Remembering John Trout

Someone in my circle of loved ones who passed away was my friend and colleague, John Trout, who died in 2017. He was a musical, ironic, and generous  person who will be missed by his many friends and colleagues, and of course his wife and son. He was a person who was always ready with a really good pun: once, when I was bringing my lunch upstairs (which included a fruit salad), he said “I come not to seize your berries. I come to honor them.” That’s a pun on a speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “I come not to bury Caesar. I come to honor him.” Nevertheless, he knew very well how fragile life could be, having lost his two-year-old son to cancer and suffered a major heart attack by the time I met him.

He was in his 60’s when he died. But he was always someone to ride home with and play music on the way, since he knew I lived nearby and needed to get home to my kids when they were very little. He loved opera, classic rock, and his wife’s piano playing, as well as playing guitar, so after a youthful musician’s life and marriage, when a teaching position opened up at the educational program at Riker’s Island, John took that challenge. He even petitioned for music books and keyboards, helping some young people in a tough situation get through one of the most difficult periods of their lives. He also sang as a cantor in a synagogue, even though he was not Jewish. His operatic voice and dedication to musical beauty and precision are what led him to spiritual music.

John appreciated his life even after the cancer diagnosis and death of his second son, Joey, in the 1990s.  He was always talking about the foods Joey had liked and what he had enjoyed in his short life. He also knew that he himself was living on borrowed time: about five years before I met him, he’d suffered congestive heart failure and pulmonary edema. He had to carry oxygen tanks and a mask wherever he went, and I would often see him replenishing his blood oxygen levels during his lunch break. When died, it was of a simple infection – his body wasn’t strong enough to fight it.

I only knew John for about five years, but the kindness, friendship, good humor and music he shared with me on our rides to and from work will stay with me forever.

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