Last Friday was a day that will be etched in my mind forever.  Having received a telephone call that it was time to say my final goodbye to a dear friend, I immediately left my prison job in Avenel en route to Kimball Medical Center in Lakewood , New Jersey .  What normally takes about 40 minutes to drive took nearly two hours due to a horrific traffic jam.  As I sat helplessly behind my steering wheel, I replayed memories in my mind of the man I was trying so desperately to get to to say goodbye. 

I met Earl by happenstance.  I had begun a project to assist corrections officers with returning to school and Earl was a counselor at the county college in which my staff and I worked.  One of my closest friends suggested that Earl work with my staff due to his uncanny ability to connect with a diverse group of individuals.  And there began my experience of Earl Thomas Teasley, a gentle giant.

Getting to know Earl was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had.  Earl had a quiet charisma and a bright smile that you just could not help but to love.  He gave of himself in ways none of us can even begin to measure.  As a Professor and Counselor at Brookdale Community College , Earl touched thousands upon thousands of lives.  He represented his colleagues through his affiliation with the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and his community as an activist with Garden State Equality.

Counted among Earlís proudest accomplishments was his service chairing the Monmouth County Human Relations Commission.  In that capacity, Earl championed human rights by bringing together the resources of business, government and the people of the diverse communities of Monmouth County to fight hate and bias at all levels.  As a staunch advocate for both marriage equality and equal rights for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Community, Earl could be found at Pride events throughout the country.  And he did not stop there.  Earl was also active in the New Jersey Chapter of the NAACP.

While Earl was recognized many times throughout his life, most recently he was honored by Garden State Equality for his contributions and received a certificate of special congressional recognition from the United States Congress.  But I digress; as I sat in the parking lot that was Route 9 last Friday, I remembered my wedding day. 

As an ordained minister, Earl officiated the civil union of my husband Ed and me.. During our ceremony, Earl recounted that in each of us burns the spark of the Divine and encouraged us to always see that light in each other.  Earl was the perfect model of always seeing the light in others.  While we cried tears of joy on that day, we also cried tears of pain together as we lost another dear friend in a plane crash.  During times of happiness and times of pain, Earl was there.

My fondest memories though involve laughing, sometimes uncontrollably, at cookouts and dinners out celebrating one or another of our friendís accomplishments or milestones.  In fact, we used just about any excuse to get together almost the exact same group of friends for we so enjoyed each otherís company.

As the traffic finally subsided and I arrived at Kimball Medical Center ís CCU, I was greeted by that same group of friends that attended nearly every significant event in each otherís lives in recent times.  The same folks who always seemed to come together were there.  And then we did what we had come to do.  We circled our dear friend Earl with love and were with him as he crossed over into eternal life.

April 22, 2010