Our lives in Wakefield, except for Sylvia’s organizing efforts, did not include a lot of social exchange. People on the street were “good neighbors”. Widows occupied two houses closest to us, and on the street families were mostly one-child homes. Our early time in Wakefield came when old patterns of close neighborliness were declining, as dependence on cars moved people through and away from neighbors, without the daily encounters that previous “walking” generations had known. My work, out of town, left Sylvia and the boys to do the “neighboring”.

It is always hard to define “class”, but one insight came from son Gary, who later in life, long after Wakefield, told me that he realized that most of his friends were in some way “different” when he discovered that he was the only one among them whose family had an encyclopedia in the home. What that means is worth pondering.

David, during his High School years, became friendly with a neighbor who was an usher for the Boston Red Sox. For at least a couple of summers David joined him in the same job, which provided us with lots of baseball news! Dave would sometimes hope for rain, because then he would earn extra bucks for helping to role the covering out onto the field!

An example of Sylvia’s sensitivity in regard to race was the wonderful relationship with Flora Rice. Flora was a black woman whom Sylvia met at the check-out counter of a grocery store. Flora worked as “matron”, the word used to designate female janitors, at the local High School. Flora became a dear friend of the family, and was active in the community Civil Rights group. She and Sylvia were especially close. Later we became convinced that Flora had been the object of discrimination by the school department, and she filed a complaint with the Mass. Commission Against Discrimination. That was the first time I followed a case through the procedure of the Commission; though her complaint failed, the work on it solidified our relationships. After Sylvia’s death, Flora remained a dear friend, and I conducted her memorial service upon her death.

It has always been my conviction that Sylvia could easily have built a constituency which would have elected her to town office, probably with the school committee, had she lived long enough. Her death came on January 31,1964, when an asthma attack occurred while she was helping to coordinate a Freedom School stay-out, in support of school desegregation efforts in Boston. I was unable to go with her to Lincoln that evening, and when the phone call came saying that she was in the Waltham hospital, I thought it would be another time when she would be kept overnight, would recover, and return home the next day. When I walked into the hospital emergency room and was greeted by nurses, it was clear that Sylvia had not survived.

A friend drove me home that night. Still the hardest thing I have yet done in my life was to wait through the night for David and Gary to waken, wondering how to tell them of their Mother’s death. My own response to the death might at some other time and place be the subject of long introspection. I remember at the time being told by a friend whose husband had died, that it had taken her two years to accept it. That was about right for me; it was two years before I had fully accepted that terrible moment.
As life later moved me toward active anti-racist work, I often was visited by Sylvia’s spirit, and had she lived I know that she would have been with me at every step on that way.

Sylvia’s parents, Elmer and Anna Lushbough, came to live near us in Wakefield, and stayed until the boys were late teens. Those were two of the most remarkably “human” beings I have known. They strove to be complete egalitarians, never attaining the goal, but their striving will always inspire me. My affection for them continues. As long as I live, they live in me.

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