There are no words to adequately memorialize my cousin, brother, and lifelong friend Dan Lippitt (Danny to the family). No good ones, anyway. But I'll try:
So many people have reached out. So many have publicly expressed their anguish at hearing this awful news. The outpouring of emotion from his wider friend/family group only serves as testament to the dude's character and spirit.
Dan was singular. Unequaled in so many ways: talent, generosity, intelligence, humor. He had an endless faculty for brilliance. And though he was younger than me, he'd be surprised to hear me say that I always looked up to him. Because I knew (as you did too) that he was an exceptional human. His talent only rivaled by his boundless capacity for kindness.
I often marveled at the multitude of people who called him friend, and the impossible number who could share specific stories of the decisive influence Dan had on their lives — especially at the moment he was needed most. Ever notice that? That was Dan. He was the one you called when the moment came. Of course it was Dan. He was a gifted photographer, yes. But I'd wager many of you reading this would enthusiastically agree, he was an even more impactful friend. And for me, I was privileged to grow up and bond with him. We relied on each other. He was always in my corner. And vice versa.
I found it easy to understand why Dan was the most talented artist I've ever known. He saw things no one else saw. And he saw people. That was his superpower. Dan's images didn't just capture the moment. They captured how things felt.
I love to tell the story of how Dan and I drove to the Allegheny Mountains in winter for a photography trip with a snowstorm barreling down on us. Something only unmarried idiots would do. The National Park ranger incredulously stopped us at the gate to re-confirm, "Wait, you're not tent camping out here are you?" Dan poked his head out from the passenger seat and said,
We'll be ok. We're from Michigan!
Well, we weren't ok. The people who advertise sleeping bags shouldn't say they're warm at 10 degrees. But heck if we didn't travel those snow-covered country roads, farms, and bridges and take in the incredible beauty of those mountains. And when we finally thawed out to review the images we took, I couldn't help but be stunned at the contrast between our pictures. I saw things to shoot. Dan saw feelings to capture. And many of his images from that trip hang in my house to this day.
Through Dan, I met so many amazing people, some of whom are still among my closest friends. Somebody once said you judge the character of the person by the friends they keep. If that's true, then Dan had some serious next-level character going on because so many of you reading this are, yourselves, incredibly kind and talented.
So, it makes sense Dan would find you and call so many of you friends — even when many have moved on to new lives in new locations. That was one of Dan's defining characteristics. His friend network never slowed down. It grew, throughout his life.
He was always open to new people to do favors for, to mentor, to lend money, to console, to meet at a moment's notice. Sometimes to his personal detriment. Remind me to tell you the FULL story of the man he met downtown outside Tiger Stadium who asked Dan if he could get money to repair his tire on his car. I told Dan — specifically — this was a scam, but Dan not only gave the dude money but went with him to the house where the car was (allegedly) parked. I think Dan fully understood what was up. But I honestly believe he just wanted to see the guy get the money he clearly needed, regardless of the ruse. It was classic Dan.
I'll have more to say in the coming days and weeks. For those of you who knew us, you probably observed both mine and Dan's impressive aptitude for stubbornness. This is what led to some of the most vitriolic, outrageous, and prolonged arguments of my lifetime. And though I wasn't with him in the months leading up to his leaving us, I hope my words make their way to wherever he is now to express to him the love I will always have for him, and the unspeakable grief I feel at his passing. I speak for many when I say that the world has lost someone it needed, perhaps more than ever.
And I remain thankful to have had the special bond with him I did, and to call him my friend and brother.
RIP Danny. Until we meet again.