From these final years of Fr. Virgil’s life there is an image of friendship, an afterglow of warmth to a life of service and devotion.
There is friendship of the spirit: Virgil wakes up on a Sunday morning at Vista del Monte. It may have been an uncomfortably sleepless night of discomfort and pain, but Virgil gets out of bed because there’s a 10 a.m. mass to be said. Parishioners and friends will arrive soon, as will the altar boy to assist with the mass. My father arrives around 9 a.m., breathless, which is normal for an 87-year-old altar boy, and assists Virgil in his wheelchair into the chapel where the congregation awaits.
There is friendship of community: Fr. Virgil, Jimmy de Loreto, and my father sit in Harry’s on a Wednesday evening, as they have for many, many years. Virgil knows everyone there, of course, and probably half of the people in the photos on the walls. In the later years, it was an effort for Virgil to get from home to car to Harry’s, but with effort and friendship, the three gentlemen settle in to excogitate about history, matters of the flesh and spirit, and baseball. (Though Virgil always said he could change the Catholic Church for the better if he were allowed to be Pope for 15 minutes, we wonder if he would have traded that offer for 20 minutes as manager of the Dodgers.)
And then there are friendships of time: Three of Santa Barbara’s finest gentlemen with 50 years of family, service, and friendship, and decades of conversation and humor, and stories, always the stories. And with time, the stories become legends.