By the Time I Get to Phoenix…(as the song goes)

Gunslingers in Phoenix with Jerry Facey and hi son, JP. This is as close to Clint Eastwood as I?ll ever get!)

Summertime in Minnesota might have meant temperatures in the mid-70s, but daytime in Phoenix was 110?. The islands were chilly by comparison, and Minnesota would have seemed like Antarctica.

Jerry Facey and his son JP met me at the airport and put me up at their home for the next couple of nights. Jerry lived on Saipan since the late 1960s and worked for Social Security and Prior Service for decades. While on Saipan he met and married Irene, a Palauan woman who had once been a flight attendant on Air Micronesia. She now suffers from dementia and has to be cared for by her husband. JP is a commercial pilot who was visiting his parents during his vacation.

Before taking me to his home, Jerry brought me out to Ghost Town with its old saloon, jail, bank, church and goldmine. There, as you can see, all of us assumed different identities.

But the old identity was restored that evening at the family dinner when we talked of the time I officiated at his daughter?s wedding on Saipan… and when dozens of us met at his home right after the funeral of Gary Bradley to salute him with wine and tell stories of how much he meant to us.

Lunch the next day was with Meredith Waltman, whom I knew years ago, in the late 70s and early 80s, when she was living on Saipan and Pohnpei. She was one of the first female students admitted to Fordham, entering soon after it became coed. She has the distinction (if that is the proper word) to be a classmate of a certain fellow with orange hair who lives in a mansion on Pennsylvania Avenue and attracts great attention these days.

Meredith Waltman and me.

Dinner the following evening was with Michael and Barbara Jonas. They were in Chuuk in the early 1970s when I was teaching at Xavier?nearly 50 years ago. Ed Guth and I both attended the Seder ceremony at their house?a first for me and a memorable experience for both of us. As often happens with old friends, we could talk as if we had parted only yesterday.

In the end, what the thermometer registered was far less important that the personal encounters with people I thought I might never see again.

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About the author

Francis X. Hezel, SJ
Francis X. Hezel, SJ

Francis X. Hezel, SJ, is a Jesuit priest who has lived and worked in Micronesia since 1963. At different times he has served as high school teacher, school administrator, pastor, and regional superior to the Jesuits of Micronesia. He spent thirty years directing the Micronesian Seminar, a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Pohnpei, Micronesia. He has written and spoken widely about social change and its impact on island societies. He has also written several books on Micronesian history, including The First Taint of Civilization, Strangers in Their Own Land, and The New Shape of Old Island Cultures. His most recent book, Making Sense of Micronesia: The Logic of Pacific Island Culture, is available through University of Hawaii Press.