With Derron's brother David's permission, here is his eulogy to his brother, our friend... I'm sure we are all glad to have been Derron's Snuffleupaguses ! : )
Before I sat down to write this, my dedication to my brother Derron, I wanted to read what his friends and our family members were saying about him. As I navigated the different stories on Derron’s Tribute Wall, I recall a comment made by our mother that I would like to reiterate, “…the various groups in his life never crossed paths.”. Many of you shared hilarious and happy stories about Derron, some of which we truly knew little to nothing about. Again, I agree with my mother as she wrote, “it has put much joy in our hearts to know Derron was not the lonely person he portrayed to us.”. I was aware of a few names in Derron’s life, such as Dean, Stu and Neil, the very group of guys that his friend Dean shared about being a part of Derron’s life for over 30 years, but other than that Derron only referred to others as “my friend”. He never shared names or how he knew them or why he called them friends. Honestly, I only had reason to believe he had a group of “Mr. Snuffleupaguses” as his friends, a Sesame Street character originally thought to be Big Bird’s imaginary friend only to finally meet or understand the friend was real. Aside from his life-long college buddies, and perhaps a name or two at work or those Derron mentioned within the pinball community, it wasn’t until now, after he has accepted his eternal role in Heaven, that my parents and I understand how many Mr. Snuffleupaguses Derron did in fact know. There are many and you are all real! For that I am glad he had each of you.
Like many of you, for years, I have talked with Derron at least once or twice a week and I could count on every phone conversation starting with the same salutation, “BOOB!”, a family nickname given to me as kid and one that I am sure I will hear again, ringing through the clouds, when it’s my turn to walk through Heaven’s Gate, God willing of course. Our conversations mostly stayed on him, topics like; Millie at first, but Melvin most recently, his job, his dog, his car, his four-legged buddy, his house, Melvin, a new pin ball machine he is thinking about getting, and on occasion he would tell me what his best friend, Melvin, is up to.
One thing I can say with utmost certainty is Derron’s recollection of life’s little memories was far more detailed than mine and often that of our parents’...err Mom's anyway. I accept the fact that many people do remember details of different events as a child, but Derron was always able to somehow relate a childhood story to our current discussion. He always found a way to fit in to any conversation, an unreal level of detail of some story from years past that always made us look at each other in near utter amazement, understanding that we were silently asking the same questions of ourselves; “Really? Is he joking? I don’t recall any of this, does he really remember that?” And of course, “Why?!”
I want to share a few memories I have with or about Derron;
• Family vacations – before the Internet as well as portable electronic games or video players, when two brothers are stuck in the backseat of a car while Dad drives the interstates up and down the East coast, you had to make the best of it. If Derron or I weren’t cheating on the letters Q, U or Z in the alphabet game or perhaps losing track of time as the other tickles your back, we might be seeing how far and how long we could encroach upon “his side of the backseat” by crossing over that dividing line mom had already established for us. Derron was usually louder than I, so I would use that to my advantage allowing him… ok, causing him to get in trouble for yelling.
• Little league baseball – Amazing. He was simply amazing. If Derron’s competitive spirit did not best him, we all may have very well have had a Cleveland Indians Catcher’s card in our baseball card collection with the name Derron Johns on it. One of the interesting facts you probably would have heard on the TV or radio was the fact that Mom and Dad named Derron after the pro-ball player and coach, Deron Johnson.
• Radio DJ – A few years back, some 20 or 30 or so, you might have heard Derron on Tampa Bay’s radio station, 105.5 The Dove. He liked hearing his own voice over the airways so much he also worked a local dinner boat in Clearwater as the onboard DJ for parties. I recall, when we were living on the beach in the top floor of the hotel my parents owned and managed, you could hear his booming and entertaining voice as the dinner boat navigated through the intracoastal waterways. Somewhere between his college years, he also worked at Disney’s Pleasure Island in the overhead booth for all guests to see and hear. Yes, even then, I was proud to say, “That’s my brother you hear!”
• Cleveland Cavalier games – I remember as a kid Derron would use a tape recorder and call the Cleveland Cavalier games as they happened on TV. Who knew that one day those tapes could have been a demo sent off for an interview!
• Christmas in Vermont – Aside from being Christmas, in Vermont no less, those were always good times. With cousins, John, Brian and Michael, Aunt Mary Ann and Uncle Dick, Tita – our grandmother and other members from those branches of the family tree, we always looked forward to the white Christmases in the house on Wantastiquet Drive atop the cliff above the railroad tracks next to the Connecticut River in Brattleboro, VT. Sadly, years later, as life offered us our different choices and paths, holidays as a whole seemingly became a difficult experience for Derron. For whatever his reasons, he found it best for him to do too many holidays his way, with Millie or with Melvin. However, from now on, he won't have a choice. When we, his family, are together over a holiday or not, we will think about Derron, we will talk about or even to Derron, we may even say his name outloud three times.... just to see if it really works. That was a BeatleJuice joke in case you did not pick up on it.
• Life advice phone calls – This was nearly every phone call. Some were simple and silly and often repeat concerns, others were more serious. Usually, over time, advice was heard and received and followed. On occasion, without invocation, a thank you was returned. Those are small humble moments when brothers can share advice to one another and it forever offers a new direction. Well, from now on, I will be the brother seeking new direction, not Derron. I will look to Heaven, and call upon not only our Tita, but now, my little brother too. From here on out, until I catch up with him, I need to remember he already knows.
Too often Derron was rather hard on himself, often the cause for our life advice phone conversations. Somewhat contradicting, I recently learned from his friends I have met or spoken with, that Derron was often their listener or sometimes their advice-giver. Some friends have mentioned the hours spent sharing situations with each other – work or personal, or perhaps down moments they were both going through, and between the two, they brought each other up. Is there a better definition of a friend?
I knew my brother was a giving person, but I did not realize to the degree until too close to his final days. Partly due to information Dad found in various locations, things like different donations, but also because Derron shared a goal of his with me. A goal he wanted to see through, as soon as he was able to. Because he could, because he wanted to, because he enjoyed giving to those who may need, those who appreciate, those who do not expect or necessarily ask. See, I, his brother, found it necessary to start over in life on my own at 50 yrs of age. Sometime about mid last year Derron told me he wanted to purchase a second home and allow me to make his payments, thus offering me a home to call my own as I stepped up my game again. Well, who knows, maybe even from far above he will still reach that goal. As Dad and Mom work out Derron's estate, as decisions need to be made and the required legal processes are followed, Derron's home in Tampa might be able to stay in the family. Regardless of the turnout, since I can't tell Derron Thank you face to face,
I say to him here and now with all of you as witness.
In bringing this short, meaningful, dedication to close, I want to recognize everyone that has ever crossed paths with Derron. You knew him as well as my parents and I did, but you also knew parts of him better than we did. Until now, with his much too early departure from this world, we only knew of a son, a brother, that we thought was alone, by choice. Because of Derron’s friends, his Mr. Snuffleupaguses, we know different. Thank you all for reaching out and sharing your stories, for thinking enough of Derron, and us, by giving of your time and your kind words. Derron may have silently included many friends in his life, and perhaps we’ve yet to hear from others, but because you all have broken his silence, there is a mend in our broken hearts.