It doesnt matter. It still happens every day, far too often. Its just that some are so unexpected, and leave gaping holes far beyond their family.
That is what Empire is going through right now. If you ever stopped for gas at the station at the corner of M-72 and M-22, the one owned for years by his parents and by his grandparents before them, you probably saw Roy Taghon. He was the skinny guy at the counter, the one with the sparkling eyes dancing behind those big glasses. Forty-two years young, his hair heading south, his legs heading somewhere. Roy was never still for more than about a minute. Too much caffeine, you might think, but the strongest thing I ever saw him drink was milk.
That was just one facet of Roy. If you ever attended Mass, or a wedding or funeral at St. Philip Neri in Empire, you saw another part of Roy. And heard it. As music director there and at St. Rita/St. Joseph and most recently Holy Rosary, he played week in and week out. You could hear the joy and faith as he sang and played, not just playing the music but making it come to life. And while he loved the organ, I loved it when he played piano. He was an excellent organist, but a truly gifted pianist.
If you liked snowmobile riding, you might have seen Roy on his snow machine. Thats what he loved more than anything other than his music. And thats what he was doing when he died on Sunday, Jan. 20.
The details of his death arent important. Its the depth of his life that stands out. Roy was a gifted musician, true, but more than that, he was a gift. A gift to his family, a gift to his church, a gift to his community. He was the most thoroughly decent person Ive ever known. In all the years Ive been a part of this area, I never saw him angry, never heard him utter a cross word about anyone. We should all strive to be more like Roy, one of the purest examples of humanity I will ever know.
Roy is gone now. And I still cant believe it. None of us can. That death can come for someone so vital, so loved, so full of life, is neither fair nor comprehensible. He played at Mass Sunday morning as usual, and then by afternoon was gone.
We grieve with his parents, Dave and Diane. With his brother and sisters and their families, with his aunts, uncles, cousins. With all the hundreds of people whose lives he touched, with his humor, his music, his great energy for life.
What will I remember? I still hear his voice talking to my wife: Mary B, Roy T. Or Roy Taghon here. His playing organ while my buddy Bob and I labored to play our trumpets, and then him picking up his to show us how he wanted it done. Not with any impatience or temper -- just this is how it should go. Picking up ice cream from Kilwins or Moomers on a hot summer day and dropping it off at his home or the station.
Ill remember him taking me to see jazz trumpet great Maynard Ferguson in Elk Rapids a few years ago. We were just getting back from a trip to Cedar Point (another of Roys favorite places), and met Roy in Traverse City for the trip to Elk Rapids. Maynard was a gas, and we met some of the band following the show. Roy was geeked in the extreme. And it was Roy who called me to give me the sad news of Maynards death.
Now its Roy whos gone. Theres a lot less sunshine in the world, thats for sure. But despite the incredible sadness we all feel in our little hamlet or here in Mayberry, as Fr. Bill would put it theres some joy too. Joy that we knew Roy, as well as his wonderful family. Joy that he brought into our lives for so many years. Joy that, as he always put it at the many funerals he did, Well, theyre in a better place now.
We know that, Roy. But we still miss you and we always will. We love you.
Empire resident Ross Boissoneau is a frequent contributor to the Express.