope with the loss of John Coburn Stewart. (I was about to write "with the loss of someone like John Coburn Stewart" ... but, as we all know, there just AIN'T nobody, nowhere, that's ever been LIKE John C. Stewart.) And, besides, there ain't enough booze in the world to compensate for a loss like this; or to force a respite from the pain.

As with many of you, per your Bloodlines reports, this hole seems to get deeper as the time goes on. It is not moving towards healing or calm or acceptance. There are times it seems like he left and took the whole world with him. His loss is monstrous. And the facets of his talent and character continue to glow brighter with each passing phase of mourning. Each day brings a painful new reminder of what has been lost. Each day brings a moment when I think "Yow, I have to tell Johnny about THAT!" and the awful empty quick knowledge that follows and says "you CAN'T tell Johnny about that." Each bleak day seems to bring a new sense that he is going to be recognized and lauded for who he was and what he did now, ironically, that he is no longer here to appreciate it; now that he cannot hear the world's acclaim and applause. One just gets that feeling, more and more. That the world will, someday soon, get hip to what it had in John Stewart. It will be a grim acknowledgement for those of us who knew all along.

Johnny would laugh. And his 'mass card,' handed out at the service, shows a smiling 40ish John, seated in a rocking chair I would guess, smiling broadly and dressed in a jeans shirts. On the reverse are the words to "If You Should Remember Me," atop a final stunning and obscene statement: John Stewart -- 9/5/39 - 1/19/08.

And come on. If we "should" remember him? If we might, if we happen to, as if we have a choice? As if. And if you want to remember him with a smile, think of that whole congregation, on their feet, singing "Daydream Believer" like it was the last song in the world. With people whooping as always, like in the old days, to music that was made for it. The greatest singer-songwriter lives in that music. He created an energy and a community in his work. Neither will ever die.

And, finally, I should have said this, borrowing from a real writer: "Sheep without shepherd ... when the snow takes the sky ... Why did you leave us, Johnny ... why did you die?"