My cousin, John Varkonda, has died. It was sudden, unexpected, and inexplicable. As I understand the reports, he collapsed in the morning on December 31st, 2013, was being rushed by LifeFlight to Massachussets General Hospital from his home on Martha's Vineyard, but did not make it to the operating room that might have saved him. The original diagnosis was an abdominal aneurism. This is a huge loss for all who knew him, especially for the entire community on Martha's Vineyard, but I would argue that losing a person like John is just a loss for the entire world. We all need more people like him around in any era.
I haven't interacted with John much the past few years, since he moved away from Ohio to the East Coast, and I moved to Florida and later Georgia. But we occasionally exchanged Christmas cards, and commented on each others social networking posts. But I have always admired him. He reminded me so much of his father, also named John. Uncle John was a wonderful, boisterous, hard-working family man, and his son took after him in all of these particulars. When we were kids, John Junior was known to everyone in the family as 'Johnny Jay'. He was a few years older than I was then, and in the cohort before me and my younger sister. But among the 'older kids', Johnny Jay was a wonderful person to be around. He had an infectious smile and an explosive laugh, and I remember fondly visiting his parent's house over Christmas or New Years and seeing him joking with his father and his sisters Lynn and Amy (another pair of great joyful spirits, it seemed, in those days.)