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Page 33
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016
The Rockaway Times
Remembering John Hedderson
By Christine Mullally
One day in the first week of
June with the weather threat-
ening of the endless heat and
sun to come, my friend, John
Hedderson and I got into his
small truck and took a ride
into Manhattan. We were en
route to a lumber yard to buy
the wood we needed to build
Rockaway Artists Alliance’s
large mural exhibition. We
had a mission. We were all
business. But having a mis-
sion and doing business
with John Hedderson meant
an adventure, a day of inter-
esting conversation and en-
gagement. Working on a long
project with him was an ex-
tended holiday.
On the car ride into the city
in his truck which was basi-
cally a motorized tool box
(and he knew where every
zip tie, screw and drill bit
was located) we covered a
lot of territory – how he was
going to build the frames for
the indoor and outdoor mu-
rals; the story of his daugh-
ter Mary Ann’s Halloween
wedding – she called while
we were in the car and he
took the call in the manner
of a dad whose daughter al-
ways came first ; and his dad
or grandfather coming from
Brooklyn and spending sum-
mer weekends in Roxbury
“camping out” before the
family had homes there.
The sky was so blue, rem-
iniscent of the sky on 9/11,
and it prompted us to share
our stories of that day. His
story was more immedi-
ate than mine, his loss pro-
foundly greater. We cried as
we drove up Ocean Parkway.
And then, as an hour or day
spent with John would go, we
changed course, out of our
deep, sorrowful mood, back
to the mission at hand – lum-
ber. I was really just there for
company and carrying the
check and other paperwork.
John was the one who knew
what we were doing.
He was a rock star at the
lumber yard. Everyone knew
him from buying supplies
there for various construc-
tion jobs, having worked
there and having convinced
the owner to set up a pen-
sion plan for his workers.
Within minutes our order
was placed, delivery sched-
uled, and the guy behind the
counter played a trick on me
that wound up with me ow-
ing him $100. He let me off
the hook because I was with
John.
We carried on, stopping at
a couple stores where John
did repairs and renovations,
picking up his paychecks. We
went from the west side to the
east, parking on Fifth Avenue
in the twenties to duck into
his home away from home
Markt, a Belgian restaurant
where he also worked, to
grab a quick lunch.
Over our meal at the bar,
joking with the bartender
and bus boys, we discov-
ered that we’d both been
undergraduates at Syracuse
University – which is real-
ly not wildly unusual in the
tri-state area – but for the
fact that we’d spent our time
there beyond the shadow of
the Carrier Dome in the art
studios, living bohemian
lives on the fringe of the city.
John was braver than I was,
pursuing a visual art degree,
while I stayed within the lib-
eral arts, writing on the side.
We laughed over coincidenc-
es and unintended outcomes
of plans not made.
The conversation contin-
ued for the next month as
we worked on the exhibi-
tion every day. We laughed
and grumbled and scratched
our heads. We enjoyed great
moments of triumph – like
when the curators saw one of
John’s pieces hanging in the
hall of the gallery and invit-
ed him to be one of the art-
ists in the show.
Through it all, I don’t re-
ally know if John knew how
much I relied on and trust-
ed him. John was the type of
man who said things simply
and you believed him. He
said, “I’ll build the show”
very early on, and because
he spoke those words, I nev-
er had a moment of doubt.
Of course, this wasn’t just an
instance with me. He quiet-
ly inspired confidence and
trust in everyone around
him. His was a positive pres-
ence, full of “can do’s” and
really creative “what if ’s.”
John put a project, a paint-
ing, another person, the
greater good first in an un-
assuming way that was void
of ego. He was really here to
add more beauty, happiness,
gentleness, laughter and
community to the individ-
uals and groups that came
into contact with him.
On Monday morning, he
came up to the RAA office. Al-
ways a diligent board mem-
ber, he reported on the roof
leaks that he’d been seeking
to fix. He stood in the mid-
dle of the room in his Storm
King baseball hat, slogan-ed
t-shirt and ripped jeans and
engaged Regina Moerdyk
and me in a spirited discus-
sion (even though we were
all in agreement) about the
upcoming Presidential elec-
tion. After about a half hour,
he headed back out, into the
rain, leaving us smiling.
We take small consolation
in that final, casual fare-
well. Had we known that we
wouldn’t see John again, had
we known to say a real good-
bye, I don’t think we would
have managed. I don’t think
anyone who knew John could
have managed that.
John Hedderson served as a
Director on the Board of the
Rockaway Artists Alliance
beginning in January, 2015.
He passed away unexpected-
ly on September 19, 2016. His
friends and colleagues at RAA
will miss him profoundly.
John Hedderson
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