The only thing missing at the funeral services for Dillard Theodore Boone II was his own voice–that melodious but resonant voice that introduced so many acts, so many memorable performances and concerts. But, in many ways, it was smoothly invoked by Father Gregory Chisholm of St. Charles Borromeo Church, particularly during his poignant eulogy for Boone last Saturday in Harlem.
“He was a Joshua in our midst,” Chisholm said, comparing Boone, who made his transition on Jan. 10, to the great Biblical hero. “His impact on our community here in Harlem and abroad was significant.”
To give additional meaning and import to Boone’s life and legacy, the good priest summoned the works of Langston Hughes, reciting passages from “The Heart of Harlem,” which was later set to music by Duke Ellington.
“The buildings of Harlem are brick and stone,” Chisholm began, “and the streets are long and wide, but Harlem is much more than these alone, Harlem is what’s inside.”
What many in the packed sanctuary and beyond were not aware of was Boone’s dedication to community improvement; his stint in social services and housing development.
Some of this illustrious devotion was touched on by the Rev. Ken Ratliff during his moments at the podium, concluding that Boone “was a member of this church and a man of great faith.”
“Dillard was in the vanguard of cultural and economic development,” said State Sen. Bill Perkins, who knew Boone for many years. “He helped me when I was a council member and during my time as a senator. My hope is that his legacy continues to guide us.”
When Boone’s casket was wheeled into the church, it came to a stop in front of large, lit Easter candle. Then a white cloth was spread over the casket and a crucifix placed atop.
“The cross is a symbol of victory over death,” Chisholm explained.
Felicity Osborne, Boone’s goddaughter, provided the first reading from the Book of Wisdom and Boone’s grandnephew, Lawrence “Billy” Frett, delivered the second reading, a letter from Paul in the Book of Romans.
The services were interwoven with the liturgy of the Eucharist and interspersed with lovely music, especially the pianist’s rendering of “O, Danny Boy”–the D and B in the latter may have reminded many of the deceased’s own name.
Among the dignitaries were Councilmember Inez Dickens, Assemblyman Keith Wright, Lloyd Williams, Voza Rivers, Winston Majette, Irene Gandy, Cynthia Holiday, Londel Davis, Willie Walker and Jose Ferrer, several of whom were honorary pallbearers.
In his closing remarks, Chisholm returned to the words and wisdom of Langston Hughes: “It’s the faith God gave us long ago. It’s the strength to make our dreams come true,” he recited. “It’s a feeling warm and friendly given to you.
“It’s that girl with the rhythmical walk. It’s my boy with the jive in his talk.
“It’s the man with muscles of steel. It’s the right to be free a people never will yield.
“A dream, a song, half-soled shoes, dancing shoes. A tear, a smile, the blues. Sometimes the blues mixed with the memory, and forgiveness, of our wrong. But more than that, it’s freedom, guarded for the kids who came along. Folks, that’s the heart of Harlem!”
And a sizable part of Harlem’s heart departed with Dillard Boone.