Special Reports

The Passage of Time

            I remember vividly what was doing seven years ago this past weekend.  I was in Bethlehem, PA, at Musicfest.  My favorite performer of all time would be there for a concert and I had gotten a ticket.  Before going I had few preparations to make.  Because of health concerns, I couldn’t drive there attend and drive back to Philadelphia in one day; I had to get a motel room, rest for several hours, and then go to the concert; I would then spend the night.  I would arrange for medical treatment prior to the trip, so that I would have maximum endurance.  I would also arrange for a friend to stay with my father, who had been ill for, even at that point, decades.  All of that was done.

            The night was humid and the venue was in a small valley next to a small river; a slow moving freight train rumbled through in the midst of the performance.  It was crowded with a mass of people, with a cross section of age and ethnicity, all fans.  For those of us that were fans, it was a night of magic. 

            I had been a rabid fan of the performer’s music since I was in high school in the late 1970’s.  Her mezzo soprano was still perfection; she still, unlike a few others, had the same quality voice at her voice at her then age of 56 that she recorded at the age of 26. 

            I also would have voted for her as the sexiest woman alive in 1979.  The doe eyes that seemed to seemed to shift from innocence to sensuality in a fraction of a second, the nose that sloped into a graceful concave curve, the curve of her chin, the full lips, the high cheekbones met my definition of physical beauty.  I had seen video performances of her throughout the 1970’s, 1980’s, and in the mid 1990’s, I had a chance to see her perform in person.  Did she look like she did in her late 20’s?  No.  The performer looked like she did in the mid 1990’s, in her mid-30’s.  She was a grandmother, but in both 1996 and 2005 appearances, she looked to be only in her mid-30’s.  She would, in other appearances both before and after, show some weight gain, that that night she definitely did not have the matronly appearance I was expecting, in contrast to my own “middle age spread.”  In short, she looked healthy, very attractive (and yes, very sexy), and not old, at a chronological age that I would call old.

            On May 17, 2012, I came back home from a doctor’s appointment just before 2:00 PM; answering machine was flashing.  It was an old friend, my closest, that I’ve known for more than three decades, who left me this message:

  Jonathan, I’m calling you to offer my condolences on Donna Summer, cause that just blew me the hell away.


You get in and you get the message, give me a call, cause I don’t remember … I worked all night … I don’t remember if you are in town or not right this second.


All right baby, bye.


            Call waiting indicated that there was another incoming call; a lot of people knew of my passion, and were calling. 

I turned to a news station and clicked on my computer to hear, in the midst of tributes to her, that Donna Summer, who I had listened to for a generation, had died of cancer at age 63.  There was never a prior public revelation that she was ill and later that day, I found clips of her from the prior autumn, where she still as young and vibrant as she did when I saw her, still singing with perfection.

            In thinking about the passing of Ms. Summer, I couldn’t help but to drift onto the disappearance of former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar.  They had something in common, age (and, well, they both were public people that tended to be private).  Ms. Summer and Mr. Gricar were only about 2 years apart in age.  Mr. Gricar was born on 10/9/46, and Ms. Summer was born on 12/31/48.  Ms. Summer, certainly since around 1980 (and her becoming a born again Christian), had no known drug or alcohol problems, like the ones that seemed to plague some other pop music icons from the period.  Mr. Gricar had no suggested drug or alcohol abuse problems, either.  This led me to the possibility that Mr. Gricar, even if he chose to walk away in 2005, may not be alive today.

            We have seen similar things, like the case of Joseph Newton Chandler.  The supposed Mr. Chandler committed suicide in 2002, and his executor discovered that Mr. Chandler whole identity was false; nobody knows who he really was.1

            For about 18 months, from January 2011 until July 2012, Mr. Gricar’s disappearance received increased media coverage (though not all of it positive).  It started with in January 2011 with show by Nancy Grace2, followed with the better Disappeared program on the Investigative Discovery cable channel at the end of February.3  The petition to declare Mr. Gricar dead in July 2011, along the Provo, UT “mystery man,” generated a lot more.4  The Sandusky case, and Mr. Gricar’s role in it way back in 1998, has certainly generated more press in making his face see across North America and Europe.  Yet, we don’t seem to have the number of possible sighting of Mr. Gricar that we did in 2005.

            The latest sighing that the police have called “credible” (though not “confirmed”) is the Southfield sighting of Mr. Gricar on 5/27/05.  Even that is seven years old now.  With all the press, including the foreign press, there is a greater chance that, if still alive, Mr. Gricar would be spotted.  The possibility that Mr. Gricar is dead, but voluntarily left his life first, will remain.  Walked away, and died of natural cases?  It’s not unknown, and would explain some aspects of this case.

             From a pure demographic standpoint, Mr. Gricar should be alive; the average for an American white male is just over 75 years.  Mr. Gricar, if alive is merely 66, turning  67.  Likewise, Ms. Summer should be alive, demographically.  As an African American  woman, she  should have another decade to be singing, with an average lifespan of 76 years.5  Unfortunately, and for me at least, sadly, she doesn’t.  The passage of time, seven years, changes things.

End Notes


1 http://jamesrenner.wordpress.com/tag/joseph-newton-chandler/


2 http://www.hlntv.com/article/2011/01/25/ray-gricar-nancy-grace-americas-missing


3 http://www.centredaily.com/2011/03/01/2550766/discovery-is-the-right-name.html


4  http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2011/07/26/20110726john-doe-inmate-wont-identify-himself26-ON.html


5 http://aging.senate.gov/crs/aging1.pdf



Centre Daily Times Ray Gricar Section:  http://www.centredaily.com/138/

Link to the Main Index for Sporadic Comments on Ray Gricar:  http://www.centredaily.com/2011/03/21/2597340/main-index-32011.html

E-mail J. J. in Phila at scorg@live.com