This morning in Duluth, Minnesota, a man named Chip Stewart died. Chip had been battling cancer off and on for several years, and some time ago it became apparent to everbody, including Chip, that this battle would be the last.
Chip emailed me last week saying he was on a farewell tour of his own. He planned to come out to the Reif Center in Grand Rapids, Minnesota last Thursday to see us play one more time. He was going to come early so we'd have a chance to hang around the green room and visit. When he didn't turn up at the show we all wondered if he'd had a turn for the worse, and as it turns out, he had.
Chip was one of the prime movers behind Amazing Grace Coffeehouse & Bakery in Duluth. Amazing Grace not only has great coffee and even better home-made bread, but it's a music venue, and the first place Tanglefoot ever played in Minnesota. It was the summer of 1997 and about 12 people showed up, but Chip thought we were a good band and was keen to have us back.
I can't remember how many times we played Amazing Grace over the years, but it was many. Without exception, every time I called him to say we'd be coming through town on such-and-such a day, and was there any chance we could play that night, he said yes. Sundays. Mondays, Tuesdays...it didn't matter; we were always welcome.
Everything about the place is low-key, friendly and easy-going, which is exactly the way I would describe Chip. He was one of those people who was quietly devoted to music and musicians, both in his community and in the larger sense, and was always on the lookout for a way to give somebody a hand. He's one of the key reasons Tanglefoot was able to build a significant audience in Minnesota
When his friends describe him, you get the collective impression that he was a relentless optimist. He always ended his emails with the signature "Make a Great Day".
So that's what I'm going to try and do tomorrow, and the day after that. It's what I promised him I would do when I wrote him last week. The world is a dimmer place, but I'm going to try to Make a Great Day.