Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A few items to think about

This week's Newton County News column is a collection of miscellaneous items, including the newly-found freedom of Granby's Martin Lindstedt, the deaths of former East Newton High School basketball coach Gabby Gibbons and Dick Ferguson of Carthage, and a mention of the upcoming benefit music program this Saturday night in Joplin. (It should be noted that portions of the Dick Ferguson segment come directly from my post earlier this week:

In one of the first columns I wrote for the Newton County News, I noted that it was about time that the judicial system got moving and brought Martin Lindstedt of Granby to trial.
Lindstedt has been locked up, awaiting trial on statutory sodomy charges since March 2005.
Newton County Circuit Court records indicate he was released on bond last week. Lindstedt, who has become well known for suing everyone in sight and running for almost any and every public office (unsuccessfully), does not appear to have mellowed during his incarceration.
He has already responded to an item on my blog about his release, using the same vile, racist comments that have been his trademark for years.
It appears some things never change.
On a sadder note, former East Newton basketball coach Norman “Gabby” Gibbons died Monday at age 81.
During his tenure at East Newton, Gibbons served as both boys and girls basketball coach. When I was a reporter for the Lamar Democrat in the 1980s, Gabby gave me one of the more memorable quotes I ever received from a coach.
Asked what was the biggest difference he noticed in coaching girls basketball after so many years as a boys coach, he thought about the question for several moments, then responded, “It smells better in the huddles.”
Another death this past week was of Richard “Dick” Ferguson, 88, of Carthage, who was stationed at Pearl Harbor on that “day that will live in infamy” Dec. 7, 1941.
Dick spent a great deal of time over the past few decades keeping the story of that attack alive through presentations at schools and civic clubs.
I was lucky enough to have him come to one of my writing classes during my first year teaching at Diamond Middle School.
Dick kept the students spellbound with his tales of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When it was time for questions, one girl seated in the back of the room, raised her hand, and said, "Mr. Ferguson, your stories are so interesting. Who won that war?"

Naturally, I was mortified both for the girl and for Dick, since it appeared that one of my students was not aware of the results of the sacrifices he and his fellow servicemen had made to keep America safe.

My horror grew as another student chipped in and said, "I'd like to know, too, Mr. Ferguson. Who won the war?"

Thankfully, most of the students seemed to know the U. S. and the Allies won World War II. The two students' reaction did not faze Dick in the slightest. He calmly and politely answered their questions.

When the final bell rang at 3 p.m., I walked Dick out to his car and apologized to him for the two students. He laughed it off and said, "Don't worry about it. That happens almost everywhere I go."

That was why it was so important for Dick Ferguson and others like him to make sure the memories of those days were kept alive.

A world without Dick Ferguson is hard to contemplate, but it seems fitting that he was called home just in time for Veterans Day.

One last item: Our band Natural Disaster will perform 6 p.m. Saturday at the South Middle School Auditorium, 310 W. 22nd, Joplin. We will do the first hour of a benefit music show to raise money for medical expenses for Joplin Columbia Elementary custodian Leroy Wilson, who is battling cancer. The program will also include three numbers from Diamond High School graduate Casey Welch, and an hour from the nationally known southern gospel group, The Victorymen. The cost is $5. I hope to see you there.

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