Tribute to Gerard Van der Leun

Gerard Van der Leun passed away on January 27, 2023, from an aggressive cancer, in Chico, CA. I never had the pleasure, nor honor, of meeting Gerard in person, unfortunately, but like many other of the readers of his blog, American Digest, I too felt close to him simply due to the craftsmanship of his words, which were as admirably presented as the carpentry work of The Essential Craftsman whom Gerard admired.

I do not recall the exact time I began reading Gerard’s “American Digest,” but it was early on, and from the get-go his blog made it into my favorites bar, as did his more offbeat and eclectic site KA-CHING! Both were essential stops on my daily tours of the interwebs. Gerard’s posts were varied, at times provocative, often humorous, and occasionally revealing of himself and events in his life.

I also cannot recall when I first posted a comment at Gerard’s site, nor the first time I emailed him directly. Often, Gerard would not respond to comments, mine or other individuals, nor to my emails, but when he did, or posted an item I had pointed him to, it was akin to receiving something rather special, almost a sharing of like minds in appreciation of something wonderful or profound.

One comment I recall posting was in response to a more religious leaning post of Gerard’s which touched on a portion of “The Lord’s Prayer.” In my comment to that post, I mentioned that I attempted to start each day, prior to my feet hitting the floor, by reciting Psalm 118:24 and praying “The Lord’s Prayer.” I don’t know if my mentioning this in that comment inspired Gerard to post Psalm 118:24 on the “American Digest’s” sidebar, at the top of the many sidebar links at Gerard’s site, but I like to think so.

One of my last email exchanges with Gerard was in response to a package I had snail mailed him with cash monies for a subscription to his new website¬†The New American Digest back in September 2022. In addition to the cash in that package, I sent Gerard a few items for his personal enjoyment, a pint of fine bourbon and proper bourbon glass, three fine cigars, and a gourmet chocolate bar. I know he had an opportunity to enjoy a bit of that bourbon, and possibly one of the cigars. In Gerard’s email to me upon receipt of that package, he called me a “Magnificent Bastard,” reminisced about smoking cheroots dipped in madeira back in the day, and almost presciently made reference to the fact that at this point in his life, post heart attack, it really wouldn’t hurt to enjoy a cigar on a rare occasion. In my response, I agreed wholeheartedly, and said that would be true, especially if he did not inhale.

When Gerard went into the hospital, late in December 2022, initially most of us his readers thought it was related to having COVID, but as time went on, and after basically a one- or two-day stent back at home, back into the hospital he went, never to return to his wordsmithing, or the tending of his cat Olive. It was after Gerard’s return to the hospital in Chico, CA that I had my one and only phone conversation with Gerard, and it was very brief, and in response to another reader’s comment/question as to whether Gerard was indeed at this particular hospital and whether he would like to receive e-cards through the hospital’s e-card system. The answer to both of those questions was yes, Gerard was in that particular hospital, and yes, he wouldn’t mind if his readers sent e-cards to him. My hope is that Gerard was inundated with e-cards!

Though Gerard is no longer with us physically, he will remain with us through his wordsmithing at “American Digest,” as those many years of posts and thoughts he shared gave each and every one who frequented his pages a little bit of himself. I know I will cherish that experience and Gerard’s life.

Comments |9|

    • Thanks, Ghostsniper, and thanks for doing that huge download of his wordsmithing. I happen to consider it a treasure.

  • This is a nice piece–Gerard would be pleased. I have tried to contact you by the information you have on your site, but I cannot make it work. Please use my email to connect with me. (The subject is fly fishing)

  • Well said, John. Glad you have your blog running. I stop by often to see if you have something new. Gerard had a huge presence, but it was the commenters, and his relation with us that made AD feel like home.


    • Glad you stopped by, John, and thank you. Gerard did have a huge presence, not only on the web, but as Neo has mentioned, when in a room with others. How wonderful it is that we could bask in it.

  • John-Got here from Gerard’s place and as a fellow fly-fisherman, I can’t wait to take a look around. Thank you for your generosity toward Gerard and your contributions to AD. Tight lines!

    • David, glad you stopped by. Just back from trout camp now. Stepped into the Holy Waters of the AuSable on Wednesday. Did not land any trout, but what a day for a wade! 44 degrees, full sun, and not a soul in sight up or downstream.

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