Draft of a Sympathy Note to the Son of an Old Friend

Usually Deb does these. Not this time.¹

Jack Herlocker
3 min readNov 7, 2023

Hello Billy-

I was a USNA classmate with your parents, and part of your mom and dad’s wedding party in 1981. You probably don’t remember, since you were barely a bump under your mom’s wedding dress at the time. Your parents looked great, your dad in his Marine Corps dress whites and your mom in her SO-not-Marine-Corps wedding dress.²

Shots from Sharon and Hank’s wedding reception, 1981 (photos by author)

While your dad and I got along, your mom was a wonderful friend, at the Academy and after. She was fun to hang with, and she also supported me when I needed it. However your mom was not above slapping me down as required, such as when I dissed her new hairstyle. (I merely asked, “What the hell happened to your hair?” Your mom explained this was not how to respect a woman’s haircut — not right away, of course, but a week later, when she started speaking to me again.) And she gave the best hugs.

I just wanted to be one of the many to tell you how special your mom and dad were, after your dad’s passing. I won’t be at the interment³ for your folks this month, because I experience anxiety with crowds of people, especially ones I may kind of know, so I wanted to pass on my sympathies by note. Please share this with your sisters and brother, if you like.


Jack Herlocker, Class of 1980

¹ME: Do sympathy cards need to be handwritten?
DEB: Yes.
ME: Is that, like, a rule?
DEB: Yes!
ME: Can I do a draft on my computer first?
DEB: In your case, Jackster, that would be a very good idea.

²Sharon was still in the USMC at this point, but the rules at the time said that getting pregnant meant getting discharged, so she was on her way out. Yes, it was a stupid rule, and meant that taxpayers spent four years of high quality education on her for almost zero return.

³Sharon died in 2011, Hank died a week ago. Billy saved his mom’s ashes so that she and Hank could be together. They will be interred together at the Naval Academy columbarium, the first time for two married classmates.



Jack Herlocker

Husband & retiree. Developer, tech writer, & IT geek. I fill what’s empty, empty what’s full, and scratch where it itches. Occasionally do weird & goofy things.