My dad’s cousin Gary Marietta passed away this morning. He was 54 years old and the victim of a heart attack. His mother, my 92-year-old great aunt Charlotte, took him to the hospital around midnight last night and around 3 a.m. he died. Gary was a unique and important part of the extended Douthat clan. Gary was the only child of Jimmy and Charlotte Marietta. He was born in 1949 with mild brain damage that prevented him from being able to enter the working world, but that did not keep him from being a highly intelligent and engaging conversationalist. He could talk your ears off about his favorite restaurants, grocery stores, and actors. At family gatherings, it was always fun to watch him corner the latest addition to the family and see how long the newbie could hold up their end of the conversation. He could remember the name of every restaurant he’d ever been to as well as the dates he went there. Despite never holding a job, Gary wasn’t without his avocations. He liked to cut and style people’s hair. He was never very well groomed himself, but seemed to have a number of acquaintances for whom he would do their hair. Gary also liked to play the piano and organ at various churches around town. When I was about 10, Gary taught me how to write to movie stars to get signed photographs. One wall of his room at the time was lined with stacks of manila envelopes from agents and studios with signed photos of the famous actors of the time. If an actor had a speaking role in a movie that he’d seen, Gary would send off for an autograph. I didn’t have quite the passion for it that Gary did and I stopped after getting a Farrah Fawcett and a Bill Bixby (this was the era of Charlie’s Angels and the Incredible Hulk). Aunt Charlotte has worried for years who would take care of Gary after she was gone, but now I worry for Aunt Charlotte now that Gary is gone. The next Douthat reunion will be somewhat somber without Gary, and the Marietta home will likewise be somber for a while as well.