March 11, 2004, recalled on March 11, 2015, and a pop star’s act of kindness:
Besides being a superb singer and songwriter, Graham Nash is a man of compassion and generosity.
My daughter Martha Foster, 44, is autistic. She is also artistic, and beginning in 1977 when she was eight, she began drawing CSN Christmas cartoon cards: the first depicted the trio as the Three Magi.
Because Susan Sennett Nash, a California girl, often visited Peoria kinfolk, such cards eventually came to Graham’s attention through Susan’s cousin, Janalee Sutton Croegaert. I’d met them both in 1968.
In 2004, while I was teaching English at Christ Church University College in Canterbury, England, I wrote Janalee asking her to suggest Nash sites in Manchester, which we were planning to visit. Instead, Susan arranged for three passes for an art gallery exhibit opening of photographs from Graham’s brilliant book, Eye to Eye.
We spoke not a word of this to Martha. A long bus trip on March 11 landed us there and we walked to the gallery. Graham broke off a reunion conversation with Hollies singer Allan Clarke and swooped down on Martha, embracing her and kissing her cheek.
“Martha! I’m so glad to meet you,” he said. “I’ve been enjoying your pictures for years. Now it’s your turn to enjoy some of mine.” And he gave her an inscribed copy of his book.
It was the happiest day of her life. “I feel like a fairy princess,” she said back at our hotel. To this day, that book and the hand-knitted scarf Susan gave her remain her favorite possessions.
From my journal:
11 March 2004, Thursday: Manchester
“Up at 5:45. Caught 7:20 to London. Welsh rarebit and two Strongbow ciders at The Travellers’ Tavern.
11 a.m. bus to Manchester was crowded, every seat filled. I sat in the very back. Manchester from the south in was a bit downtrodden. We arrived at 4. #6 Dale Street looked like a former factory or warehouse turned residence hotel with a skylight, kitchen reception area, two bathrooms, ditto bedrooms. 4:50 p.m.
“It’s a marvelous miracle,” said Martha just now.
Certainly an all-time white-stone day in her 34 years on life.
Graham and especially Susan Nash could not have been nicer.
Susan had knitted a long scarf for Martha with New Zealand and ribbons and roses with lace from Florence and heart and soul. God, why? What a benediction!
We had arrived at the Gallery RG which was a close walk about 6:15. Susan recognized me before I her.
Graham’s photos were superb. “Self-Portrait: Two Minutes After 9/11,” his convex shocked, awed reflection in a shiny wastepaper basket was the stunner. “Crosby Alone” was another fine shot. He’s got the eye. Good portraits of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bob Dylan with Leon Russell, Bill Graham, Johnny Cash, and Stephen Stills abounded, too.
Susan pulled Graham aside. We had wisely not told Martha he would be there. He kissed her. Then he gave her the scarf Susan had made for her, finishing only this day.
“I like your booton (STOP BUSH button),” he told me.
GN: white-haired. Black suit. Diamond stud in his ear. He hugged Allan Clarke [Hollies co-founder and lead signer] when Alan’d come in.
Besides the scarf she had made, Susan gave Martha a goodie bag of a Buddha bust, soaps etc. from Barbados, and gifts she’d received on her Feb. 29 birthday. They also presented her with an oversize book of the photos from the show that Graham had autographed. He said, “I’ve been enjoying your pictures for years. Now here’s your chance to enjoy mine.”
As Jo said later, “They could not have been nicer.”
Martha beamed and said she would not wash the cheek that Graham had kissed. “It’s a miracle. It’s a marvelous miracle,” she said as we hugged and kissed Susan good-bye.
We’d both wondered, Jo and I, if this long & tedious & smelly bus trip would be worth it. It worked out to be far better than we had dared to hope. Yes!”
Thus ends the journal entry. We lingered in Manchester for another day, checking out the sumptuous Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood art collection in the city museum, visiting the hotel where Nash and Clarke had met the Everly Brothers after a show in 1957. Phil Everly had encouraged them to stick with their music and it all would work out.
Then we lunched at The Old Nag’s Head, another Hollies’ haunt recommended by Susan. Back in Canterbury by 10:20. Our daughter Megan, who now teaches art history at Illinois Central College, had arrived from Geneva for a research visit to London and was dozing. We woke her and told her all about it.
“The scarf will be a lasting treasure of a happy memory,” I wrote late that Friday night.