Ronald Wells, author of the 2005 book Friendship Towards Peace: The Journey of Ken Newell and Gerry Reynolds, wrote the following tribute to Fr Gerry Reynolds after his death last week. It’s in the form of a personal communication to Ken Newell, but shared here now with their permission.
Tribute to Fr Gerry Reynolds
By Dr Ronald Wells, Emeritus Professor of History at Calvin College,
Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, and Author of ‘Friendship Towards Peace –
the Journey of Ken Newell and Gerry Reynolds’ (2005)
Ken, it is Tuesday morning 1st December here in Florida. After a morning walk I thought I’d check my email. I saw that there were two from you, sent last night and again this morning. Thanks for including me in getting the information about Fr. Gerry’s death.
It is very sad news indeed to learn of his passing. Even though we who are older folks regularly experience death among our peers, it is always a shock when it happens, especially rather suddenly as with Fr. Gerry. Of course you knew him best of all, so the loss for you must be great. I am terribly sorry for that loss.
I knew him less well than many of the friends in Belfast; but what I knew of him I liked very much indeed. I liked his serious purpose, of course, in which he took his vocation for God’s peace very seriously; but he also had a nice sense of humor.
His genius was his ability to see through complex issues and then be able to explain them to others. Though he was often the brightest person in the room he never made the rest of us feel any the less. One Sunday, when I went out from Clonard with a group of Unity Pilgrims, he was the first among us, but definitely one of us.
Fr. Gerry was one of the rare people we are privileged to meet along the journey. He modeled for us the way of the Cross: he was pious but never sanctimonious; he was an intellectual but never pedantic; he was humorous but never trivial; he was a person rooted in his Catholic heritage but he was generous to all. We shall not soon see his like again, and that makes the loss all the more deeply felt. As almost always in mourning, we grieve the loss of our friend, but the deepest point of loss is for ourselves.
I will think of you and Steve in these next days as you participate in the Thanksgiving service and the funeral, and I will pray that there will be a sense of gratitude that we were able to walk part of the journey with such an extraordinary man of God. Rest in peace, dear Gerry.
(Photo of Ken Newell and Gerry Reynolds at a Reception in Belfast City Hall (July 2015) with Lord Mayor, Arder Carson, to honour Reynolds’ outstanding contribution to the life of our city over thirty years.)