When I first met Pete Cernoia, he was a mailman.
No, that’s what he did for a job. Let me start again. From the first moment I met Pete Cernoia I was glad I knew him. We shared a common love of music and guitar playing, as well as rather skewed senses of humor, but what made Pete shine was more than those commonalties. Pete Cernoia was as true an incarnation of joy as anyone I have ever met. He loved life the same way he played guitar: percussively, energetically, whole heartedly in that Springsteen-tramps-like-us-baby-we-were-born-to-run kind of way. And he never met anyone he didn’t want to help.
Our lives intersected when we both lived in Boston, he in Somerville and I in Charlestown, and then we both moved, he to Gardner, Mass. and I to Marshfield. Though we kept incidental contact, the heart of our friendship was for a season. I haven’t seen Pete in many years, though his fingerprints still feel fresh on my heart. We got word through mutual friends a few months back that Pete had lung cancer. The same friends sent word this morning that Pete died last night.
There are many, many people who knew Pete better than I did. All of us, no matter how well acquainted, were fortunate to feel his love at full volume. Tonight, I remember one night he and I sang together at the Coffee House at Cambridgeport Baptist Church. He asked me to sing one of his favorite songs, “Breathe Deep” by Lost Dogs. It has stayed one of my favorites down all the days.
Pete, this one’s for you, my friend.