Around 2 am Feb. 24, my father, Ralph Bernard Reeves III, passed away peacefully at his home. The following week, several articles appeared online detailing his numerous accomplishments and vision that altered the lens through which Raleigh and the Triangle are viewed. One of my first calls was to Neal Robbins, publisher of the newspaper you are now reading. Without hesitation, and with genuine enthusiasm, Robbins basically insisted I write something for the North State Journal. Without Bernie, Neal told me, he would never be able to do what he does today.
My dad was a punk. A rebel in a blue blazer. Above anything, he was a man with an untamed passion to tell the world that Raleigh was not Mayberry. Nothing close. Bernie saw Raleigh and the triangle as a fertile crescent of thought, progress, art, music, business opportunity and culture. He surrounded himself with young writers and thinkers to create and power the first weekly in the southeast, Spectator Magazine. And later, the four-color monthly, Metro Magazine, which celebrated N.C. from the Triangle to the coast.
My wife and I were at Poole’s Diner in Raleigh on Sunday. With the idea of honoring my dad on Instagram, she snapped a picture of the “all are welcome” above the word, “Raleigh” in the colors of the rainbow that greet anyone coming into town by way of McDowell Street. What some might not know or want to believe is that while branded as “conservative”, Bernie was instrumental in creating the mosaic of Raleigh’s diverse culture today.
His opinions as Mr. Spectator, and later as “My Usual Charming Self” in Metro Magazine were anything but politically correct. Far from it. He fought hypocrisy and political correctness tooth and nail until the day he died. His defiance of conformity was evident in his ability to see first and foremost the talent, and light in his writers and the subjects they chose to cover.
Growing up under the tutelage of Bernie was never dull. As the son of a war bride from New Zealand and a tried and true anglophile, he found it necessary, crucial in fact, to teach his young boys the game of Cricket. Now, the prospect of learning the pastime of nations far from our own may appeal to some, but for me, negotiating wickets, arm balls, and return crease in full Cricket regalia for all to see was unforgettable. While Hayes Barton fathers and sons shot hoops and played catch, there was Bernie, cricket bat in hand, unsparingly cursing, teaching us the sport of our ancestors.
His influence on my tastes, sense of humor, knowledge of the world, literature, and history is immeasurable. I am consumed with passion for music because of Bernie Reeves. For my first concert, he took me to see Bob Dylan, which to him was an experience more important than learning my ABC’s. As a teenager, I wasn’t allowed to leave the house without a quiz and lecture on the history of the Cold War, communism or subjects related to the World War II.
The knowledge I gained simply by being his son has served me well and shaped the man I am today. The proudest moment of my life occurred when the editor and publisher, Bernie Reeves, read a piece I wrote for him as an employee at Metro. Never one to mince words, I nearly fell to the floor when he said that in 35 of years of editing music reviews, he’d never seen anything that well written. I knew he meant what he said. That moment gave me the confidence to keep writing for him and other outlets.
Everything I read last week, and what I heard again and again was that my father, taught everyone something. I can only strive to be half the man he was. And, I can only thank the stars for the gifts he left me.
Eccentric, passionate, curmudgeonly, brazen, brash, brilliant, controversial, magnetic, offensive, sweet, charming, my dad.
May the heavens watch out for Bernie Reeves.