It is much easier to write about great men than good men. The famous leave deep prints on society, and we can measure their deeds. Good men contribute in smaller packages that often mean more to their friends than to the historians.
This is a eulogy for a good man, Joseph Raymond, a Baltimore politician who just scratched the surface of greatness before he died of cancer last week at a Washington hospital. He was 38 and a friend of mine.
It's not that Raymond wasn't important. He held a high-level federal job at the time of his death. He was a member of Maryland's House of Delegates in the early 1970's and statewide chairman of George McGovern's presidential campaign in 1972.
But Raymond won't be remembered for his trophes. As a politician, he often reached farther than be could gasp. He never made it in elective politics and died too young to make a big splash in his latest in a series of appointed jobs.
Instead, he leaves a more important legacy. Joe Raymond was, in the words of one of his eulogizers, "a single decent human being," a kind man who care deeply for others and a politician who never lost his sense of decency and proportion.
It was his perspective that both made him a rare breed of politician and retarded his political growth. He seemed to lack the blind ambition or killer instinct of winers, maybe because winners lose too much of their humanity in the process.
I met him for the first time five years ago after he lost the crucial endorsement of his silkstocking Baltimore political club for another term in the legislature. I received my first taste of the Raymond humor when I asked his reaction.
He grumbled a bit about how the club members confused theibrains with their backsides and broke out one of his famous full-toothed grins: "I'll have those bastards eating out of my hand when I'm governor," he said.
His sense of humor, irreverence and personal dynamism made Raymond fast friends with reporters. He was one of the few politicians who could get through lunch without beginning every sentence with the first person pronoun.
Last summer, he gave me two imported cigars for my 31st birthday. Along with the package came a note with a special message for a struggling journalist. "Remember, when Scott Fitzgerald was 31, he had his first novel published. Eat your heart out."
He could also poke fun at himself. "Don't worry," he reassured me after he gave me the cigars. "I'm 37 and I just got my first real job." He had just been appointed deputy auditor general in the Agency for International Development.
Raymond was one of the bright young men who went to college in the Kennedy years, caught the liberal Democratic bug and never lost his idealism. He defended the underprivileged as an assistant Baltimore city solicitor and championed civil rights as a legislator.
He had an incredible knack for making people feel at ease and listened to their problems with true empathy. Even when his own political and professional fortunes waned, he took great pleasure in the triumphs of his friends and was the first in line to congratulate them.
The breaks began going his way when he first became ill a couple of months ago. He threw himself into his work like never before, often passing up fancy lunches for a sandwich at his desk. He bought a new house in Washington and enjoyed its social life.
Style was very important to Raymond. He cultivated it, always smoking the fattest, longest cigars and wearing expensive, fashionable suits and shoes of the finest leather. He sported colorful butterfly bow ties and was seldom without his gold collar pin.
His friends teased him about using shoe lifts to boost his short height and getting hair transplants to fill out his thinning hair. He took the teasing as well as he gave it out. "Every time I wash my hair," he once told a friend, "it costs me $3,000."
Raymond went out with the panache he cultivated. Some friends pulled strings and got him buried at Arlingtin National Cemetery with military honors. Cardinal Lawrence Shehan came out of retirement to offer a memorial mass. Joe would have loved it.
After the service, several dozen of his closest friends ate lunch together at Sabatino's Italian Restaurant, his favorite eating spot in Baltimore's Little Italy. His wife, Betsy, asked us to come to drink a farewell glass of wine for Joe.
Everyone waited quietly for her toast, this brave, radiant woman who helped shore up the rest of us with her courage. "To Joe," she said, simply, and proudly, raising the wine glass above her head and them lowering it to her lips for a sip.
Each of us completed the farewell salute silently, in our own words.