Grace Kerr, Cape-less Hero

We don’t get many of them in our lives — heroes. A small handful, if we’re lucky. We think it’s our moms and our dads, and that’s partly true. They raise us, after all, but really, they have no choice. They are compelled, by genetics, by ethics, by CPS, by whatever. But there are others, and they come to us at myriad times. One of my heroes is Grace Kerr.

Unlike most movie flashbacks, I can’t recall the specifics of my first interaction with Grace. All I know for sure is I was a tiny 7th-grader who carried every book in his backpack to all nine periods — instead of going to his locker between classes — because he was worried about being late. And ~24 years ago, this tiny 7th-grader walked into the third floor music classroom at Valley Stream North High School and began somewhat of a transformation.

People who know me now would probably describe someone friendly, with an annoying amount of energy, but that was not 12-year-old Evan. He was anxious, quiet and, like many New Yorkers, disliked other people. He wasn’t someone with whom I’d want to be friends. Looking back on 1994, Grace planted the seed which changed all that.

I can’t recall a single exchange with her that wasn’t filled with levity. Her’s was, of course, my absolute favorite class, but it wasn’t because I was a musician. It was because of how she made you feel. She made you feel important, she made you feel worthy. Above all that, she made you feel. She did it through the arts, yes, but no one on the planet could deliver the message like her.

Always with a smile on her face, looking right into you through those giant glasses. And that voice… I always found it a curious voice for a chorus teacher. Somehow it never mattered what she was saying, I always found it important. I wasn’t a great student, and truly I’m not sure I would’ve gotten out of high school without her.

She never pushed me to be a professional musician, which in hindsight was the right thing. Rather, she helped me understand what creativity could do for the soul, for sanity. It’s something I’ve kept with me for nearly two-and-a-half decades, and I hope that never changes. It made me sad to see so many “thoughts and condolences” on her Facebook wall, when what we should be sharing are things like this. Celebrations of someone worth celebrating. She was a saint while here, and a god damned hero for sure… and she didn’t need a cape.

Thank you, Grace. For the laughs, for the lessons, and for the grace through which you delivered it all. May angels lead you in.

Small southpaw writing about nonprofits, creativity, kindness, and life.

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