Coming up with a special gift for a special occasion isn't easy under any circumstances, and on a summer day in 1996, I was at a loss for a gift to commemorate one of those occasions for a dear friend.
I had hired Holly Sundy as a reporter for The Lamar Democrat in November 1987 when she was a sophomore at Lamar High School. From that point until I left The Democrat to work for The Carthage Press in April 1990, she did superior work. At first, it was just the typical stories that are assigned to high schoolers, education and sports, but it soon became apparent that Holly could handle anything that was thrown at her. She began writing her own column, Sundy on Saturday, which became one of the Democrat's most popular features and she eventually became the youngest sports editor in the state of Missouri, when she was only a high school senior.
After I left the Democrat, Holly graduated a month later from LHS and went on to Southwest Missouri State University. We kept in touch over the years and eventually Holly returned to the area as a student teacher at her alma mater.
She excelled at teaching, as well as at journalism, and she was hired as a full-time English and journalism teacher at Lamar High School beginning with the 1996-97 school year. And somehow, I had to come up with a gift that would commemorate the occasion.
That was where Nic Frising came in.
I had never had any dealings with the Joplin cartoonist, though I had seen and enjoyed samples of his work with the Webb City Sentinel and The Joplin Globe over the years. I called him and asked if he did cartoons for special occasions. It was a long shot, but I was pleasantly surprised when he told me he did.
After about a 10-minute conversation, I did exactly what he had told me to do. I mailed him a check, some photos I had of Holly and I jotted down a few things about her character and her personality.
A week later, I anxiously opened the manila folder that had arrived in the mail from Nic. I wasn't expecting miracles, but that was exactly what I had received. Nic had not only drawn a cartoon that looked like Holly Sundy...he had drawn a work of art that captured every facet of her personality and even her quirky smile exactly.
I called him and thanked him and he humbly accepted the thanks. Nic's miracles were the result of a good heart and a strong work ethic. Holly loved the gift. It was a story with a happy ending.
This morning, my thoughts returned to that day in 1996, after I read in The Globe that Nic Frising had died at the age of 62, after a bout with colon cancer.
I am sure there are hundreds of people who have similar stories about Nic...thousands and thousands of people that he reached with his distinctive artistic style. It's sad to know that no more new Nic Frising cartoons will be seen. Fortunately, he left a treasure trove of great work behind.