This is a post that has been in my head for a few weeks. It’s in honor of my friend Debra Kepner, who passed away before the end of 2020. Her memorial service took place a couple of weeks ago, and although I was not able to attend, I wanted to write a tribute to her, as she was truly one of the most inspirational and spiritual friends that I’ve ever had.
I met Deb in 2001 when we worked together at The Vanguard Group. We were cube mates working together in Recordkeeping Services. From the first time I met her, I knew right away that we would be good friends, as our first conversation was about music and football. Things only got better from there.
Deb was a fun and energetic person, and definitely made work a fun place to be. She was my backup for my clients, and I was her client backup as well. I remember coming back from vacations, and my clients being so thankful to have both of us as their contacts. Deb never missed attending a Vanguard Band/Choir concert, and she was INCREDIBLY supportive of my music career. I remember that she used to tease me and say “I can hear your musical spirit dying here at Vanguard!” as a way of keeping me focused on my true passion for playing and singing music.
If it’s possible, Deb loved her Philadelphia Eagles almost as much as I love my New York Giants (who she lovingly called “The Midgets”)….she pulled a good prank on me which I’ll always remember. I had a Giants mini-helmet on my desk, and one day it ended up missing. I went home from work that night a little peeved (ok, a LOT peeved) that someone would take my helmet. The next morning I came to work and there was a ransom note saying “Either you sing ‘Fly, Eagles Fly, or the helmet gets it!” written in Deb’s handwriting. I wrote “I’ll just buy another helmet instead of singing such a horrible song!” with a smiley face on the back of her note, and put it back on her desk. Needless to say, we both had a really good laugh about that!
I was also very honored to do a very special favor for Deb, as it was for something very serious. When her husband Bill passed away in 2007, she asked me to sing at his memorial service. Although I had never been a huge fan of the original version of “Free Bird”, I had recently watched the movie Duets, where Arnold McCuller is the dubbed voice for Andre Braugher’s character doing a beautiful a capella version of the song. This was how I performed the song that day, and Deb told me that to her, it was the most beautiful my voice had ever sounded. It’s during moments like this when you truly realize the genuine friendships you have in your life, and I was so glad to bring some joy to a day of such sorrow.
There are so many wonderful times I spent with Deb – when Michal and I were splitting up, Deb let me stay in her guest room a few nights when I needed some space, and she was a tremendous listener as I told her what was on my mind during that whole ordeal. Deb introduced me to the band Vuja De, with whom I had the chance to play some gigs in PA. Deb was very spiritual, and always found the beauty in things that we sometimes take for granted. I don’t doubt for one second that her spirit is still here…I think about Deb when I listen to music (especially Entrain and Rusted Root), as our tastes in music were similar. I can still hear her laugh and see that smile. Debra – THANK YOU for being such a wonderful human being, and for having such an incredible impact on all of our lives.
You’re as free as a bird now…..fly, eagle fly.