Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Former Hoya Editor Leaves Behind Lasting Friendships, Memories

It is hard to say goodbye to a friend. Death is meant for the old – grandparents, great aunts, and your dad’s uncle you haven’t seen in years. It isn’t meant for the young; or for people three years shy of their 30th birthday.

Unfortunately, that myth has been shattered for me. Just over a month ago I got a phone call I never could have imagined receiving. William Gannaway Brownlow V, the man I shared a house with, who I helped recruit to The Hoya and the man whom I stood by as a groomsman during his wedding a mere four months earlier, was dead.

I first met him in 1997. A lanky kid with already-thinning blond hair and a big smile, he bounded into 421 Leavey with a huge camera slung around his neck and bouncing off his overalls.

“I’m Will Brown-low,” he said, with the strongest southern twang my New Yorker ears had ever heard. “I’m hear to take pho-tos.” Within minutes I knew all about his love of hunting, penchant for smoking and affection to whiskey, let alone his family lineage dating back to the first Will Brownlow, the `Fighting Parson’ who was the reconstruction governor of Tennessee. He was a bumpkin. I liked him immediately.

Two years later, we were housemates on R Street. He was the prototypical southerner, and I was a stereotype of the Italian from New York. We were an odd pairing, but also fast friends. Whenever the corners of his mouth turned into a devilish grin and a gleam in came into his eye, he was about to drag me on some ridiculous adventure that would no doubt end in laughter and debauchery. I have two brothers given to me by the generous happenstance of birth, but Will is a brother by choice.

I hit a crossroads in my life and career several years after graduation, and I began to close out the world around me. I became depressed, and wanted little to do with anyone else. When my phone rang, I would look at the caller ID and let it go to voicemail. Yet, for some reason, I never did that when I saw his name and face pop up on my cell. I always picked up, and within minutes was talking, and laughing and sharing. I guess it was he was family to me, and I loved him.

I was never one to quote someone else when I wrote my old Hoya columns; I felt it was a sign of weakness, of not being able to speak for myself. But over the last month, the famous Jackie Robinson quote has been kicking around in my grief-stricken head: “A life is not important except for the impact it has on other lives.”

I have found some comfort in those words. Will did not win a Nobel Prize, or save refugees, or champion exotic charges. But for me, and for hundreds of others, he touched our lives in ways we cannot explain. His enthusiasm, generosity of spirit, and infectious smile and laugh had a larger impact on me than I ever found words to express to him in life. I would not be the man I am today without him, and I am unquestionably a better person for his influence. Indeed, he remains alive in me.

His name is not synonymous with the Hilltop like Thompson, Clinton or Ewing; nor is there a building honoring WGBV. But to a generation of Hoyas, his presence was pervasive. His photos filled the pages of this newspaper for years. He was part of the original team that launched, spending hours brainstorming site concepts with me months before a single story went live. His hand hung many a light backstage at countless Georgetown theatrical productions. He continued to contribute as an alumnus, maintaining web sites for the Philodemic Society and the Georgetown Theater Alumni.

He contributed loudly, passionately and loyally to many organizations. His friends couldn’t comprehend where he found the energy to give 100 percent ten times over. He was the first to help a Hoya in need, and his stewardship of http// ensured that hundreds of Georgetown students and alumni would stumble upon long-forgotten photos of themselves in various states of alcohol fuelled revelry. His efforts, and his personality, were larger than life. This mortal coil could not contain him.

I have lost a brother. The piece of him I carry in my heart will never be enough, but it will have to do.

James Di Liberto, Jr. Graduated from The College in 2000 and is a former Editor-in-Chief of The Hoya.

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