Friday, April 2, 2010

William Nathan Zuck +RIP+

A blessed Good Friday to everyone!  It was as wonderful (and at the same time strange) of a Good Friday as I've ever experienced.  First of all, I started out very tired this morning.  We're still doing the "One Car Shuffle" here in our household...and last night I got "the call" to go and pick up Suzzanne at her downtown L.A. office at around 2:00 A.M.  I rubbed the sleepy-sand out of my eyes and got up at a normal time - around 7:30, I think.  Then I went to rent a car to take to Hollister for Easter.  A KIA Sport - bright red...I won't lose it in any parking lots, that's for sure!

At about 11:00 A.M. - I drove the cute little SUV over to St. Mary of the Angels for today's "Three Hours Devotion"...a quiet, pious cermonial ... where three of the four New Testament Passion Gospels are read in a semi-lit Sanctuary, every hour on the hour...with time for quiet meditation or prayer at the Altar of Repose in between.

Fr. Kelley, the Rector of St. Mary's, graciously asked me if I wanted to begin the Good Friday liturgy by reading the First Passion Gospel from St. Matthew.  Of course I said "YES!"  I began the reading right at 12:00 Noon, the very hour that Jesus was nailed to the Cross - on a hill called Golgotha, outside the gates of the Holy City of Jerusalem, on the First Good Friday, 33 A.D.  While I was reading, I noticed that two of our old St. Barnabas parishioners (Joe Constantino and his daughter, Kasey - - who is getting so tall!!!) were standing in the nave.  I did my very best...not so much because I had good friends in the congregation...but because I knew in my heart it might be a very long time before I would get a chance to read again in my "home" Sanctuary.

Eventually, Linda Savadian, Jane Mack-Cozzo and Armine Jones also arrived at various times.  It was great to get all of us together again - those people will always be like family to me.

After the Third and final Passion Gospel was read (by my dear old friend, Fr. Beau Davis - Deacon John Yeager read the version from St. Luke)...I had the honor of clacking the crotalus (a liturgical noisemaking device, in Latin "crotalus" is a "rattle" - a crotalus is used in place of the Sanctus bells which are supressed after the Gloria is sung at the Maundy Thursday Mass) thirty-three times, once for every year of the Incarnation, the span of Our Lord's life on earth...

After we were done, I stuck around and I heard a few Confessions, said farewell to as many folks as I could (it very well may have been the last time I will see many of them for two years!) and began to head home...

Then...the strange part happened.  One of those things that happen in life that just sort of stops you in your tracks.  While driving east on the 134 Freeway toward home...I (along with a long list of other clergy and parishioners) got a text message from Fr. Kelley telling us that William Nathan ("Bill") Zuck (pronounced "Zook") - an old friend and long-time parishioner at St. Mary's, had died.

I was shocked, to say the least.  It can be said that, if nothing else, Bill Zuck was an interesting fellow...a guy who knew more about Christianity in general... and the strange denominational minutia that goes along with the subject, than almost anybody I have ever known.  If you hadn't seen Bill in awhile, you could be assured that you could go by "The Archives" bookstore in Pasadena (a favorite haunt of ours when I was studying for Holy Orders) almost any afternoon and there he would be, glasses falling off his nose, peering through the stacks of books to find the latest treasure...

Or, if he wasn't there, Bill would be at Cotter's Church Supply - hanging about in their book section, driving whomever the current Cotter's Book Manager is now crazy!!  Bill could be a wee-bit annoying at times (those who knew him are nodding and smiling right now)...but I must tell you, dear reader, that I am going to seriously miss the guy.  Bill had a big heart (I'm guessing that was what gave out on him - the coroner's report is pending) and it was made of gold.

I'll never forget, while I was President of the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen in 2002, we had the honor and duty to throw the 25th "birthday party" for the Continuing Anglican Church, at the place where the original "Affirmation of St. Louis" was signed - St. Louis, Missouri.  Now I need to tell you that Bill Zuck loved to take long drives.  Once I showed up at Sunday Mass at St. Mary's...and I asked Bill where he had been.  "Oh...I drove to Pittsburgh (PA!!) for a Zuck family reunion!"  He did this kind of thing a lot!!  Bill's father was the inventer of the "Zuckmobile" - a car that, by adding wings and a propeller, could be converted into a lightweight airplane, and back to a car again after landing.  I'm sure that Bill wished that his father's dream had come to fruition for drives like that!!

The week of the 25th Anniversary of the Affirmation, I was in charge of so much stuff...getting guest and keynote speakers, booking the venues, inviting Bishops and other dignitaries...but the part I cared about the most was the Liturgy - and most especially, the Mass that we would celebrate as the capstone of the Anniversary party.  We had Bishops from all over... Africa, England, India...from the four corners of the United States...fifty-plus Bishops in all.  Being severely limited by the amount of liturgial vestments and altarware I could carry in one suitcase, Bill Zuck graciously volunteered to take everything with him in his little car...and he would DRIVE to St. Louis.

Putting great trust in Bill to show up at the Radisson Hotel in time...five days before our Mass, we loaded up his car in the parking lot behind St. Mary's.  Red Solemn High Mass Vestments, six candles and brass candlesticks, an altar and processional Crucifix, thurible (incense burner) and boat (incense container)...everything needed for a first-rate Celebration of an Anglo-Catholic Mass!!  There was barely enough room for Bill Zuck!!

He arrived in Missouri right on time (thanks be to God and Bill's ability to drive on very little sleep!)....and he helped us turn an old Methodist Church into a respectable venue for an Anglican Mass.

The truth be told...Bill Zuck always looked like an "unmade bed" in his cassock and surplice.  I would always take time to get him "semi squared away" on Sundays before I'd let him line up in procession.  Bill had volunteered to be our Crucifer (the Acolyte who leads the procession carrying the processional Cross) for the main Mass.  That night, it looked as if his white surplice (white linen vestment worn over a black cassock) must have been packed at the bottom of some box or suitcase, as it was in a particularly wrinkled state when he put it on!!

I did my best to get Bill's surplice straightened out...he alway took my ribbing him with great humor.  I said to him something I must have said to him a hundred times:  "Gee, in the world do you always end up looking like an unmade bed??"

There were reporters and a photographer from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who were there to cover our Mass and get some interviews.

There we were:  fifty-plus Anglican Bishops, all dressed in cope and miter and all of their episcopal finery....I was to be the Celebrant, Fr. Davis and Canon William Bower were my Sacred Ministers, all three of us vested in a matching red-velvet Mass set...there were several black-cassock-and-white surplice-vested acolytes milling about, led by our Master of Ceremonies, Jerome McAlister, Bill's long time friend .... and we even had a real Verger from Great Britain ... in full regalia and carrying his Verger's mace...we were all in the Sacristy ... preparing to form the most glorious procession I have ever been a part of!!!

The Mass was simply....amazing!

The next morning, when the Post-Dispatch came out....there was indeed a huge picture on the cover of the Religion section (back when newspapers had such a thing!).  Despite all of the Bishops, vested ministers and acolytes and even a real Verger in his official Verger's Gown that were all present...who do you think is in the photo representing our Solemn High Mass for the 25th Anniversary of the Affirmation of St. Louis??

Yep.  You guessed it.  William Nathan Zuck.  In all his wrinkled glory.

I'm going to miss you, Brother Bill.  "St. William of Zuck", I would always call him.  He had a heart for Jesus, that's for sure.  Rest in Peace, St. William....Rest in Peace.


  1. +RIP+

    I don't know if I had the opportunity to meet Bill Zuck the few times I've been at St Mary's in the recent past, but he sounds like passionate and involved Anglican... ready to do what's needed and more so!


  2. I met Bill in the late 90s and got to know him much better in the early 2000s. He was brilliant, eccentric, annoying, caring, and genuinely kind. I was one of those bookstore clerks Bill loved to hound right up to closing time. Even to this day (2018) I can recall conversations and things he said like it was yesterday. Little did I realize how much he was shaping my thinking about certain areas of theology. I only wish I could sit with him again and discuss these things. Hardly a week goes by where I don't recall William Nathan Zuck for one reason or another.