Just imagine the joy of getting up everyday to just imagine.
On December 14th, my younger brother, Cary, passed away. This is a tiny slice of his story and what I learned from Cary, his wife, Glenda, daughter, Kristin, my brother, Bill, and his wife, Emmy, and the wonderful community that surrounded him as he left us.
The quote above is from Cary's website. He was a designer and architect. He is one major reason why downtown Kansas City has come back from oblivion. He fought for years to have the community re-envision the downtown as a vibrant community full of life and vitality, not only during the day, but at night as well. He has a number of signature buildings in the city that helped to turn his dream into reality. During our Remembering Cary ceremony, I learned just how much he had contributed to his dream.
Kristin, Cary's daughter, called me the female version of Cary. And in deed, we have much in common. Quiet, reflective, visionary pragmatists, stubborn. When we were young and living in different cities to tell each other about our car purchase. Both of us had purchased a yellow MGB! Several years later the same thing happened, this time with yellow VW wagons! The same eye glasses, game preferences, politics and passion for creativity and community.
Unlike me, Cary remained in Kansas City and became a major anchor to its integrity and development. More than 30 years ago, when just married, Cary and his wife Glenda purchased a very run down house in a run down neighborhood just south of downtown KC, Mo. Together with a few other brave young couples, they brought life back into the Roanoke neighborhood. The older owners celebrated, told history stories, and welcomed these newcomers who were fixing up the houses, room by room, when the dollars allowed. Together they created a strong alliance and a welcoming feeling. Soon, the four or five block area was teaming with young people anxious to preserve and restore a part of Kansas City's heritage.
That is why more than 400 people showed up to remember Cary and share stories and take pleasure in his accomplishments. And it is why I feel sure that every time I visit Kansas City I will not only see what Cary build and created, but the ongoing, unfolding vision of a vibrant down town area. Kevin Kelly, in his book Out of Control, speaks of restoring a prairie. He speaks about the prairie going through phase transitions until it can't help but be a prairie. Through all of the phases, it attracts the next layer (soil, root systems, plants attract insects, birds which in tern attract small animals and on and on through the layers of animals and plants) until finally the parts take hold and fall together into a remarkable and unique whole ... greater than any of the parts. This is Cary's story of his down town. Many of his ideas took a long time to catch on, to ignite others to see what he saw. Yet he never gave up and now there are many, many who came through attraction and are now attracting others through their visions.
Cities do not sell themselves. They attract diversity and density. They draw forth possibilities. Kristin said their Sundays were not about church, but rather about architectural drives through the city seeing what was new, learning about potentials, designing possibilities, meeting people, talking and teaching ideas and working concepts into reality. Cary knew that signature buildings were just one part of a city, but not community. He created spaces for the small restaurants, unique shops and art galleries that would attract all ages to the city, day or night. Kansas City will continue unfolding, losing battles, but winning more. It will hold its own no matter what else happens.
So in many ways, every time I get off the airline and travel into town, I will come to know Cary again first through the skyline and his buildings, then through the restaurants and boutiques I visit and finally through the Roanoke community who will always welcome me as Cary's sister.
When putting together a slide show for his remembrance I came across this quote:
To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other's hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time. ~Clara Ortega