I’m still coming to terms with the sudden death of my lifetime friend Phil Wasmuth who died last week in his sleep at his home overlooking beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. We grew up together in small town Huntington, Indiana. Our Moms were best friends.
But our friendship wasn’t defined by our shared roots; it endured because of our shared values. I loved and admired how he lived his life. His younger son Doug’s magnificent eulogy at his standing room only funeral in a lovely little Episcopalian Church included Maya Angelou’s poem A Great Soul and these lines: “A great soul serves everyone all the time. A great soul never dies. It brings us together again and again.” This so eloquently captures the life and character of Phil Wasmuth. He signed on to teaching biology in a tough urban school in Los Angeles during the Watts riots; he championed his embattled gay Vicar in Wolfeboro, he and his beloved wife Dianne turned their Wolfeboro home into a campaign headquarters for Obama canvassers in the 2007 NH primary.
But that was the political Phil. It was his acts of individual kindness and compassion that touched so many. Doug said that he “trawled”for ways to befriend and help visitors to Wolfeboro; he volunteered to drive folks who needed medical care to hospitals in other cities in NH. He was an avid picture taker but Doug said that he “ wasn’t a photographer but a recorder of events” to share and post with friends and his community.
I received an email from Phil several days before he died. He was as engaged as ever in the world no matter that his vantage point was his tiny perfect little lakeside village in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Here’s part of what he wrote to me:
“As the alarming and often shocking and disgusting news rolls across the tv screen on a daily basis, Dianne and I both commented on the magnificent role that journalism is performing by digging and exposing the truth. If we survive this debacle it will be because journalist did not falter in doing their job, even as labeled as, “enemy of the people” by Trump.
I read the Post, NYT’s and Columbus Republic every day. It takes me about two hours to get thru all three every morning, so I get up around 6:30 AM, brew some coffee and immerse my self in those wonderful publications. I love that time of the day.”
That’s who he was. He was a “great soul.”