I have a vivid memory of taking a ride with a close friend and being held up by a stranger’s funeral motorcade.
We sat at a corner for a good 15 minutes in awe of this endless procession of hearses, police cars, fire trucks and ordinary vehicles loaded down with flowers and sullen faces.
My friend, a public servant at the time, shook his head, turned to me with a tear in his eye and said, “Wow. Now, that’s what it’s all about … being remembered like that … making a mark with your life that helped and changed others’ lives. If you can leave this world having been loved and respected that much, by one or hundreds of people, you know you’ve gotta go to rest knowing your time here meant something.”
I am frequently reminded of that moment ... from the poignant memories of 43 years of fun and hysterical laughter my oldest, best friend left me with last year when she suddenly passed to the largesse of respect and love shown to a dear friend and business owner whose motorcade nearly shut down a town.
Today was no exception. The scene was a uniquely familiar one.
As I rounded the corner to the beautiful stone church in Rumson called St. George’s-by-the-River, I saw the American and Rumson flags hanging at half mast by the Shrewsbury River.
Street after street was lined with an endless stream of cars. There was a fire truck waiting on a side street, a police car with lights flashing, several police standing outside the church in dress uniform. And there was a hearse …
All were waiting to escort the beloved former Rumson Mayor Charles “Chillie” Callman to his final resting place.
I did not know Mr. Callman myself, but I have heard nothing but the most sincerely loving thoughts and memories about him. I do believe he made that mark my friend spoke of … and indelibly so.
I don’t like to intrude on the very personal, yet somehow very public, moments of grief. So, I, instead observed and reflected on the life of a man I only knew of very well, but did not know.
I drove around, captured some photographs and thought about what the man people called “Chillie” must have been all about.
There were the tributes to him on the Thompson Memorial Home condolences page.
I now know he preferred iceberg lettuce and the Republican Party. Iceberg?
Who knew? Maybe no one ... or everyone. I couldn’t know anything about "Chillie" Callman for sure, but I knew he affected many.
I knew for sure that he left his mark when I found myself, a total stranger, feeling so sad over his passing.
His life seemed to be one that he would have enjoyed celebrating himself.
“Always the consummate mayor, his smile, compassion and warmth will be missed,” said Jane Hartman in a condolence note. “I know that he will always keep an eye on his beloved Rumson, as he had done for so many years.”
In honor of “Chillie” Callman, watch our memorial slideshow (above) of him and his beloved Rumson.
RIP Charles “Chillie” S. Callman, Mr. Mayor, husband, friend, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and maker of a lifetime mark.