On May 7, less than a week after getting home from the World Voyage, we set off again to drive to Blacksburg, Virginia for a memorial service for our friend and world travel companion, Lee Wolfle. His lovely family had delayed the service so that his friends on the world cruise would have an opportunity to attend. Some others would have liked to attend but for logistic obstacles, but Robert drove down with us and Karen drove up from her home in North Carolina.
You may recall in our first post about this cruise, back on January 4, we mentioned that this voyage was a reunion of sorts for the seven people who sat at our table in 2016. We were all back at the same table for the 2018 cruise, picking up where we left off as a happy & compatible group of travelling friends. None of us was more enthusiastic about that prospect than Lee Wolfle, who had tee shirts made for all of us showing the itinerary and titled “Around The World Together Again . . . Table 65.”
Like the first world circumnavigator, Ferdinand Magellan, Lee didn’t make it back from the trip. He began feeling poorly probably in New Zealand, was never able to get his strength back & had to leave the ship in Singapore. He was diagnosed with leukemia in Singapore and was flown as far as Los Angeles, where he entered Cedars Sinai hospital for treatment. But that didn’t work out & he died there in the middle of April as we were approaching Banjul.
All of Lee’s friends on the ship were shocked at the speed of his demise. Many of us were walking on the beach with him in the South Pacific just six weeks before he went into the hospital and at that time he seemed hale & hearty. Lee was a very big man, about 6’7”, and very active (he took an expedition to Antarctica last year) so it was hard to picture him as being so seriously ill. Needless to say, his ordeal cast a pall over the remainder of the voyage for all of us.
The memorial service in Blacksburg was not a somber affair. It was more a celebration of Lee’s life, with friends and relatives taking turns recounting memories and anecdotes about him. We were happy to meet Lee’s family, about whom he talked a lot. We spent two nights in Blacksburg and had an opportunity to see some of the town. It is the home of Virginia Tech university where Lee had been a professor and he was an avid fan of their football team. Statues of their mascot, the “Hokie” (a turkey we think), were all over town dressed up in varying painting styles. We found a street named for Lee (probably originally named for Robert E Lee, but not while we were there) and visited the local library (of course) which had an interesting exhibit of quilts. We would have enjoyed having Lee there to show it all to us, but the closest we ever got to Blacksburg with Lee was the Due South restaurant, where we shared barbecue lunches a couple of times.
We only knew Lee for about two years. But he was a good friend & the nicest guy you will ever meet. We all miss you, big guy.