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An accurate, honest assessment: ‘What a nice guy’

Last week was a tough week for Hoosiers and for me, in particular. It started out with sad news that my friend and our governor, Frank O’Bannon, had collapsed in Chicago. As the day drew on, we learned that the governor had suffered a massive stroke.
Some of the emotions I thought I had stored away from earlier this year when my dad was similarly stricken resurrected themselves.
I first met Frank and Judy O’Bannon 20 years ago. Shortly after I had purchased The Crothersville Times, newspaper colleagues told me I should join the IDEA (Indiana Democratic Editorial Association). The contacts I would make would help me professionally, I was told.
I knew Frank O’Bannon owned a newspaper in Corydon and was a state senator. Being naive and greener than grass before it is cut the first time in the spring, I telephoned Frank about how to join IDEA.
He told me that the organization’s spring meeting in Indianapolis was coming up in a couple of Saturdays. He made arrangements to pick me up in Seymour so I could ride up with him and Judy.
As I hung up the phone, I thought, ‘What a nice guy.’ Over the years, I have found that to be the most accurate, honest assessment of the state’s First Couple.
After rendezvousing, the O’Bannons wanted to tour the nearby Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, which at the time had only recently opened. Familiar with the area I was happy to share with them what I knew of the old farms and roadways now a part of the refuge. I was impressed with their appreciation of nature.
I have always been impressed by their genuineness and willingness to help a youthful newspaperman from a one-stoplight town.
Over the years, I have made some wonderful friendships as a result of my involvement with IDEA. I have found that members of the organization are of one accord in their admiration and respect for the O’Bannons.
Many of we small-town community journalists were vexed that such a genuinely decent public servant had to govern during a time of declining economy, the fallout of the 9/11 attacks, and the property reassessment delays. But the governor seemed to take it all in stride much like a parent or grandparent knowledgeable from the years of experience and firm in his faith that better days lie ahead.
Frank O’Bannon is always upbeat, optimistic, and pointing to the silver lining in the dark clouds we newspapers always seemed to write about.
And he always talks in terms of we, us, community, and working together.
Several years ago my dad sold the O’Bannons some of the leftover antique pressed tin ceiling from the family funeral home. (It’s the same ceiling I have in the newspaper office.)
They used it in their bathrooms at their rebuilt log home in Corydon.
They would always comment on their antique ceiling whenever we would meet.
Earlier this year, when my dad succumbed to a stroke, one of the first letters of condolence I received came from Frank O’Bannon. In spite of all the tribulations of state, he took the time to try to lift my family’s spirits. A few weeks later, when the floral tributes had begun to fade and we were trying to return some semblance of a routine, Judy penned a lovely note to let us know that she was keeping us in her thoughts.
These are the kind, compassionate, genuinely decent people we should all aspire to be. Our community, our state, the nation would be much better for it.
May God bless and cradle my friend in the palm of His hand and continue to provide comfort, strength and courage for his family through this emotionally trying time.