When I was in college everyone knew I was a “Chapin Fan”. A friend of mine often got us free tickets to concerts at the Saratoga Performing Art Center (SPAC) in Saratoga Springs, New York, where her brother worked.

She called me one day and told me she had ten tickets to the Chapin concert, 10th row, center. I was thrilled. I dragged ten friends to the concert, none of which were much interested in going. Not only did they enjoy it; they thought it was the best concert they had ever attended.

When the concert was over we started toward the parking lot. Near the exit, on the lawn, was a vendors stand selling tee shirts. I couldn’t believe what I saw; selling tickets and signing autographs was none other then Harry Chapin. I forced my way through the crowd in the hope of shaking his hand. The noise was incredible and Harry was on the other side of the stand, signing an autograph.

Undaunted, I yelled as load as I could, “Harry! Harry! If you’ll shake my hand, I’ll bless you.” His head immediately turned and, without regard to the crowd, he walked right up to me. “Was that you?”, he asked. “Yes. It was me”, I said. He reached out his hand and grabbed mine. “God bless you, Harry Chapin. God bless you”, I said. “God bless you, too”, he said. I said, “Thanks, Harry”, and he went back to selling shirts for the crowd.

I swore to my friends that when Harry returned the following year, I would be on stage with him. If only for a moment, somehow I would be on stage with Harry Chapin. Naturally, no one believed me, but I didn’t care. By the grace of God, I was going to be there with Harry.

The day after Harry died I stood just left of center stage at Saratoga Performing Arts Center and raised a glass of rather inexpensive wine to the empty seats before me. It was the only toast I could muster: “God bless you, Harry Chapin. God bless you”.

Tom O’Keefe

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