The Championships at Wimbledon always make me think of John. As does the French Open. Or anything tennis related. Or cycling related. But I don’t know much about cycling anyway.
John, however, was a guy who knew a lot about cycling. John knew a lot about a lot of things.
The semester I went to England, Fall of 1998, John was a student at the same school. And by student, I mean he was 20 years older than the rest of us.
But John was friendly. And helpful. And cheerful. And knowledgeable. And a little bit daring. Despite the age difference, he fit right in. And despite the miles that separated our class after the semester was over, John found a way to keep us all in touch with a Facebook group, connecting old friends and making memories.
Memory. That was another of John’s strengths. I think he remembered every conversation we ever had like we’d just had it yesterday.
I’d noticed that John had been absent on the Internet lately, but that wasn’t unusual for John. He struggled to find work and to make ends meet, so he was often on with his Internet access for a few months, then off. Nothing to worry about.
Except that it was.
John died last summer. Unexpectedly. And it would seem that none of us knew until now.
I’m not sure what’s sadder: that he died, or that we didn’t realize it.
John didn’t travel much, from what I understand, and when he did, he didn’t go far.
Except that one semester. When he joined a bunch of college kids for an unforgettable semester in England.
These are his words, written at the end of that semester.
In real life, I’m an introvert, so it really meant a lot to me to have people make the first move.
I was wondering how I’d be accepted when I came here, but I’ve never been around such a supportive group of people in my whole life. I’m used to eating meals alone, and all of a sudden I had fifty people saying hi to me while I was waiting in line, and asking how my weekend was, and trying to help me through some rough times.
I know that to a lot of you, heading for Harlaxton was kind of a routine thing. Your older siblings had done it, or your friends, and especially at UE you know a lot of people who’ve done it. But in the world I come from, the decision you made to leave behind your friends and loved ones was truly exceptional. Hardly anyone I’ve ever met has traveled the way you have, or had a chance to get a worldwide perspective at such a young age. I applaud you for the courage it took, and for sticking it out and making the most of it.
I’ve been amazed at the amount of talent and intelligence this class has shown. I learned a couple of months ago that it was impossible to typecast anyone here, everybody had surprises. I’ve enjoyed being in classes with you, and watching you perform, and just plain having you around.
Most of all, as an older guy, I’m just plain proud to have known you. Shared classes and interests have helped me to know some better than others but the semester would not have been the same if any of you hadn’t been here. I k now that not getting to know all of you better has been my loss.
I’ve been quietly amazed by some of you, and I’m sure that all of your futures are bright with promise. I expect some amazing things from you. I wish you all the best in the world. Be happy.
Sincerely, John Calliott
John may be gone, but he is not forgotten. He was exceptional and I am proud to have known him. And there is suddenly a hole in my life and in my heart that I didn’t know he filled.
If you knew John, feel free to leave a memory of him here. I’m looking for more stories from our days at Harlaxton. I’d like his family to know how much he meant to us.