The heading here has nothing to do with the new meaning of the word ‘gay,’ but comes from Irving Kahal’s lyrics to one of Tin Pan Alley’s most beautiful songs, “I’ll Be Seeing You” (music by Sammy Fain). It first appeared in a 1938 musical (Right This Way) that flopped, but the song lived on, eventually as the inspiration for the movie taking the song’s title and released in 1944. It seems a fitting thought for Memorial Day and also for the commemoration of the dark time when three important people passed into history.
The first, June Lang, left us on May 15, 2005. My second cousin (though I called her Aunt June), acted in numerous pictures for 20th Century Fox and RKO, most prominently as Shirley Temple’s mother in Wee Willie Winkie. But I very much like her cameo in Stage Door Canteen with a group of Chinese air pilots. It’s a picture worth watching just for the catalog of stars. She had grace and beauty.
The second person was one of my father’s buddies on and off the golf course, George Mikan, the first basketball superstar and later commissioner of the defunct American Basketball League, who died on June 1, 2005.
But I think of “I’ll Be Seeing You” most in conjunction with my mother, Dorothy (Dot), who passed away after a short illness the day before Memorial Day, also in 2005. The next day to buck me up, my good friend Hoyt Robinson prepared dinner for me, and he put Louanne Hogan’s rendition of the Fain-Kahal song in his mix for the evening. Mother married my father during WWII, and the song would have carried a lot of memories for them too. Mother took great pride in my writing and was an unfailing source of support and good cheer. The words from the song, “I’ll be seeing you / in every lovely summer’s day, / In everything that’s light and gay, / I’ll always think of you that way,” sum up my feelings on this and on every future Memorial Day about a special member of “the greatest generation.”