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The Madera Tribune

For my desert companion, Van

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webmaster | 03/21/12

I don’t remember how we met. All I know is, it was a friendship kindled by weekly lunches, desert trips, sailing adventures and a kindred spirit of deep fellow kindness and love.

It was probably through our mutual friend Keith Davis, a teammate of mine in softball and table tennis championships. Keith was a classmate of Madera photographer extraordinaire, Van Neely. That exact day Van and I met, so many years ago, is forgotten. But the the good times, the laughter and the friendship never will be.

He brought his sports cars, MGs, Porsche, and more to my body shop. In turn, he developed all my photos and enlargements, hundreds or more, to perfection. He took portraits of yours truly in buckskins with his beloved Weimaraner, and of my gal. Those beautiful pictures of my wife still hang in our bedroom where I wake up every morning and turn to them. No money was ever exchanged, just who would buy lunch. Once a week (sometimes more) we met at Gibb Virgo’s Someplace Else Again. Usually, for one of Gibb’s terrific steak sandwiches for each. We would talk about work, our gals, family, and future adventures.

When I was sick, depressed, and knowing I could never return to painting cars, there was Van, knocking on my door while I was listening to Joan Baez sing “We Shall Overcome.” He offered me a job at his studio. I took it, recovered my strength, my dignity, and most of all, my love for my fellow human beings...


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