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I was extremely saddened by the death of Judge Joseph L. Savage even though I never really knew him as a close friend.
I first saw him in the late 1980s when I testified before him in a case involving two long-feuding, elderly neighbors who were fighting over that autumn's fallen leaves, charging at each other with leaf rakes like two geriatric tournament knights in a scene straight out of "Ivanhoe."
I had a hard time keeping a straight face, and when Judge Savage swore me in, I could see that he did, too.
I said something noncommittal--I forget what--and it was over. Judge Savage made some conventional remarks about cooperation and neighborliness, but what he obviously meant was "Go home and stop the nonsense."
Thereafter, I would run into him at the post office from time to time, and we always greeted each other. Once somebody had sent him some seeds for his garden, but when he opened the envelope they spilled onto the counter. "Now they're going to think I'm smoking marijuana," he said.
Another time he told me he liked some article I had written. I sent him an autographed copy of the book in which it had been reprinted and he wrote me a thank-you note.
Once I saw him in front of my house and waved from the window. That was the last time I ever saw him.
A couple of years later, I dropped him a note saying I missed seeing him at the post office, and he replied that he didn't get there anymore because "I'm almost 92 years old!"
Thereafter I would send him my best through his son, but I never heard from him again. I was not surprised by his death, but I have thought much about my reaction to it. We were not friends, nor even acquaintances, nor did we socialize with the same people, yet I sensed that I knew him in a special way.
To me, it was a case of two people instinctively liking each other on sight--we "clicked," as they say.
But Henry Wadsworth Longfellow may have understood this experience better when he wrote: "Ships that pass in the night, and in passing, signal ."
We have all met people we either loved or hated on sight. Believers in reincarnation claim there's a reason for this, and Longfellow's line suggests that they may be onto something. I hope they are, because nothing would please me more than a chance to meet Judge Savage all over again.