Craig Lovett, reigning Big Brother of the Year in Pennsylvania, died this week, I learned by email last night from one of his little brothers, Chris Conaway.
From Chris, who was writing from South Dakota: "I feel a profound sadness at the loss of someone who I considered a father to me and I only hope you can possibly help other people see how he lived and how much he actually gave back to the community and those around him. Craig was a great man who thought nothing of himself and always thought about the welfare of others before considering himself."
I'd spent an evening in May with Craig and his newest little brother, Pernell Francis, as "Perry" wolfed down a meal and a half at Tony Luke's. Craig visited Perry each week, picking him up at his South Philly rowhouse, taking him to dinners, and other events in Perry's packed life. The column's here. That's Craig and Perry, together in this photo, being honored by U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah this September.
Craig was a Big Brother for 36 years, helping four young men to their feet. He'd been a borough councilman in Oaklyn, N.J. He managed a cemetery in Cinnaminson the past 16 years. He also ran a tax preparation business. He fished and read avidly. He played Santa at Big Brother Christmas parties for a decade. He was a member of the Avalon and Aqua String Bands. His wife died four years ago.
What I remember is the softness of this exchange, toward the end of the evening at Tony Luke's:
Craig: "I've gotten an extended family out of this. Not only with the ids, but with the family. You never lose track of them when they grow up. They stick with you like the mud. I've got four sons I'd never have had. I love them, and I think they love me."
Perry: "You think?"