CWT 1951-2022

God was merciful to Warren.

Warren knew he was dying. I mean, you and I know we’re dying, too, but maybe we don’t let ourselves think much about it. I think Warren was a little different.

Not many of you know me, but I was one of Warren’s law partners for more than 20 years. When I first arrived at the firm in 1993 he had already been there for 17 years.

He had gone to the University of Florida as an undergraduate and as a law student and he received honors like Phi Beta Kappa and the Order of the Coif. I know Order of the Coif sounds like an award for hair — and most of you are skeptical that Warren could ever have won an award for his hair — but of course the reference is to the wigs worn by lawyers in England, and the Order of the Coif is the honor society for U.S. law school graduates.

So you can see that he was intelligent.

After law school he came to the venerable Jacksonville law firm of Bedell, Bedell, Dittmar & Zehmer, where he worked (through many name changes) for 46 years. (I dare say very few of you have worked in one place for 46 years.) He learned at the feet of some great lawyers, but Cay can tell you it was no picnic.

In the first year or two of his career he was in a trial with Earle Zehmer in Daytona Beach. Some time into the trial Mr. Zehmer had a heart attack and Warren had to continue the trial without him. Other lawyers from the firm came from time to time, but knowing nothing of the case they were only able to give moral support to the young associate. The trial continued for fourteen months before the case settled.

So you can see that Warren was not a flighty person, he stuck with things.

Warren thought a lot about what it meant to be a lawyer — the attention to detail, the need for honesty and professional courtesy — but what he told me early in my career was that lawyers were basically writers who had to explain complicated issues so that they could be understood. Sometimes, though, he would ask me to write something and I would agonize over what exactly he wanted.

Over his career, most of his practice was in the area of construction law — usually litigation in the aftermath of a building project — so he knew a lot about how buildings were built and the roles of contractors and subcontractors, and architects and developers and owners. By their nature these cases are highly technical in nature, and Warren burrowed into the details. He was good at it and he was in the first group of Florida lawyers who became Board-Certified in Construction Law in 2005. He was highly respected as a litigator, and arbitrator and a writer and many of his last cases were arbitrations in which he was one of the arbitrators. He was a very good lawyer.

Being a good lawyer is no guarantee of being a good person, of course, but Warren was both.

In the last few days the Firm has received many emails from people who practiced with or against him, and uniformly they have said things like a “good guy, a smart guy, and always a gentleman.” The staff in the office have reminded me of “Warren stories” including

  • his love of cherry lifesavers (which he would filch from the variety bag before they ever got into the candy jar);
  • his concern for a stray cat hanging by the Bedell Building  —  he would make sure Andrea gave it food and water every day; and
  • his willingness to talk one-on-one until they would say “Mr. Tripp, I’ve got to get back to work.”

One secretary told me:

I have something that I will never forget about him. Years ago, a family friend was going through a tough time with cancer. . . . I wanted to help and so I . . . sent an e-mail here at the firm to see if anyone would be willing to give. Many people did. I did not know Mr. Tripp very well at all, and when I received a routing envelope from him containing a check for a large amount (the biggest donation, in fact), I was shocked. I knew in that moment that he must be an extremely generous and caring person; just a little quiet and introverted. . . . Someone I didn’t know well gave a huge donation to help a person he didn’t know at all. It just meant a lot and I think it shows the type of person he was.

You can see that he was kind.

Smart, persistent, kind.

But he suffered many hardships and in his seventy years Warren learned something that many people never learn. He learned that it wasn’t enough.

  • It wasn’t enough to rise out of poverty and family disorder to graduate from college and law school and become a well-respected professional who worked in an air-conditioned office.
  • It wasn’t enough to have a beautiful, graceful wife and three wonderful children (and later two daughters-in-law and a son-in-law and eventually five granddaughters he doted on).
  • It wasn’t enough to be known as a good man.

These things didn’t heal him from trauma or protect him from suffering and they certainly did not prevent him from becoming ill. If you have beauty, brains, courage, compassion, education, eloquence, wealth or wisdom, you will still come to this same place.

But God was merciful to Warren, in that he let Warren see that he was dying.

—-

Most of you know how important music was to Warren.

Many of the stories he would tell were about music and musicians. He had known some of the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd and had seen many bands and concerts. (He told me the almost unbelievable story that he had seen Jimi Hendrix open for The Monkees in the summer of 1967, and I looked it up and it was true.) He kept up with the music world all his life.

In his last weeks he made lists of songs and Scriptures he wanted to be part of this service. Almost none of them were “obvious” songs for a funeral — not “Amazing Grace” or “How Great Thou Art” or even “Shall We Gather at the River?” Warren drew on music that had touched him and he ruminated on the lyrics. (Warren was a world-class ruminator.)

As the family was talking about how to incorporate the list into this service, his son Tyler made an insightful observation that Warren was using these songs to build a narrative for us, to tell a story about his life. And so I realized that I had one last writing project from Warren.

The story is about dying, of course.

Listen to the lyrics:

     Everybody I talk to is ready to leave 
        With the light of the morning
     They've seen the end coming down long enough to believe
        They've heard their last warning
     Standing alone
        Each has his own ticket in his hand 1 

You can see your death coming, and it is a destination everyone travels to alone.

When my body won't hold me anymore
	And it finally lets me free
		Will I be ready? 2

We know it’s coming, but will we be prepared?

Warren was prepared (he was always prepared as a lawyer), he knew he was, but that did not take away the question. It doesn’t take away the question for us, either.

And Warren wanted us to be comforted today

When I go, don't cry for me
	In my Father's arms I'll be
The wounds this world left on my soul
	Will all be healed and I'll be whole 3

All the trauma and illness and suffering — all healed:

So weep not for me, my friend, 
	when my time below does end
For my life belongs to Him, 
	who will raise the dead again 3 

And with that healing, maybe what we do here today isn’t that critical:

It don't matter where you bury me
	I'll be home and I'll be free
It don't matter, anywhere I lay
	All my tears be washed away
		All my tears be washed away 3

Warren is home. Warren is free. And his tears — many shed in private — have been washed away — all of them.

One of the other songs 4 talks about what remains of our earthly suffering and says that the only remaining scars in heaven will be Jesus’ scars. You see, it is part of our faith to believe that the sufferings of Jesus have purpose. That purpose is to reconcile us to God.

You see, God has no reason to be drawn to us — we rebel against him and curse him and (worst of all) we turn our backs on him. God has every reason to condemn us.

But Jesus . . .

Jesus — the one through whom the universe was made — entered that universe as a mere human. He started as a baby, even, born in poverty in an unimportant country which was under the dictatorial rule of Rome. His life was a hard life and though he distinguished himself as a brilliant teacher and as one who was zealous for the one true God, his own people rejected him and turned him over to be killed by the Roman machine.

His death — as a willing victim — is what has the power to reconcile us to God. The apostle Paul wrote:

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old [life] has passed away; behold, [a new life] has come. . . . [through] Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their [sins] against them . . . . We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 17-20.

And so back to Warren’s songs:

Gold and silver blind the eye
	Temporary riches lie
Come and eat from Heaven's store
	Come and drink and thirst no more 3

Warren is saying this in his song story — it is so easy to get lost in the things of this world, please, please, come and be reconciled to God through Jesus.

And listen to this

Jesus has overcome
	And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
	He is risen from the dead 5

Jesus was executed, and he died and was buried, but that was not the end for him! It is not the end for us either.

Jesus was raised from death and Jesus will raise his own as well:

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
	And rise, I will rise 5

Death is not just the end of tears, the end of pain. For the one in Jesus’ hands, it is the beginning of a new life, an eternal life of praise.

Warren wanted you to know that, so he gave us all a list of songs and he asked me to make a sermon out of it.

I hope I got it right, old friend.

NOTES:  1. Jackson Browne, “For Everyman.” 2. Robert William Crawford, Scott Yancey Avett and Timothy Seth Avett, “No Hard Feelings.” There is much in this song about being reconciled to other people and letting go of wrongs done against you. It is worth ruminating on. 3. Julie Miller, “All My Tears.” 4. John Mark Hall, Matthew West, "Scars in Heaven." 5. Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves, Louie Giglio, Matt Maher, “I will rise.” The last song was Randy Houser and Craig Monday, "Lord, Lead Me Home," which fit the message, but not the time we had been allotted. [Youtube link] The lyrics are available below:

The Lorax

Beautiful piece by skier Mikaela Shiffrin about her dad’s death. “I Want to Remember Everything,” The Player’s Tribune (April 28, 2022) [link]

“I mean, maybe this sounds crazy, but I just felt like . . . after someone dies, you have a few days where everyone they ever touched is thinking about them, right? Celebrating them. Keeping the flame alive. But when my dad’s funeral was over, and all the incredible people who shared stories and sent letters and flowers — and everyone who simply thought of him — they moved on. It’s inevitable. And when that happens, who is left to keep his memory alive?”

GH 1915-2019

Mr. Homanick was a Bible teacher in Detroit for many decades, so when he came to our church in the 2000s, there was some trepidation when he began to come to our adult Bible study on Sunday mornings.

To be sure the trepidation was mainly from Ken, who was never quite sure what I would say and who probably expected that his father-in-law would soon come and ask him whether he had lost his mind in selecting teachers.

But fortunately, things worked out and Mr. Homanick enjoyed our group and often told me that.

I had visited him a couple of times in his last sickness, when he would sit and wait for me to come by in the evening and talk about his treatments and the church and various things. He told me that last time that he was going to come back to church and was going to come right down to the front row for my class — but I dissuaded him from that: “I need a little space, Mr. Homanick, how about the second row?” — where he could hear well.

So on November 24, just 2½ weeks ago, he was very enthusiastic about coming back to church and the adult Bible study after a long hiatus. At 9:01, about 15 minutes before class started, I got a text from Sher —

my dad and Ken are on the way, please don’t start a minute early . . . [he wants to] come down to the front.

And Ken brought him right down to the second row, and he sat there and the whole class had the honor of studying Genesis with that great saint of God. He was a diligent student of the Word.

Mr. Homanick was, as many of you know, a mechanical engineer by trade, designing machines (for example) which would be used in the manufacture of automobiles. When he found out that our second son wanted a career in engineering, he made sure to look for Philip every Sunday and dispense career advice — some of which Philip recounted to me on the phone last night. Unlike some engineers, he was a man of great personal enthusiasm and encouragement, and he conveyed that everywhere he went.

Mr. Homanick was a reader, too, and when he found a book that he thought I would enjoy, he would buy it for me. He brought me a book called Thinking Fast and Slow (possibly to try to speed me up), and a book called Do I Make Myself Clear? (possibly because I didn’t), and a book of speeches by the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia (because Scalia was an outspoken believer). He was a kind and thoughtful man.

I first met Mr. Homanick many years ago when he and Sher’s mom Arlene would visit. Mrs. Homanick was chairbound and Mr. Homanick was fully of energy, but he seemed very compassionate and considerate of her needs.

Now, no one is always studious and diligent, enthusiastic and encouraging, kind and thoughtful, considerate and compassionate.

I’m sure that there were times when he was pigheaded, obstinate, thoughtless and hard. I know he was not an easy patient for his daughter these last few months.

He would not have denied this.

He would have said “Difficult? Well, I suppose I am, but you know what? I am not standing on my righteousness at all. I am standing on the righteousness of my Savior, Jesus Christ.”

The last time I visited him at Ken and Sher’s, he was very emotional, and after a half hour I thought I should probably go, so I got up to leave. Mr. Homanick was having none of it. It is customary when visiting someone who is sick that you only stay for 15 minutes and then ask permission to pray before leaving.

We didn’t quite get to that point.

Mr. Homanick sid “No, no, you can’t go — I have to pray for you.”

I came to visit him, but he was being the pastor in the moment.

The very last time I saw him was also the last time for many of you.

We were all at the church dinner before Thanksgiving. He was so thrilled to be there at the dinner with our little congregation, but after two services and the meal he was fatigued and probably in pain. He gamely persevered to the end of the dinner.

But the next time . . . .

The next time we see him we will all be together again in Thanksgiving, In that day we will be together at the great celebration of the marriage supper of the Lamb, and in that time there will be no pain and no sorrow and no fatigue.

In that day we will see Mr. Homanick strong and zealous, clothed in the white robe Jesus’ righteousness, celebrating with all the saints of history.

It was an honor to know him.

Herman Wouk 1915-2019

I was saddened to hear that Herman Wouk died last week, just 10 days short of his 104th birthday.

TheCaineMutinyHis novel The Caine Mutiny (1955) has long been one of my favorites, and I have had opportunity to teach it to several high school classes.the caine mutiny I was disappointed to read a recent piece by Professor Joseph Bottum* which seems a modern example of “damning with faint praise,” suggesting that Wouk was a good “middlebrow” writer, whose work (some of it, anyway) has stood the test of time better than others in his . . . league(?).

I think, that if Bottum were pressed, he would say that he was praising Wouk, just not “over-praising him.” But when Bottum says “In general, . . . he could be counted on to write a readable book with some serious ideas in it. Or, perhaps better, a readable book with some serious ideas on it, like figures embroidered on a tapestry,” it is hard not to hear that as a snide, uncharitable comment.**

In my view, The Caine Mutiny succeeds as a novel because it draws us in to care about a handful of deeply flawed people who actually grow in self awareness. Willy gains maturity, of course, but so do Maryk and Keefer — and May. The fact that Wouk does this in a long, believable, narrative, with deft humor and across many sub genres,*** is really quite impressive.

I hope that Bottum’s review does not dissuade a single person from reading (at least) The Caine Mutiny. Wouk’s accomplishment should not be disparaged for being accessible. That seems fair, doesn’t it?


*Joseph Bottum, “Herman Wouk, 1915-2019: Remembering a master of middlebrow,” The Washington Free Beacon (May 25, 2019) [link].

**Not convinced? How about this: “No doubt, [Captain Queeg] is wonderfully drawn as a character: memorable in every way, beginning with his name. But an author doesn’t get to give us a Dickensian type, and then reverse field just to flatter readers that they’ve just had a deep thought. All they’ve had is the picture of a thought, a simulacrum of ideas, unearned by the prose. Which is perfectly fine for a certain kind of fiction. This might almost be the definition, the archetype, of the middlebrow.”

***By which I mean, non-technically, that The Caine Mutiny is a war novel, a romance (modern sense), a comic novel, an adventure story, a legal thriller, and (yes) a morality tale neatly woven into one narrative.

A mentor

One of the nicer things about working at my law firm is hearing other attorneys talking about the former members of the firm, in this case the senior partner of the firm when I first arrived. Sometimes those old stories find their way into print, as in this recent example:

small quotes blue[After clerking for Judge David W. Dyer, I returned to the private sector, and was working for Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where] I was working on a sensitive criminal case arising out of the Kennedy Space Center. Our client, a contractor on the space program, had been accused of defrauding the government. It looked like the case might go to a grand jury for possible criminal charges. I was in charge of the day-to-day investigation. Part of my duty was to prepare for Armageddon if, heaven forbid, the company was indicted. Continue reading A mentor

A gentleman and a novelist

Walter_Sullivan_FSWI just had the experience of reading a novel written by one of my professors at Vanderbilt University.

Walter Sullivan (1924-2006) introduced me to many of my favorite books, including Brideshead Revisited, The End of the Affair, War in Heaven, and “The Four Quartets” in a class he called “Angelic and Demonic Themes in 20th Century Literature.”  We also read The Spire and, I feel certain, some Flannery O’Connor. He was a marvelous teacher who started by teaching the basics of the Bible so that the class had a common language to discuss the modern works.  I have often wished I had spent more time working on “The Four Quartets” while I had opportunity to draw on his wisdom.*

Long Long Love

It turns out he wrote three novels and last night I read The Long, Long Love [link].**

It is the story of Horatio Adams, a man strangely incapable of accepting what happiness comes his way because of the pain and fear which distracts him.

It is a moving and lyrical book:

“I wondered about that, Horatio. What happened to us? Why did things work out the way they did?”

“Why?” I said. “Nobody ever really knows why. There are a thousand reasons for every turn of every day.” I pondered this a while, knowing it was true. Thinking that not only did God know about the fall of the sparrow, but that only the mind of God could know all the reasons why the sparrow fell.

Recommended (don’t expect any tank battles).

*Thomas Howard’s The Dove Descending (2006) [link] is the best substitute I know of.

**Sullivan had written it about twenty years before I met him.  How sad that I did not read it until more than twenty years after he died.  It is still in print.

RLW 1947-2017

Robert Wears was my friend.

I am sorry, I know most of you called him “Bob,” but I met him through his wife Diane, and to me he was always “Robert.” With my wife Katherine, we four were members of a book club for the last 20-plus years. We have met more or less monthly, and read well over 200 books together.

I did not know him in his professional life, I was not a member of his family, we shared no school ties, we did not go to the same church. I interacted with him medically only once, and in that moment, as he visited me in the hospital before my abdominal surgery, he gave me permission and I threw up on him. Continue reading RLW 1947-2017

AEB 1931-2016

Alban Emerson Brooke
July 1, 1931 — November 4, 2016

Alban Emerson Brooke, 85, of Jacksonville, FL, passed away suddenly on November 4, 2016 from a head injury suffered after an accidental fall.

He was best known to the public as an attorney and judge in Duval, Clay and Nassau County from 1960 to 2002. Born in Louisville, KY, he was raised in Sandy Spring, Maryland. He attended The Citadel (The Military College of South Carolina), graduating in 1953 and served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. After his discharge, he attended the George Washington University Law School. Upon relocating to Jacksonville in the late 1950s, he became the 9,027th member of The Florida Bar, and was in private practice until 1980. He then served in the Fourth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office under T. Edward Austin from May 19, 1980 to December 31, 1988, before he was appointed as a trial judge in Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit in 1988, serving for 13 years, until his retirement at the end of 2002.

He is survived by his wife of more than 61 years, Mary Grace Brooke; his children — local attorney Allan F. Brooke II (Katherine), Grace Brooke Huffman, M.D. (Steve) of Winchester, Virginia, and Peter Emerson Brooke; his grandchildren — Alban Emerson Brooke II (Marie), Philip Davis Brooke, Ph.D. (Cecilia), Priscilla Mary Brooke, Sarah Katherine Brooke, Thomas Tarlton Brooke, and Thomas Brooke Huffman; and his great-granddaughter Emerson Rose Brooke. He was blessed to have most of his family living close by.

He had been a member of the Session of Riverside Presbyterian Church and was later a deacon at First Baptist Church. He was a man of deep personal integrity, broad intellectual interests and was known for his compassion and concern. He had a great sense of humor and a nearly endless supply of stories. He read widely, enjoyed contract bridge, and was devoted to his Lord.

His devotion was characterized by his service as husband and father, as he and Mary Grace dedicated their retirement years to the care of their youngest son, Peter. He will be much missed by his family, friends and community, as he adds his voice to the chorus of praise around the throne of God.

Soli Deo Gloria.

A Memorial Service and reception will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, November 22, 2016 at Westside Chapel, 4541 Shirley Ave., Ste 8, Jacksonville, FL 32210.

In lieu of flowers, donations to The Arc Jacksonville (www.arcjacksonville.org) or Westside Chapel (www.westsidechapeljax.com) would be appreciated.

Arrangements by Naugle Funeral Home & Cremation Services, 1203 Hendricks Avenue, Jacksonville, FL (904) 396-1611.