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Ode to a Friend… by Daniel (Sandy) Gregory

[Editor’s Note:  “Ode to a Friend” a tribute to the late John Russell.   We at TI Life are honored to publish this and thank writer, Dan Gregory for contributing this special piece for our readers.] 


Ode to a Friend

It is a July dawn

The warm sun rises in the East

Puffs of summer fog,

Whorl in from the West,

Clinging to the River!

This tranquil moment is only pierced,

By the honking of Mother Goose,

Leading her gaggle to the morning feed.

Such are natural moments of the River.

Today’s moment, however,

Is distinctive from all the others!


For me, the unpredictable, flowing River has miraculous powers.

On occasion, these powers possess a palpable Spirituality.

When islands are blended into this magic flow,

The power of land gathering with water and sky is realized!

An ultimate River moment is created!

Gaps between the past, present or future did not exist!

Gazing at the sky, land and flowing River was of no avail.

Could the future yield more than this spiritual moment on earth?


Decades have passed since John Russell and I first met,

On one of the Thousand Islands,

Where River, land and sky convene.

This is the Garden of the Great Spirit!

For us, this was a transforming moment!

John was exiting his formative teens,

I was entering mine!

Pursuing independent journeys through life,

An enduring bond was enriched and enlightened,

A relationship deepened and expanded.

Emerging challenges from the spiritual Garden softened with time.

The fog lifted.

The dawn brightened.

Minds cleared and heart’s warmed.


One cannot die without living!

It is known that consciousness is memory.

Unlike the finitude of biologic life,

Conscious memories are timeless.

John now belongs with the ages,

Where friendship is eternal.


                                                                               Dan Gregory



By Daniel (Sandy) Gregory

Dan Gregory, or Dr. Daniel (Sandy) Gregory, is a North Country native.  He graduated from Hamilton College and the University of Virginia School of Medicine and his career and life’s work in medicine are exemplary; developing a clinical endoscopy program for the diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal diseases.  He served as consultant to the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital in New Mexico, providing health care to the Navajo Nation where he pioneered a study of cholesterol gallstones, a life threatening health problem among the American Indians of the Southwest.  He returned to the Medical College of Virginia and became Associate Chairman of the Department of Medicine and Chair,Director of Research at the McGuire Veterans Hospital, in Richmond VA.  He returned to New York State, settling in Cooperstown.  In 2002-2004 he was included on America’s registry of outstanding professionals and named by the Consumer Research Council of Medicine as one of “America’s Top Physicians.”  In 2013, Dan retired from medicine and now pursues his “life-long passion” for writing, where he is a proud member of the Cooperstown, “Smithy Writer's Circle.”

Note:  Published in the July, 2014 issue of Thousand Islands Life:

We lost a special islander in July with the passing of John N. Russell, 83 of Alexandria Bay.  Many will remember his greetings at Pine Tree Point and the Bonnie Castle Resort but he did even more for the TI Region, as he started the July 4th Boldt Castle Fireworks, Alexandria Boat Show, the Blessing of the Fleet ceremony and many other popular events over the years.  His accomplishments and his spirit will live on as memorial donations may be made in John’s memory, to the Foundation for the Community Betterment, PO Box 73, Alexandria Bay, NY. 13607.

With appreciation for photographs by Ian Coristine ©

Posted in: People, Poetry
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Michael Joyce
Comment by: Michael Joyce
Left at: 4:16 PM Wednesday, October 15, 2014
What a great tribute. Just beautiful. I understand Natalie is planning a tennis tournament in John's honor next summer at Grenadier. Would be nice to present her with a framed copy.
Morris Huck
Comment by: Morris Huck ( )
Left at: 9:50 AM Thursday, October 16, 2014
A very nice tribute for a Great Person who has done so much for the area. Thanks Sandy