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Why I cried when Nimoy died

March 16, 2015

I was sitting at my desk working on my computer when I heard the news of Leonard Nimoy’s death – and I immediately started sobbing.

Leonard Nimoy

I ran to my bathroom, buried my face in a towel, and for a few moments I cried so hard I started hiccuping.  I haven’t cried that hard since my dad died two years ago.

Star Trek was important to my dad. He called himself a ‘Trekkie’ and thought Mr. Spock was the “moral conscience of the Universe” – after all, Dad was a college philosophy professor and was cognizant of consciences 🙂 He used Star Trek quotes in his books. I remember one year giving him the NCC-1701 starship model for Christmas.

Star Trek was important to me because while Dad watched Star Trek on Friday nights, he let me drive his new white Camaro out and about, just what any 16 year old girl needs to do! It is a miracle that both the car and I survived intact.

The Camaro is long gone and I am writing from a distance of decades. I miss my dad. That is why I cried when Leonard Nimoy died.

But then I received a totally unexpected gift.

Last week I spent several days visiting my lovely 80-year old stepmother Barbara who lives a two-hour plane trip from me.

Barby smiling

As do most people her age, she has stashes of memorabilia and memories stored in boxes (and boxes) and dressers and drawers. Every time I visit, I love seeing what treasures we can unearth – and this time we found 24-carat gold.

I opened up a box and saw a file folder labeled ‘Nimoy.’ “What is this?” I asked my stepmother. She took a look.

Barby looking at Nimoy pictures

“Oh, those are pictures taken when Leonard was a guest at your dad’s Theater of Ideas class in the mid-seventies.”

My father taught a popular class at Santa Ana College called Theater of Ideas. He invited scholars, authors, and actors to spend an evening sharing their creativity, their visions, and their passions with students – author Ray Bradbury and actor Burgess Meredith made appearances, as well as the actor Monte Markham, to name a few.

I opened up the folder and there was the gold – ten photographs documenting the evening. Nimoy chatting with my father.

James L. Christian and Leonard Nimoy chatting in the mid-seventies.

James L. Christian and Leonard Nimoy chatting in the mid-seventies.

Students lining up to talk with Nimoy; the three on the left sporting their fashionable Star Trek shirts. The school photographer with his state-of-the-seventies camera.

Students wearing Star Trek shirts

My eyes watered. Another part of my dad’s life unearthed.

“Leonard flew to Orange (California) in his private plane, and we picked him up at the airport,” Barbara remembered. “It was a really big deal because we were all Star Trek fans and this was so exciting.”

Nimoy speaking cropped

Leonard Nimoy speaking at Santa Ana College. Notice those bell bottoms!

“He was a delightful man, very smart, and talked about Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry, although as I remember he was trying to get away from being Mr. Spock. A student asked him to give the Vulcan hand sign, and he didn’t do it.  He was a scholar and loved the theater,” Barbara recalled.

Nimoy with students 1970s

“The students loved it. We all did.”

As we all know, later in his life Nimoy embraced Mr. Spock and the Vulcan hand sign and mantra – Live Long and Prosper.



The other piece of gold in the box was a 1976 copy of the The Humanist, a literary magazine whose May/June issue featured a review of the book of essays my dad had compiled and edited called Extraterrestrial Intelligence, The First Encounter.

Humanist magazine 1976

Humanist magazine 1976

On the front are a few of the contributors to my dad’s book – including Leonard Nimoy. “Leonard was not sure he was a writer,” Barbara said, “But your dad was very persuasive and helped him write a great piece.” Nimoy’s essay in the book was called ‘Conversations with Mr. Spock.’

Barbara and I couldn’t figure out what came first – the essay or the appearance at Theater of Ideas, but she does remember that Ray Bradbury, who was already a supporter of the class, was instrumental in connecting my dad and Mr. Nimoy. “Ray and Leonard were good friends, and somehow that connection was made,” she said.

I can’t wait for my next visit to discover more treasures from her life with my dad that Barbara has stashed. I am so blessed she saves it all!

  1. shannon388 permalink

    Great job capturing those moments Cathy – so long ago but so deeply internalized for me as well. I didn’t cry over Nimoy as much as I admired him. It was Bradbury’s death that unhinged me.

    • Thanks for your nice words. Shannon, it is so interesting to discover how past moments can come back.

  2. What a great story! Visiting and sharing our memories is ALMOST as good as reliving them!

  3. Nicely written… Love the story.

  4. Just read this and I love this Cathy! What a wonderful story, and thank you for sharing this and the delightful pictures! (Great surprise!) I loved and miss Nimoy too, yet after 40 years of just adoring him, I actually didn’t cry when he passed; probably because when his COPD was disclosed a year earlier, I had just expected it sooner or later. But he was such an incredible, magic person. Weren’t we lucky to have him? 🙂 You can read my tribute to Leonard here:

    May I please use your photos of Leonard on my Star Trek blog?

    • Love that picture of you and Nimoy, Therese, and you wrote a lovely tribute. You are welcome to use the pictures with credit (just a link would do, too). Thank you so very much for asking. That is quite honorable of you!

      • Thank you Cathy, and if you should get the close ups scanned (the ones your lovely Aunt is holding in the picture) I’d love to use them all in a future”My Weekly Spock” post. There’s always room for sexy 70’s Nimoy! ❤ Will credit you with pleasure!

      • Great idea, I will see to that, Therese and send them to you.

      • Thank You!

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