When I was fifteen I nearly lost my life. Remarkably, I also found my life. I was unhappy for many reasons, but chief among them was moving from Ventura, California to Santa Maria, approximately 100 miles north on the 101 Freeway. I had grown up in Ventura. All my friends were there. I was entering high school—in 1964 high school commenced at grade 10. My music teacher, Ruth Neuman, had recently passed away from a heart attack, another devastating blow. I was angry, confused, and cut adrift.
My parents allowed me to go to Ventura to visit my best friend, Dee Huffman. I had a few of those visits, all uneventful, before the night we went out clandestinely to drink. I don’t remember where we went, but I was fortunate that the police found us when they did. I had downed a considerable amount of Vermouth and had passed out. I remember being jostled awake and pulled up by my arms, scraping my bare feet on the rough pavement. I passed out again. The police took me to the hospital where I had my stomach pumped. I very easily could have died.
Dee, his dad Burdette, and his brother Gar were standing over me in a semi-circle when I came to in the middle of their living room. They laughed good naturedly to my singing songs and loudly cursing in a slurred voice about Santa Maria. I was fortunate to have them there. My parents came down the next day to pick me up and take me home.
I thought I was going to be in deep trouble. To my surprise and relief, they were worried more than angry. They presented me with an opportunity, seemingly out of left field. A call had come in from my friend’s mother asking my parents if I would be interested in auditioning for a band her son Jim was a part of. I said yes. That simple answer not only changed my life but in all likelihood saved it. I’ve been playing in bands ever since.
Rick Cantor asked me to share my story with all of you. His daughter, Avery Reine Cantor, died by suicide three years ago. I had met her and was in deep shock at the horrific news. We both cried many a tear. The loss of a child is unimaginable. Our biggest fear is losing them. The act of suicide compounds the grief and loss for those families left helpless in its wake.
Shortly after Avery’s death Rick came to a decision to bring attention to teen suicide and created A.R.C. Angels Foundation (AAF), which exists to save lives by preventing suicide through education and creating awareness. I support his cause and would like you to consider supporting it, as well.
I asked Rick about the goals of the Missouri-based foundation. Bringing the number teen suicides down in the state is a major goal, he said. Progress is being made. AAF is working with state legislatures to implement state-mandated training for school personnel, providing college scholarships for kids who show leadership in suicide awareness and prevention, working to set up peer-to-peer groups, and more. The connection to the community is vital to carrying out all of these goals. Please visit the AAF website for complete details:
In any organization it takes a lot of innovative and productive people to keep it vital, visible, and financially viable. I spoke to AFF Board Secretary Jeff Buckner, a prominent St. Louis businessman who founded Plancorp, a financial full service company. He also happens to be a major supporter of Little Feat, and a good friend to both Rick Cantor and me. I asked Jeff about his work on the AAF board.
Jeff’s contribution centers on what he does best, giving advice on how to provide and manage a work structure essential to carrying out a plan of action. To that end he organized a two-day retreat where the board members met to discuss a strategic plan. This was a successful beginning to what is an ongoing project. Jeff has also been working on expansion of the board, what he calls “board governance.” The idea is to bring in professionals from all walks of life to give strength to the foundation. These include people from the medical profession, for counseling—currently AFF has one such person available to the public—and, of course, those who are good at the heavy lifting: fund raising. These are bedrock practical matters. Jeff Buckner is the person any organization would be privileged to have on their team.
In our discussions Rick and I came upon two areas that are outside the above sentiments, but no less important or revelatory: synchronicity and serendipity. They came up in the context of me asking what he had experienced from the journey he’s taken on. He related a couple of situations:
The first was when he reached out to Paul Barrere asking about artwork for the foundation. Paul suggested he get in touch with Little Feat’s artwork designer Dick Bangham. Rick described his idea of a logo comprising Neon Park’s Sailin’ Shoe. He wanted to adorn it with wings. Dick said, “I have it already!” Rick was incredulous. “Really?” Dick told him that Richie Hayward had suggested that design years ago, but was never used. Its purpose was finally realized.
The second episode involved Rick and his cousin watching the 2015 Academy Awards show. He told me he never watches the show, but for some reason was compelled to tune in that evening. Dana Perry, was accepting an award for Best Documentary Short Subject, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1.“I want to dedicate this to my son, Evan Perry. We lost him to suicide. We should talk about suicide out loud.” Seeing that shook Rick; looking up to the ceiling he said, “Okay Avery, I hear you.”
He gave me a couple of more, but I’ll close on this one: Also in 2015, Rick received a call from a young man that summer who said he had attempted suicide but felt as if he was “being pulled out of it by a force of some kind.” That date happened to coincide with the first benefit concert for Avery’s Angels, May 23, 2017, at The Pageant in St. Louis with members of Little Feat, Craig Fuller, and others.
There is a second Benefit Concert for AAF on August 26, 2017, at The Pageant. The lineup consists of members of Little Feat, Craig and Patrick Fuller, Ron Holloway, and special guests Al Holliday and the Eastside Rhythm Band. I regret that I won’t be there, as I have a prior commitment with the Doobie Brothers. I will certainly be there in spirit. It will be a wonderful event for a heartfelt cause.
I thank Rick Cantor and Jeff Buckner for their time in allowing me to talk to them. I thank you for reading this and for your consideration to get involved. Good things happen when good people put their minds to a great cause. I can think of very few causes better than helping kids who will contribute to our collective future.