I guess it’s a blessing that occurs a few times in a lifetime. You enter a conversation with someone and find a kindred spirit. Hours pass like minutes sharing ideas, dreams and visions with someone who is viewing the world with a similar perspective. Your heart is light, your mind is stimulated, and you walk away from that conversation with a sense of clarity, happy and tranquil knowing you’ve met someone who knows…
In January of 1976 I volunteered to help the Presidential Campaign of Oklahoma Senator Fred Harris, a progressive Democrat who had been a strong advocate for peace in Southeast Asia. I worked with a group of Gloucester and Rockport activists many who were former members of Cape Ann Concerned Citizens, the local voice of community opposition to the Vietnam War. Although at 17 I was the youngest volunteer, I felt at home with this group of serious, dedicated activists who dreamed of a future without war. Among the friends I made working on the campaign was Mimi Ferrini, a young visionary who hoped advancing this campaign would help the struggles for economic democracy, gender equality , racial and social justice.
Mimi was the daughter in law of Vincent Ferrini, a local poet & playwright I had read and admired. One Thursday night she gave me a ride home after a committee meeting. We sat in her car listening to Joni Mitchell & Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on the radio while voicing our hopes for Fred Harris’ quixotic candidacy, already being overshadowed by Jimmy Carter, and our hopes for an America that lived up to its creed, delivering on the promises of liberty and justice for all. An America with peace, and equality, with acceptance for all kinds of people. Frequently talkative in matters of political ideas, this time I listened more than I spoke, nodding with the realization that Mimi knew stuff, and that knowing there were people like her made me more hopeful about the future. I had school the next day and it was getting close to midnight. I gave her a hug and walked across the street to my house, watched her drive up the hill on Prospect Street. I was elated, relieved that I had a friend who understood with clarity what a future built around people’s best instincts could be.
That great feeling carried me through the school day & weekend, and the dawn of a new week I approached with renewed optimism. That afternoon when I returned home from school The Gloucester Daily Times was sitting on the living room table. I picked up and read the news that left me shattered. Mimi had died suddenly Friday night from a brain aneurism. She would become one more person I had come to admire that I would carry within me, her face and voice now like a road sign pointing me in the direction of what I needed to strive for, since I had to speak louder now that she could no longer be heard.