It was bound to happen. Even though most of my friends have been able to self-isolate and so are relatively “safe”, there are some I worried about because of the state of their health. I have had a person or two on my Facebook friends lists–more acquaintances than actual friends–fall ill with presumed cases of COVID-19, but none seriously–until, just under three weeks ago, I heard about Liam. He was in the ICU. Given his serious medical issues–survivor of both a heart attack and a massive stroke that left him a resident of a long-term care facility–I was worried. And then–very little. After his stroke, his loved ones had posted regular updates. Now, silence. I had checked his FB wall just on Sunday, wondering whether there was any news. And then, yesterday, the feared news came. Master Liam St. Liam, or Bill Toscano as the modern world knew him, had passed into memory.
I met Liam in the early 2000s – I can’t remember exactly when, but it was in the early days of my tenure as editor of the Pennsic Independent. He was our rapier reporter. While he was not a fencer himself, his wife at the time was, and he seemed to know everyone in the rapier community. Correction: I soon learned he apparently knew everyone. And he was a heck of a reporter–one of those writers I rarely had to edit. I found out that he was a teacher–an incredibly beloved teacher–as well as a journalist outside the SCA, as well as a supporter of the Special Olympics and Gay-Straight Alliances in schools. He was also a baseball lover. Every year, he rejoiced when pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training, and I remember fondly how thrilled he was when his beloved Red Sox broke their long jinx and won the World Series in 2004. I literally cannot see a Sox uniform without thinking of him.
In the SCA, he was elevated to the Order of the Pelican in the East Kingdom a couple of months before I was. One of his greatest joys was his daughters, both of whom grew up in the Society and (I believe) are now Peers in their own right. I remember how thrilled he was to have his second wife get a chance to reign as Queen, and how she made him a Baron of the Court.
But even more than a Pelican, he was a Tyger of the East, the recipient of one of those rare, non-precedence-bearing awards given just once a reign. This was because of his near-constant spirit of hospitality. He had friends in many kingdoms–friends he could talk frankly with in a spirit of dialogue, even when opinions differed. He ran Peerage and Newcomers classes at Pennsic and other events–I participated in one once. He hosted bardic circles. And once he met you, he always remembered you. That’s a special skill. Even after his medical issues confined him to a care home, he still served as serve he might–working on writing, still in communication with the Society.
I posted a shorter version of this piece yesterday when I heard the news. And watched as friend after friend after friend called him friend. For so many people within the Society–including some of those closest to him–he was the first person who welcomed them to our quirky hobby. And he so many times brought people together who had vastly different opinions for honest dialogue and thoughtful discussion. He helped change minds and attitudes–always towards the better, more caring place he believe the world could be.
In just about an hour, I’ll join a short vigil, hosted byMaster Andrixos from Calontir–Liam’s connection with that kingdom runs long and deep–and raise a song and a toast to our most recent absent friend.
Those of you who know me know that I light a candle of hope nightly. I have been lighting the same candle for several weeks now. Last night, I intended that the candle burn down and be retired, but with the help of my cat Furisoa, it fell to the floor and broke, and burnt the fabric before I quickly stopped the flames. So I will retire the candle, broken before its time, and place it on the sideboard with the other relics, and remember.
His light here on earth is extinguished, but yet he shines.
He belongs to the stars now.
His memory will be a blessing.
He shall rest in power.