My heart is aching right now. Losing a loved one is never easy. Please bear with me, as this post isn’t going to be as “structured” as my usual entries. I’m just going to ramble for a bit until I’ve said all I need to say…
Back in 1998, my friend Nicole and I were dropped off at school early one morning. Not particularly eager to get on with our 8th grade classes, we decided to head over to the local doughnut shop and blow our lunch money on treats rather than head up to the school like we were supposed to.
We, being fickle teens, couldn’t decide what to buy. Growing frustrated with our indecisiveness, the clerk suggested, “How about a bag of doughnut holes?” To which I replied, “What? Like a bag of nothing??”
Nicole and I were startled when a man sitting in the corner burst out laughing. We turned to look at him and he said, blue eyes twinkling, “Doughnut holes are real. Give ’em a try.”
Bag of doughnut holes in hand, Nicole and I marched over to the man’s table, and asked if we could join him. He obliged us and, together, we sat munching on sugar, chit-chatting about this and that. It was a good time filled with good conversation between strangers. But, as the clock neared 8am, Nicole and I finally decided it was time to head up the hill and get to our first period class.
When the very same man we’d been chatting with walked through the door after us and announced he was our substitute teacher, you could have knocked us over with a feather. And thus began my lifelong friendship with Lawrence Montaigne.
As it turned out, he wasn’t “just” ANY substitute teacher. He was an actor, dancer, and “occasional stuntman.”
He had roles in the original Star Trek (including Spock’s rival in “Amok Time,” Stonn), The Great Escape, and several other movie and television appearances. Including one of my dad’s all-time favorite death scenes in the movie Captain Sinbad.
He was also a former United States Marine. One of our brave veterans, who put his life on the line in the name of our safety as a nation. (And he brought that sense of discipline and honor to his role as a teacher — never taking any guff from ungrateful, wise-cracking students!).
And he was a fellow writer — a talented wordsmith who wrote several books, and never skimped when it came to writing well-crafted letters to his friends.
When I heard the news this morning from his daughter that he had passed on last night, I was absolutely crushed.
86-years-old is a good long life, but it still feels “too soon” for this great man to leave us behind.
He had been “too tired” to come out and visit me in Los Angeles for the past few years, but we managed to keep in touch via e-mails every few months. My last contact with him was on his birthday late last month. And, as always, he warned me that this was probably going to be his “last year.” But he’d been telling me that every year on his birthday for the past eleven years or thereabouts, so I just rolled my eyes, thinking there was nothing that could take down this mighty man.
But, he was right this time: 2017 was his final year.
God, I wish I had a giant belt-buckle to wear in his honor today. He was never seen without a belt with a GIANT buckle! haha. (The one in the picture above was one of his more “modest” fashion numbers!).
This is just… I’m not even sure what to say at this point…
My biological grandparents all died when I was very young. I hardly knew them. But, for the last nineteen years, Lawrence Montaigne has been a grandfather to me. He was always quick with a hug, always excited to hear from me, and endlessly supportive of my life and career choices. He was thrilled that I became a writer, just like he was.
I was planning to write to him soon to tell him about my new Managing Editor job at the news site. He woulda dug it!
I have to blink back tears now, realizing that now I’ll never have the chance to tell him. I can only hope that he’s looking down from Heaven right now and is proud of me.
He used to tease me from time to time, asking: “Why do you care so much about this grumpy old Jew anyway?”
Because I loved him. And I always will. I will never forget him.
He was a Hollywood legend, a wise mentor, a fellow writer, and one of my very best friends. Nothing I could write here could ever be “tribute” enough for how great he was — nor could it ever fully convey how deeply I regarded this great man.
Rest in Peace, old friend. You’ve earned it.