“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right?” ~ Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz
For the love of home and a Fair Haven mom … that’s right.
Sometimes a birthday without her is about lighting the candles, making the wish, sustaining the simple legacy of going home, staying home with my mom, Sally Van Develde.
Yesterday would have been her 98th birthday. If she had lived to blow out all those candles on her cake, I wondered what she would have done. What her wish would have been.
Countless childhood friends had remembered him. They remembered the moments. They tucked them away and then spilled them out onto a remembrance page on social media, like splashing teardrops releasing time-capsuled moments. The page was soaked.
There’s no keeping Santa from a little pre-Christmas drop-in, pandemic or not, especially when there’s a fire truck for the transport.
On the heels of a canceled usual holiday celebration in Fair Haven’s Memorial Park and knee-top Santa time at the firehouse, sirens a blaring, Santa cruised all the way around town on Sunday. Fair Havenite Susan Culbert captured a moment of the drive-by.
I didn’t know her well. She was just a friend’s mom. Just? Not really. I don’t even think I knew that her first name was Mary, yet I have a vivid picture in my mind of a gracious, spirited woman donning a stylish outfit topped with a hat and a royal-like attitude with every show opening she attended.
She may have even been wearing gloves. At least that was what was stuck in my head. It was all about that image that was stuck there — in my noggin. Class. Style. The coolness from afar of a friend’s mom. A friend’s mom. Just a mom to me … to all of us. All of that was laced with the sort of awe-struck intimidation I felt when she made her loyal opening night audience entrances.
She was my friend Billy Weithas’s mother. He was my high school buddy. My theater compadre. My hilarious, antic-loving, mischief-making, talented, stylish, go-on-with-the-show friend. She was his faceless, yet ever-present, mom to me.
As with most teens, we never really see these moms like Mary as women. We truly didn’t see them. All of them, anyway. They just were someone’s mom to us. They embodied an image, often that faceless one. Attached to the image was always some sort of attitude. Was she cool? Was she scary? Was she judgmental? Was she a scolder? One of those qualities is mostly what a teen sees. It’s what I saw.
And some mothers we knew better than others — down to each well-earned crease of worry or bulging vein in their chiding faces. Some not so much. Mary Weithas was, to me, Billy’s sort of out-of-reach, stylish mom — the maven of the proper, perhaps a bit overdone, community theater opening night extravaganza. As I recall, it could have been a children’s show in the daytime and Mary was there in full fancy regalia and proper VIP attitude.
My mom, to me, was an overload of enthusiasm, pride and polyester — all of the uncoolness of which I’d gladly bathe in now for a trip back. Mary was different and oh, so cool to me. And, as teens go, different is always cooler, right? Perspective. Age. Wisdom.
Mary Weithas’s silhouette is still emblazoned in my mind: The hat, the fabulous outfit, the gloves (or my imagination), the greeting to all her fellow audience member royal subjects, the nod to her son as she entered the theater and he warned, “Ohhhh, brother! Here comes my mother!”
I couldn’t have told you back then what color eyes she had, what her smile really looked like, or what her voice or laugh sounded like. Though, I do have memories of quite the Christmas call from Billy in 1977, a festive Mary and family corralled around the piano in the background.
I mostly remember the feelings Mary Weithas evoked in this theater geek teen — her son’s friend. I remember her support, love and respect for the arts, those moments of her gracing many a show with her supportive “Uh, oh, she’s here!” presence.
It never really occurred to me that all that she embodied in those brief, impressionable moments was always right in front of this clueless teen. It was all there in every moment of hilarity I had with her funny-as-hell, handsome son who made me laugh nearly every day. That guy with a devilish star-of-wonder twinkle in his eyes.
We always seem to see these moms as just moms. We forget that they, too, were that teenager like us. We forget that our friends are a part of them. They, after all, gifted us with these special star buds. We forget, or are not even conscious of the fact, that what we love in our friends is a piece of them. A big piece. We forget that these moms are a part of us, who we become, too. They are part of a community of moms who also thank them for giving us that gift of a good friend.
Then, often many years later, we are reminded. It hits us like a sledge hammer to the head. Well, maybe not quite that hard. But it does give us a good whack. It happened to me last week.
When I did my usual obituaries’ perusal and saw Mary Weithas’s face close up, after all these years, I just stared at it. I remembered. I saw Billy again in her eyes, in her smile. I saw her. I thanked her. I remembered her, perhaps then faceless, yet prevalent, presence in my life. The whole picture came back into focus. I put her face into it and I smiled remembering a mom with the face of my friend. The heart of my friend.
I heard Billy’s laugh and missed him all over again as I saw his mom — all of her, for the first time. I remembered him driving down my street in his Toyota mid-snowstorm to pick me up for a joy ride and lunch. I remembered him pranking me at rehearsals. I remembered scouting out colleges with him. I remembered his loyalty. I remembered him believing in me. I remembered his loud laugh and the force of love behind it.
I also remembered painfully vividly the look on my own mom’s face, a woman who was likely faceless to a teen Billy, the day I came home from work and she told me, tears in her eyes, that she had just read that Billy had passed away. I hadn’t seen Billy in years. Yet, he had always lived in me. I ran to the funeral home, just in time to make it to his service.
Everything was a blurred flurry. Grappling with the reality of my young friend’s death, I fought back tears and any selfish need to mourn, I do vaguely remember feeling stupid about my brief intrusion on a grieving mother to offer my condolences to her on the loss of her baby, my friend.
I remember that I still didn’t really see her face. I’m sure she didn’t see mine. I remember feeling faceless myself in the moment. Isolated. No one really talked to me or even remembered that he was my friend. Why I was even there. They had no idea how much I had loved him, valued his friendship, remembered every single moment. None of that mattered. I knew. I had hoped she knew.
I remember studying Billy’s frozen face, trying to will back into it the terminal animation it had. I remember hearing chatter and Mary’s whimper. I remember seeing that silhouette of hers, the one that held a place in my mind for so long, this time with a tissue in hand, somehow a bit less stoic or intimidating.
I remember now a mom, a woman who had lost, but not before gifting a grande win in my friend.
Rest In Peace, my friend, Billy. I hold every laugh, every crease in your eyes when you grinned or pranked, every moment with you in my heart.
Mary and Bill Weithas Jr. raised their family in Rumson and were active members of their community.
Long standing members of Navesink Country Club, Mary enjoyed playing golf, tennis, ice skating and was a sharp bridge player. She never missed a NY Times crossword puzzle, usually finishing it each day. Mary enjoyed the beach and spent many happy summers with her family in Avalon. Mary and Bill travelled the world, living in London, England for several years.
Former longtime Rumsonite Mary Eileen Weithas, also formerly of Little Silver and Jupiter FL, passed away peacefully on Nov. 24.
Mary was born in Keene, NH to Albert and Susan Davidson Livingston. Mary was pre-deceased by her husband of 64 years, William V. Weithas Jr who passed in September, and her son, William V. Weithas III.
Mary is survived by: her children, Suzann (John) Cahill, John (Lisa) Weithas, Jeremy (Matthew) Minnetian, and Claudia (Conor) Mullett; her 10 grandchildren, John (Lauren Kelly), William and James Cahill, Emma and Lila Weithas, Julia and Charles Minnetian, and Liam, Griffin and Mary Elizabeth Mullett; and her siblings, Dr. Albert E. Livingston, and Ann Trudeau and her family.
Her family would like to thank her friends and aides at Brandywine at Sycamore Living for their kindness and care.
Due to the health crisis, services were private. A memorial mass will be held in the spring. Thompson Memorial Home is in charge of arrangements.
There’s nothing like a good ol’ RFH cheer. It’s just hip, hip … happening! Cheering has changed over the decades at RFH. Still there’s nothing quite as unique as this cheer crew. So, for cheer’s sake, we give these guys an encore of this Oct. 8, 2015 Retro Pic of the (George) Day double dose! Cheers!
The 1977 RFH Powder Puff Football game was a good one that made for some great photo opps.
But, what must be remembered as well is the male cheerleading squad that hip, hip and hurrahed those junior and senior girls to athletic success on the field. It’s a wonder the girls could concentrate on the game with all that adroit beefcake wile calling like Sirens on the sidelines.
The girls played with what looked like a coordinated feminine fashion finesse — coordinated pig tails, pony tails, turtle necks, gloves and bandanas.
Those boys cheering them on, however, had their own feminine mystique in wardrobe going on.
They’ve been seen before, but here’s another (double dose, different angles) glimpse of the boys of the cheering squad clad in girls’ uniforms with their own special fashion plate additions of hotsie totsie work boots and long underwear.
Some of these guys of the RFH Class of ’78 still live in the area. Recognize anyone? One is a former Fair Haven policeman and another is a Rumson dad.
Hip, hip … holy cartwheel!
Thanks, once again, to George Day for providing this classic look into the past!
In honor of the Halloween season, a reprise Retro Pic of the Day originally posted in 2015 …
It’s all about Halloween festivities in an unprecedented trick, treat and haunting era right now in the Rumson-Fair Haven area. There’s distancing where there was a lot of congregating. And while the era of high alert for razors in apples is a bygone one, now there’s a pandemic, rules about touching, masking, more masking, less tricking and more careful treating. But, the Halloween show goes on.
So, to honor the crowded gathering of ghouls in socially distanced days, we take a look back at the RFH prep for parading as all seniors packed themselves into the lounge, mingled and tried to figure out who was what and why and just have some fun.
When you’ve grown up in a small town, your memories often revolve around the comforting kind of feeling that anyone else’s mother, no matter their child-rearing differences or life circumstances, is a surrogate of your very own. That’s just how it is. The neighborhood concept.
“It’s the honesty you apply to your playing that makes music enjoyable. The style of the music has little to do with it. It’s only honesty that makes it beautiful.”
That stark, shining, honest beauty straight from the heart is what emanated a bright light to countless people from the soul of Richard Chandler. The 60-year-old professional drummer, husband, dad, uncle and friend, who was known to never skip a beat when generously giving his love and talent, lost his years-long battle with cancer on Sunday, Oct. 4.
Well, the RFH Bulldogs won their first game on Friday night by a landslide. So, we’re going back again to 1951 with a look at the team, those uniforms and some personal insight from one of the players himself, Chuck Seymour, a 1951 then Rumson High School graduate.
The following piece, with a few changes as time goes on, is published annually on 9/11 as a testament to never forgetting …
It was a beautiful Tuesday. The sun was shining. The air was crisp. The coffee even tasted especially good.
I remember. Most of us remember where we were on Sept. 11, 2001 at 8:46 a.m.. I know I do. I also remember how everything went from bright, crisp, fragrant and optimistic to dark, dank, acrid and fearful in one second. I remember how it wasn’t about us observers, storytellers. It was about them — the victims, their loved ones, their message.
For me, a professional observer, a professional storyteller, thankfully close enough, yet far enough, yes, it was so very much about them — painfully so. I wasn’t one of them. I was lucky. I was grateful. I watched. I listened intently. They shared.
I was a reporter living in Fair Haven and covering Middletown. On what started out as a typical day, they ended up unwittingly, graciously, lighting a less traveled path for me. For many.