This past week our friend Mell Terpos was laid to rest and a bunch of us were unable to be there to say goodbye. Our good friend Jim Corona was kind enough not only to go to both events and support Mell’s friends and family but he said goodbye for those of us far away or on the road as well… and then he wrote a couple of beautiful e-mails to let us know what we missed. I have edited them only slightly to not share the extent of Mell’s family’s pain and to still share with you out there how much we loved him and what he brought to out lives. Jim certainly gets a gold star for his coverage of this celebration of a man and how he touched us all.
Hey Pals,I wanted to try to paint a picture of how I saw the service at the funeral home tonight. It was a nice, small, intimate place in the middle of Astoria, Queens, about 5 miles west of LaGuardia airport, just north of Triborough Bridge. There were about 25 family and 50-75 friends, techs and assorted others from the biz world.

Around the room were wonderful and modest flower displays all accentuated by great photos from the last 30+ years; a couple of nice ones with his brother Louie and a few w/ Anthony A., one or two real sweet girlfriend & boyfriend shots with his girlfriend, who was also just beside herself. It was moving, intimate and very friendly. Many tears and sobbing, while others laughed reminiscing, all appropriate and respectful of the family.

Mell’s mom and dad were present, in utter shock and despondent, that was the hardest part to bear…

…The faces of the techs and spouses, small smiles to greet and recognize each other, glad to see each other, but still sad for the reason that brought us together. The Paul Simon gang sent a nice flower arrangement and the Rolling Stones sent a 6′ high RS lips logo of flowers. It really dressed the room right, wasn’t decadent, as he was really loved by them.

I had some guitar picks from the Simon days, and as most of you asked, I said a prayer or a “Hey Pal” from each of you and made sure I had a pick for each of you and set them down with our man… As Marc Silag aptly brought up, we couldn’t tell if he had his standard footwear on (lower half coffin was closed) the black canvas Converse high-tops.

Even his mom, was swept up by so many scruffy guys coming and going, saying, “You see, you see he has so many friends!” Uniformly he was adored and remembered that way.

…So Monday 3/6/06 in NYC was sunny, upper 30s to low 40s. Many of us met at a modest, suburban Greek Orthodox Church in Clifton, NJ for services prior to burial.

As we went in, we who didn’t know the church were taken by its beautiful paintings on the walls and the little nooks and crannies where folks light candles and pray. There was a woman from the funeral home who was helping coordinate all of us unfamiliar with the Greek Orthodox ceremony; she was very helpful and comforting. One of Mell’s aunts was very gregarious and welcomed us; she also coached us of what would happen and what to do. Those who heard, did and others followed.

I’d say there were 200 of us total, 20-30 family members, the rest us, his biz friends, many familiar faces from many different artists and the worlds related to us. Many SIR folks, including Bo Holst, who had a cane as he just, had knee surgery.

We all took seats, a priest in his 70’s was singing quarter tone sounding stuff (Gregorian chant kinda stuff too), all by himself while he seemed to prep bibles, books, other icons for ceremony; it probably was the ceremony, I just couldn’t tell. He was in a very cool, white robe, which went down to the floor and had icons that were crosses that looked more like Tibetan icons, than Christian to my eyes.

When I say paintings on the walls, it was as if there was no wall space that didn’t have a biblical scene (old or new testament) painted somewhere, including the ceiling, Most looked liked modern versions of 10th century stuff. The ceiling had a big dome over the center of the altar. Mell’s aunt had remarked his casket would be set one way, then moved so we could walk up and say good-bye if we wanted to, and moved again so that he’d be looking straight into this 20′ in diameter dome filled with the face of Jesus before they closed the casket for the last time…

The ceremony/mass began; they wheeled our pal in. He was still looking dapper in his 4 pc suit. His mom and dad up front, mom resumed talking out loud to Mell, saying things he’d say to her… “Don’t worry Ma, I’ll be fine”, “Hiya Ma!” It tore me up just as much today as it did yesterday, maybe more ’cause it felt more final today (they would be closing that box soon). The service was 80% in Greek. His family sat together up front and comforted each other, Louie, Mell’s brother, comforted Mom & Dad and others comforted Louie. You can only imagine how hard it was for them, they held each other through it. They truly seemed ‘there” for each other and that was comforting in many ways.

…We all (or most of us in the church) went up one at a time for 10 seconds to as long as a minute before the family took their turn. Someone got him a small bottle of Johnny Walker Black to take with him. The family took a few minutes, kissing, holding his hand, holding each other and then the pallbearers moved him down the aisle and we followed him outside and then off to our cars.

We drove about 1 to 2 miles to a modest and tranquil cemetery also in Clifton and pulled over and all huddled around the plot where the guys had placed the casket. The pallbearers handed us a single rose to place on the casket. The same priest at the church read and blessed Mell. He had these really cool bells with an incense burner at the end, which he waved at his side and in front of him as he did his thing. Louie then spoke about the two of them as boys deciding the wanted to play Beatles music and what instruments they wanted to play. He said Mell liked George and Louie said, well I ain’t playing drums so I’ll play bass. We all giggled and fell quiet again. He then spoke about a friendship Mell had with a guitarist named Paul Jackson Jr. with Whitney Houston from way back and how they really connected. Paul found out about Mell and sent a note which Louie read. It was concise and loving and respectful of all the things we all know were special about him. Louie invited everyone back to his home, we placed the roses on Mell and then left.

I briefly spoke with Louie and Anthony on Sunday about helping them deal with Mell’s extensive gear. Louie said, in observance of Greek Orthodox doctrine, he would leave everything alone for 40 days. He said that it was something about helping the spirit extricate itself from the belongings. I thought that was neat… so I said we’ll talk in April.

…I’m glad I was there and even now deeply moved by the outpouring and how it has made me realize how deeply we may actually feel for each other, despite not seeing each other for weeks, months, years at a time… we need to acknowledge our bonds and not take for granted some of these great friendships we’ve built…

Never forget the bond is the bond. Sometime we just don’t know why we bond with someone, we just do..

-Jim Corona