I first met Harry Willson at a Humanist Society meeting, where I bought his book “Myth and Mortality: Testing the Stories.” It’s a fascinating look at the beliefs or metaphors dealing with death, starting with the story of his own parents’ deaths and his reactions.
Willson died on March 9, 2010 at age 77, and a wonderful open house memorial service took place on Sunday at La Fonda del Bosque Restaurant at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. It was a favorite dining out spot for Willson and his wife Adela Amador, and an appropriate place for this memorial service.
The celebration of life event featured a speaker who provided an overview of Willson’s life and accomplishments, which were many. (Download the full story here.) An open mic period followed, with friends and family coming forth and sharing stories that illustrated the man’s character. A musician played a haunting tune on the Scottish small pipe, a sort of mini-bagpipe.
Where people entered the restaurant, attendees signed a guest book with their addresses. This is important for the family to have so they can mail or email thank you notes after the event. A separate comment book was also provided for guests to express their thoughts in writing, appropriate for a man who started Amador Publishers.
Several poster boards with photos of Willson from throughout his life provided earlier glimpses of the man I only knew in his later years. Guests mingled easily, sharing their stories and connections to Willson.
Perhaps the only drawback to the setting was the buffet at the back of the room. While the food was absolutely delicious, it drew people away from the words being spoken about the honoree. The conversation by the folks around the food competed with the open mic presentations.
Otherwise, it was a wonderful event that appropriately honored a remarkable man and provided an opportunity for his family to be comforted by community.