The One and Only Luke Cole
- Hi all,
I was at work when I got the phone call and I managed to remain composed but that ended when I saw a picture of a beaming Luke on a blog posting a last night. I was lucky to have known Luke. Those who never met Luke should still consider themselves lucky because the world was a far better place with Luke in it.
Another blogger, a classmate of Luke’s at Harvard, said that even then Luke was larger than life. Although I didn’t know all of the exact details of Luke’s accomplishments, it was always clear to me that while birding was great fun for Luke, he had far larger fish to fry. Boswell large. Chevron large. When I took up birding it became my passion and I worked at it nearly every day. Luke became an outstanding birding in his free time. He could have done anything and sometimes it seemed like he did everything. Well.
I don’t believe I have ever met anyone who knew so much about so many disparate things. When I became addicted to good chocolate and was frequenting a shop called “Bittersweet” he countered with the fact that he belonged to a chocolate club with the owner of the store and had already become fluent on the subject. On a long birding trip I played a cd of a punk band from the 80s known as The Adolescents. I doubt many of you are too familiar with their work but Luke knew all of the words and had seen them in their heyday. As hard as I tried, I just couldn’t find anything I knew more about than Luke. Can you imagine anyone else knowing enough about Root Beer to appear on NPR and about birds to serve on the CBRC, while at the same time winning landmark environment justice cases?
I just got a postcard from Luke the other day. I have yet to translate what he called handwriting but I imagine the sloppiness was because he so much to do and so little time to do it in. That he thought about me and mailed me the card is helping me through this. He packed as much as he possibly could into one lifetime and I have a feeling we all admired that about him.
I will never forget our five day trip to northeastern California a couple of years ago: Luke taking notes on his little pad as he drove; taking pictures of “giants” outside of old gas stations for his collection; calling waitresses by their first name and making them feel like an old friend in seconds; telling said waitresses that it was my birthday so that the whole restaurant could sing me happy birthday; and realizing that for Luke it was all about the adventure. He was close to having 100 birds in every county but I don’t think he really cared. He once told me his exact total of birds he had seen at national wildlife refuges! It was another in a long line of obsessions. I don’t think he really cared that the number was large but he did love having the list.
The greatest tragedy of all is that Luke had so much left to give and so many more people to help. People that nobody else was interested in because they spoke little or no English, people who couldn’t afford other lawyers. That Luke chose to represent those with no voice when he could have practiced elsewhere and made a fortune says all you need to know about him.
As is typical in these situations, when someone dies you end up telling others the things that you should have told the person while they were still alive. I never told Luke how much I admired him and how much his friendship meant to me. All I can do now is try to follow Luke’s example and try to live life like he did, doing the things he wanted to do and doing them extraordinarily well.
Thank you for everything my friend.
San Ramon, CA