The summer of 1978 was my last living in my hometown of McKees Rocks (a suburb of Pittsburgh). This particular weekend in early August was a fun one as my older brother was visiting from New Jersey. On Friday evening he, my sister Linda, her friend Ilene and I went to see a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show; the next day we saw Animal House, which had recently opened.
Then on Sunday afternoon (8/6) Darrell and I went on a long bike ride that took us all the way out to Pittsburgh's airport along winding & hilly roads as well as some risky time peddling on the shoulder of the Parkway West. All told, it was perhaps a 25-mile round trip. When we got back home we heard the news of Pope Paul VI's death. He was 80 and had been pope for 15 years.
Less than two months later I was back in school, my senior year at Penn State. As I was getting ready for my Friday morning classes (Bowling followed by Broadcast Communications 325) I heard a news report that the new pope, John Paul I, had died the night before (9/28) from a heart attack. He had been pope for just one month and was only 62 years old. I told the news to friends at breakfast and they thought I was joking.
10 years later I was dating a religion reporter for Time Magazine and he told me that it was widely rumored that John Paul (known as "the smiling pope") was a victim of foul play because 1) his liberal leanings clashed with those of the conservative Vatican hierarchy and 2) he was about to begin an investigation into financial misdeeds at the Vatican Bank. The book In God's Name: An Investigation Into the Murder of Pope John Paul I provides further insight into the matter.
By coincidence the day of John Paul's death was one day after the anniversary of the death of Pope Urban VII, the pope with the briefest papal reign - 13 days. And following John Paul's brief time on the papal throne John Paul II would have one of the longest reigns - nearly 27 years.