By Ken Hamilton
Niagara Gazette — Of the more than 1,500 Niagarans that were reported to have passed away this year, there are three men among them whom I have much admired. This is not to say that they are the only men and women who died this year that I admired; it is that these three died so closely to each other.
They are Willie L. Carter, Corigan Sanoian and Arthur B. Ray.
There is no doubt that there are fewer splendors on the planet than when a full moon is shining over the fully illuminated cascades at Niagara Falls. Sad is that the 8.2-billion candlepower of lights that illuminate the waterfalls seem brighter when they are under the dark face of a new moon, and that with the passing of these three men, lately, the lights have been shining pretty brightly upon the faces of the falls. It is a dark, dark close to end of the year.
I had known Mr. Carter since my family moved across the street from his wonderful family. That was when neighbors were more than just neighbors; they were friends and family, too. The knocking upon doors or ringing of doorbells was only a formality; you were going to go in before they responded anyway. That was 1959.
There were two things that I knew best about that old sailor, Mr. Carter. One was his stability in life; in that he was always there, always the same and always glad to see you. When I was away in the Navy, despite how many times my home telephone number changed, I could always remember and dial his phone number, and I knew that a neighbor would answer so that I could get our own new number.
The other thing that I knew about him was that he loved being in the isolation of his cellar, where seemingly there was a pile of a thousand tube-type televisions awaiting repair. It was a boy’s wonderland – but only when he was not there. Sometimes, when I am tooling about in my own cellar and I look across the room at the light in the ceiling, I’d think of him and not mind at all that I was somewhat like him.
Mr. Carter served with me on the board of directors of the Area One Community Preservation Corp. and he was one of the first votes that I got when I needed the board to move forward on getting the city to build nine new homes in the area. Johnny Flynn grew up in one of those nine homes. I don’t know if that would have happened without Mr. Carter.
I didn’t know Corigan Sanoian as well as I knew the others. I met Cory, an engineer, when I was working to help develop the Michigan Central Bridge into a regional asset that would have provided jobs and tax base to the city of Niagara Falls. It was hard going and the project failed. But what wasn’t a failure was Cory’s belief in both the city and in me. There were times, while doing that project, when it didn’t seem that I had a friend; and then came Cory, with his words of encouragement. Like Mr. Carter, I will miss him.
And then there was Arthur Ray. I called him Uncle Art and people who didn’t know either of us well thought that I was his son. With him being short, brown, round and very, very talkative, sometimes people even thought that I was him – except he rarely had a bad word to say about anyone. I am a bit freer in that area.
I knew Uncle Art for almost as long as I knew Mr. Carter. He was a celebrity, of sorts, in our community, being the first black person to have a seat on the board of education. We looked up to him. We always looked up to him. Even when I grew taller than him, I still looked up to him.
And now, with the passing of those three great men, when I will look across the face of Niagara, I will see those cataracts awash in the rays of 8.3 billion candlepower of illumination, and I will feel no better. When I will look up into the deep, cold night and will see the outlines of a new dark and faceless moon. I will see those three men in it. And when I will look behind me and off into the city that was once ablaze with bright people, such as these three, it will seem no brighter than that new moon. And I will wonder, “Who, among the new one-thousands more, will take their places?”
Who?Contact Ken Hamilton at email@example.com.