Father Robert Farrar Capon, the Episcopal priest and author of many books, most notably The Supper of the Lamb, died last week at the age of 88.
Though I did not know of him or his work until I was an adult, he was known to many of the people among whom I grew up and lived and worshiped, though not, to them, as a writer, but as a beloved if eccentric member of the community. He lived for many years on Shelter Island, New York, which is just a short ferry ride across the bay from the town where I grew up; it's a place I have been countless times. When, as an adult, I checked Father Capon's books out of the local library, I noticed that they were signed with a barely legible flourish and a cross. "He's quite a character," Jean, the librarian, also a Shelter Islander, said. "I haven't seen him around in a while, though. I don't even know if he's still alive."
A few days later, while flipping through the 'C's in the local yellow pages to find the number for the Chinese takeout restaurant—in my hometown it's still easier to find numbers that way than via Google; and, foodie or not, weekly Chinese takeout is a family tradition—my eyes fell on "Capon, Robert F." I scribbled the number down, and called the next day.
Mrs. Capon ("CAY-pun. It's CAY-pun, honey," she told me gently, after I called her "Mrs. Ca-PONE," as if she were the wife of the gangster) talked with me for nearly an hour. I told her how much her husband's books had meant to me, and that I was writing a book of my own on faith and food. Would Father Capon be up for a short visit and a chat?
Sadly, he wouldn't be: "do you know what hydrocephalus ...