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CYC-Net
CYC-Online Issue 76 MAY 2005 / BACK
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heroes

The world is a poorer place this morning

Niall McElwee

"I just spoke with Jeanne Maier. Henry died this afternoon in Seattle around 2 o'clock. Today he was able to squeeze Jeanne's hand and say he loved her".

It’s a Sunday morning in Galway, Ireland and the rain clouds have just decided to blow more gently towards the north and the sun is peeking out. I power up my laptop and start to read through my messages. I see one from my good friend, Thom Garfat, titled simply “Henry Maier” and my heart sinks. I have been expecting this e-mail for some time.

Making a Connection
I only had the good fortune to meet Henry once at a conference dinner at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada where Henry was being honoured for his life contribution to child and youth care. He was, at the time, wheelchair bound, but he still had a powerful presence. Thom introduced us and Henry and I chatted for a few brief minutes about Ireland, the US and child and youth care. He was old and sometimes difficult to understand but he was worth listening to. He was a man of genuine wisdom. He was child and youth care to the core. (See the feature)

Just a year before our meeting (in June 2001), I had written to Henry inviting him to sit on the editorial board of the Irish Journal of Applied Social Studies. He didn’t know me at the time but some weeks later I received a letter in the mail from the US. It was from Henry. It had obviously been typed on a manual typewriter and it was short but to the point. The thing that struck me most was the connection that Henry was making in it to me, to Ireland, to child and youth care over here. Ironically enough, just last week I was sorting through the journal files and out fell Henry’s correspondence. I would like to share just a brief extract from it.

" I should add that I accept your invitation with pleasure as my wife Jeanne is of Irish ancestry. Her forebearers migrated from Ireland to Kentucky (USA) several generations ago – with best wishes for your many fold responsibilities and I look forward to ongoing correspondence from you".

I’m sure that someone like Henry received offers all the time from editors around the world to assist in projects, to lend his name and credibility to journals and books. Henry made that extra effort because he had a deep commitment to the field stretching back over half a century. Henry, quite simply, had a deep commitment to people.

When he received his Honorary Doctorate from the University of Minnesota, Sybille Artz summed Henry up in seven words, inspiration, history, distinctions, appreciation, humour, love and continuance. Sybille was right.

On returning from the conference where Henry and I met, his next contribution to the CYC-Net column included the words, “Let me add strongly: Nobody is a nobody”!

Henry was right.

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