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Calling Tom Newby

My fingers dialed his number before I remembered he was dead. I was driving to my girlfriend’s house on a soft-lit Friday evening two weeks ago today. A fine spring weekend was ahead. Before it all got rolling, I thought I’d call my friend, Tom Newby to see what the weekend had in store for him. It was something I did often in the 13 years I’d worked with Tom.

Except that Tom died in a helicopter crash more than two years ago. The recorded voice on the other end of the phone, the one that told me the number I had dialed was no longer in service, confirmed it. Tom Newby, Powerboat magazine’s chief photographer and a cherished friend, was dead.

“Jesus” I muttered. “Did I really just do that?”

Yes I did. And probably will again. Some habits are hard to break.

Last week I covered Desert Storm in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., for Powerboat. I shared a condominium with the magazine’s editor Jason Johnson and photographer Robert Brown, both of whom knew Tom well, and the stories and jokes and Tom Newby imitations flowed. His name came up often; so often, in fact, that it became obvious to me that none of us has completely said goodbye to him. And we probably never will.

So I suspect I will absentmindedly call Tom again some Friday evening just to check what sushi bar he’s headed to, how the surf is in the Southern California, what his boys, Will and Wes, are up to or just to enjoy his latest political rant.

Even though I know he won’t answer, even though it will remind me that he’s gone and not coming back, even though it will hurt, I look forward to the call.

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