A Eulogy for My High School Friend

Richard Medugno
5 min readAug 7, 2023
Joe Mersch, in the middle, surrounded by friends from high school in 2016.
Joe Mersch is surrounded by friends from high school in 2016.

ALS Took Singer/Songwriter Joe Mersch, But He Left Us His Music

When a friend from high school passes away, it’s a shock to the psyche. “Oh, crap, someone my age is gone!” It’s difficult to process, but as with any loss, you accept it and move on while holding on to memories. Today, there’s a celebration of life for my classmate who succumbed to ALS last month at the age of 64. Sadly, I won’t be attending the event but another mutual friend will be and has agreed to read this eulogy on my behalf.

Joe Mersch and I met in 1974 when we were both sophomores in Advanced Drama class at Orange Glen High School. Joe was always very talented and whip-smart, but friendly too with a great sense of humor. Over the next three years, we acted in six or seven theatre productions, including Moliere’s The Miser, Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, and Lillian Hellman’s Another Part of the Forest.

Doing these classics was challenging and educational, but I think we and our classmates got the most joy out of creating our own art. Of course, Joe always had his guitar with him and we were fortunate to have such a gifted musician in our class to entertain us with songs, both popular ones as well as his originals.

Back in the day, Joe and I wrote a few songs together. I did the lyrics and Joe, of course, added the music and tweaked my lyrics to fit his composition. Our most popular tune is still the first one we wrote, titled “You’re A Mess.” Sadly, as Joe matured and got more sophisticated and successful in his music career, this song fell out of his “greatest hits” repertoire. I don’t understand why with great lyrics like “I hate your guts, there’s no ifs, ands, or buts.”

Also, Joe composed the music for the two original musical comedies that we wrote with our fellow classmates Dan Bennett and Tim Williams. Of course, we also starred in our own shows that were staged at OGHS: “Brighton Peabody” in 1976 and “Villiam Tell” in 1977 (which toured all the Escondido elementary schools that Spring). Both were “huge” hits (based on an Escondido high school scale of success). We were very fortunate to have Dennis Shive as our drama teacher, who not only encouraged us to create our own shows but produced them. (He may still owe us some royalties, but we…

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Richard Medugno

Richard is an author and scriptwriter. His latest book is Deaf Politician — The Gary Malkowski Story. His latest script is The Mulligan Marriage.