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The Good Life

Does anyone remember this summer when the hail storms hit — nuggets of ice fell in 80-degree heat? Then there were a slew of days when formidable black clouds tumbled across the sky like waves yet were followed briskly by a kindly blue sky and sunshine. Mother Nature was in turmoil and would not be ignored.

Maybe I’ve read too many novels, but it seemed more meaningful than just dramatic summer weather — there had to be something to it. It was like a message: Wake up!

Most sadly, it dawned on me what the message might have been when, at that time, we heard about Paul Newman’s health crisis.

Since his passing, a large part of this community has been hurting. We adore him and his family. To have them mourning and to lose him and all that he did for so many people and our town — it’s our turmoil.

A long and distinguished career as an actor and his commitments to the Playhouse, the Dressing Room, Newman’s Own, land preservation, Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, race car driving — he lived his life propping up and protecting the good things: meaningful films and theater; healthful food; happy childhoods; open spaces; purity, simplicity, fun.

His quest to keep things straightforward and real is worth emulating. No matter his age, he seemed forever young, because there was always a sparkle in his eyes and a coolness in his manners. Not just his blue eyes were clear, sharp, startling, dazzling — so too was his character.

He had more charm than seems possible and a face you couldn’t turn away from. Most people who had such gifts would have basked in them, made money off them. Instead, Newman used them to raise funds for charities. He set a high standard for himself and put integrity and doing the right thing first.

In our story “Paul Newman” (page 62), we look back at his work in film, at Newman’s Own and Hole in the Wall, and on the track. We also hear personal stories from locals (page 67), and follow up in “Back Talk” (page 112) with quotes from Newman himself. Hopefully, these remembrances will inspire people to do what’s right, keep things real and laugh. That crazy summer weather — stormy and sunny, passionate and friendly — was not unlike Newman.