There was a number of us in high school who were pretty good friends - I think now of Bob Seward, Lee Gunderson, Brandon Wentworth, Ray Leonard, Lanny Cummins - but within our group two friends seem to me to have been the ones I loved the most. I have talked a bit about David Bennum. The other was Delmer Horn.
On his mother's side, Delmer was - he said - descended from pre-Mexican-American War Spanish stock. He looked it, and his mother, more. He had, I think, two brothers and no sister - Peter can correct me. I am vague on the history of the rest of the family. One of his brothers was killed in VietNam. His mother, who had worked in - well, I think it was the Butte County District Attorney's office, if there is such a thing - together with my mother - died of cancer. I think it was after I left high school but, again, am unclear.
Delmer and I were in a small sense in competition. This was principally because we both played the same instruments - horn and trumpet (or, in my case, horn and cornet). He was also much more cultured (in the old sense of 'cultivated') than I - knew not only how to play music, but also understood far more music theory than I. He was interested in history and other matters that I despised (not for any substantial reason but just as the philistine that I was). I spent much more time with David than with Delmer - but in a way, I was closer to Delmer.
We finished high school. I went to University of California. Delmer went, I believe, to the University of New Mexico. I imagined it had something to do with space research at Alamogordo, and it may have done - but from things he said, the (relative) proximity of Ciudad Juárez - concerning which he told me juicy stories - may have been a factor.
In 1962 I was married, and ... was it in the same year? in 1964 when Edna and I came back to California from Hawai'i? - that Delmer was diagnosed with leukaemia.
Delmer had married. I'm afraid it is all so long ago that I don't remember dates, but Edna and I got to know them a little before his diagnosis.
Even today I have had very little contact with death. It is true that my father died, in October, 2006 - but my sister dealt with it almost completely. He was dead when I was told. I remember that someone and I - David Bennum? - came across a just-happened car accident one night, when I was still in high school, and we saw a man in the car who, by the angle his head bore to his body, I now think was probably dead. But we went to a nearby house, informed someone, and were not further involved.
Delmer was dying. I don't recall the details, but I went to see him when he was in hospital. I was terrified. So, I think, was he. I did not know what to say. Neither did he. Well, perhaps he did. I can't recall. I think he may have said something about being afraid to die. If he did, I would have instantly changed the subject. I knew nothing of death, did not want even to know such a thing existed.
Delmer died. He cannot have been 24 years old. He was 2 days younger than I and when I was 24 I had moved to Hawai'i. I have always wondered if Delmer was, possibly, a Catholic. At least, if he was descended from California Spanish, that would have been statistically likely, although his mother had married someone whose surname - Horn - seemed to indicate another background.
I do not know. But in my regular morning prayer, in the list of the dead for whose souls I pray, Delmer's is first. May God grant him rest and peace; may perpetual light shine on him, indeed!