|Greg Lombardi Remembered|
Thank you all for being here with me and our families today.
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Gregory Pratt Lombardi was born, Gregory Pratt, in California in 1966 to his beloved mother Jackie Lombardi and his father Frank Pratt. Tragically, Greg’s father died of cancer in 1968, when Greg was just over a year old. She drew much support from her mother-in-law, Grame, and Grame always maintained a close and special relationship with her grandson.
When Greg was 5 years old, Jacqueline remarried to a caring man, Richard Lombardi. Richard loved Greg dearly, then and now, and took care of Greg as his son. Richard was the only father that Greg knew and he loved and respected him deeply. Greg and his mother Jackie had a strong and intimate bond. Greg often told me that his mother knew him so well, she knew what he was thinking or feeling before he did.
While the family lived in Huntington Beach, Ca., Jackie and Richard had a child together, Greg’s sister Angela. Although Greg and Angela are six years apart, they had a special and loving relationship and grew very close as they both got older. They loved to sit around the kitchen table, playing cards and joking. In fact, Greg’s whole family did this routinely, a tradition I married into and came to cherish.
Greg always looked back fondly on his childhood years, growing up in Huntington Beach. He and his neighbor and oldest friend, David, played together daily, running around in-between each other’s houses, causing lots of trouble! (Not much has changed in 30 years!) David remained one of Greg’s dearest friends and was the best man at our wedding.
Greg’s parents tell a story about Greg in 2nd grade – He was always chatting away, getting into mischief, and his teacher came to Jackie and Richard exasperated, wondering what to do with this boy! Greg’s parents said, “He’s just bored. Give him more work!” Problem solved. He was bored and as soon as he was challenged again, he thrived and succeeded. This is the way Greg was throughout his life. He needed challenge, change, adventure and spontaneity in his life to feel fulfilled and happy. This was sometimes hard on many of us who loved him, but it was also one of his absolute best qualities.
Greg and his family moved to Irvine, CA when Greg was 14. Greg wasn’t happy about this move. When the moving van finished packing and Greg’s parents were ready to leave, Greg was nowhere to be found! Knowing Greg well, his parents left Greg a note to call them when he returned to his empty house! He had gone to the beach, but of course he did call. And Greg later said that moving to Irvine was one of the best decisions his parents had made. Again, this gives you a sense of Greg’s approach to life!
Greg went to Mater Dei High School, graduating in 1985. While there, he succeeded in school and met many friends, including Ana, a life-long friend who was also in our wedding. Ana remained a treasured friend and confident to Greg over these many years. Although they weren’t family, Ana and her family loved and accepted Greg as if he were related, and he felt the same way.
Greg attended Tufts University in Massachusetts, where he studied Architecture History and International Relations. Much to Greg’s parents’ dismay, Greg decided he was going, by himself, to Tahiti, French Polynesia, over the Christmas holidays after his second year at University. This was one of his first big adventures in a long line of many. And he was woefully under-prepared! He told the story of being in Tahiti on New Year’s Eve, on a beach, in a leaking tent, in the pouring rain, with nothing but a can of beans to eat and no can-opener! He thought to himself, “What have I done?!” Nevertheless, Greg was glad he took that trip, and if he hadn’t taken it, he wouldn’t have been being “Greg.” And his parents knew that – that was why they accepted his decision to go.
In his third year at University, Greg went to Africa for the first time. He went to Kenya, on an academic program where he studied wildlife ecology on the Masaai Mara. Greg fell in love with Africa then and vowed to return. He did return in 1991, after his first year of law school, when he went to work in Durban, South Africa at an urban legal aid organization. He was challenged by that work, and loved it--it marked the beginning of his commitment to International and Humanitarian law.
It is at University where I met Greg, in 1988. We met at a party at my house. He began to show up at my work, make idle chatter, and then finally one day, he asked me to have lunch with him. That was how it began. Over time, Greg and I got to know and love each other. We were very different people, but Greg’s strengths complimented my weaknesses, and my strong points helped him to stretch himself. We were together for 6 years before we decided to get married in 1994. We were married almost 12 years.
Greg studied law at Georgetown University Law Center, graduating in 1993. He liked law school and made a few important and meaningful friendships while there. Greg’s focus in law school was Public Interest Law, which laid the academic ground for his later specialization in International Humanitarian Law at Columbia University in NYC (where he got his LLM). Despite his efforts, Greg wasn’t always able to find work in this area of law, but no matter what work Greg did, he committed to it completely and did it well. When we were in the San Francisco area for my graduate school, Greg was employed for several years in civil litigation, working for two different firms. During our seven or so years in the San Francisco Bay area, Greg and I made wonderful friends and colleagues, many of whom are here today.
In 1999, our life changed dramatically and permanently, for the better. We had our dear son Cole. Greg was a wonderful father. Greg and I always said that Cole was our greatest achievement in life. We had our differences on some matters, but we almost never disagreed about issues concerning Cole and we parented together so easily it seemed. Greg was so proud of his son! And they had so much fun together, playing soccer, wrestling, going on safari, reading stories, making train tracks, and playing games. Greg and I started playing games with Cole when he was as young as 2, because Greg thought it was important. And the three of us had continued to play games together, almost every night, since then. Now Cole and I will keep this nightly tradition alive for years to come.
Greg’s relationship with Cole was truly the most important thing in Greg’s life. He cherished Cole—anyone who knew Greg, knew that. No matter how much work Greg had to do, he made evenings with Cole and I his priority. I don’t know who started it, but Cole, his daddy, and I had a tradition when we tucked Cole into bed. Cole would say, “I love you a million, billion, trillion, gazillion PLUS infinity!” Over time, we kept adding on made-up prefixes like, “Octillion”, “Bazillion”, and even “Guinea pigillion.”
In 2000, Greg was inspired to pursue an opportunity to go to Tanzania and learn about the United National International Criminal Tribunal. In 2002, Greg went to Arusha, Tanzania to experience the Tribunal’s process first hand and he later applied for a job there. Greg was thrilled when, in 2003, he was hired at the ICTR. He had been reading and writing about the justice issues related to the Rwandan genocide, and about the Tribunal, for years, and now he had the opportunity to be a part of the process. I have never seen Greg so satisfied with his work before he began at the ICTR. Of course, there were frustrations, but Greg was dedicated to seeing the process through and at the end of the day, he was satisfied that he could feel proud of what he was working towards.
Greg and I and Cole made such strong and lasting friendships in Arusha. We often said that we were so glad we made the decision to move to Tanzania, if for no other reason, than because of the connections we made with others from all over the world. Greg’s death was a sudden and awful tragedy, and my grief seems bottomless, but he died in Africa, the place he’d talked about since the first day I met him.
So here we all are together to remember and celebrate Greg. I never thought I’d be writing Greg’s eulogy at this point in life. I know you all share my shock and sadness. Greg’s family and I have been so comforted by your sentiments and prayers over these last several days. In Close… “Greg, we love you a million, billion, gazillion, bazillion, guinea pig-illion plus infinity!”