Archive for October, 2022

It was a shock to learn last Thursday night that two outstanding Kansas Citians, lawyers Paul E. Vardeman and W.H. “Bert” Bates had died.

Then, this morning, news came that former Mayor Charles B. Wheeler, who served on the 29th floor of City Hall from 1971 to 1979, had died.

I knew all three men from my years at The Star.

You can read Vardeman’s obituary here. I have not seen obituaries for either Bates or Wheeler.

They all had long lives. Wheeler and Bates made it to 96, and Vardeman to 92.

…I’d like to tell you some of the things I remember about each man.


I got to know Wheeler about the time he was elected mayor in 1971. I was just getting my start as a political reporter, and I had been assigned to cover the Jackson County Courthouse several months after George W. Lehr defeated Wheeler for presiding judge of the Jackson County administrative court in August 1970.

Wheeler told me later that on the night he lost to Lehr, he got on an elevator wherever the “victory” party was being held, and a Channel 4 reporter named Don Keough got on the elevator with him. Keough put a microphone in Wheeler’s face and said, “Now that this is over, are you planning to run for mayor next year?”

Wheeler said he had never given a thought to running for mayor, but at Keough’s mere suggestion he made an instantaneous decision. “Yes,” he said. “I’m going to run.”

Six months or so later he defeated the “silk-stocking” candidate, Dutton Brookfield, even though Brookfield had The Star’s endorsement and that of the Citizens Association, then the main political group in city politics. The endorsements weren’t enough to overcome Wheeler’s inherent popularity, due mainly to his openness, sense of humor and penchant for big ideas.

Wheeler and his wife Marjorie liked to play golf at Swope Memorial Golf Course (then known as Swope No. 1), and I was fortunate enough to play with them a few times.

What I remember most about the Wheelers, though — and not a lot of people knew this — was that they lost one son to suicide and another in a plane crash in Colorado. A third son, Graham, died at age 63 two years ago. Marjorie was housebound with a heart condition for many years before dying in 2019.

It was not an easy life for Charlie and Marjorie, but Charlie never let any of kind of setback get him down very long. He was a brilliant man, and that brain was always working…He is survived by two daughters, Marion of Kansas City, and Nina Wheeler Yoakum of Orlando, FL.


My first “beat” at The Star was the Jackson County Courthouse, which I covered from 1971 to 1978. Vardeman was one of the judges I got to know early on. He was one of the very best judges — maybe the best — at the time. He was also gregarious. He and another judge, the late Tim O’Leary would frequently drop by the press room on the fourth floor mezzanine to chat. Both called me “Scoop.”

I remember that Vardeman used to drive a yellow Karmann Ghia — pretty sporty for a judge, I thought. I also remember that one time when we were talking about my journalistic career, he said something like, “Scoop, you ought to be willing to go anywhere that a good opportunity takes you.” Already, though, Kansas City was setting its hooks into me, and the prospect of leaving didn’t agree with me.

Unlike a lot of judges, Vardeman didn’t consider the bench the capstone of his career. After serving for 18 years, he joined the Polsinelli law firm in 1982 and stayed with the firm until he retired in 1997. I don’t recall ever seeing him after I left the courthouse.


I didn’t know Bert very well, but I will never forget the time our paths crossed. Once in the 1980s, when I was covering City Hall, I discovered that the City Council Finance Committee had held a secret meeting at a Plaza restaurant to work on the upcoming city budget. It was — and is — a violation of the Missouri Open Meetings Law for a quorum of any legislative body to meet without posting public notice.

The afternoon that I learned about the meeting, I raced back to 1729 Grand and went straight to the office of publisher Jim Hale.

“Jim,” I said, “the City Council Finance Committee held a secret meeting at Fedora’s last week, and I think we ought to sue.”

Hale, who loved an adventure and was something of a vicarious reporter, said, “Yes, I agree…We’ll sue them!”

The firm of Lathrop & Gage represented The Star, and Bert was the managing partner. The two Lathrop lawyers who worked on the case (it was civil, not criminal) were Tim McNamara and Jon Haden, who were First Amendment experts.

When the case went to trial in Jackson County Circuit Court, I testified, and Judge Forest “Frosty” Hanna quickly found the meeting participants — Bob Lewellen, Katheryn Shields and Joanne Collins — guilty. He fined Lewellen, the committee chairman, $100 and Shields and Collins $50.

A week or so later, Bert took us out to lunch at the River Club to celebrate the victory. Everyone involved in the case, with the exception of Hale, who didn’t particularly like parties, attended.

I remember opening the luncheon by offering a toast to the legal team at Lathrop & Gage for “not only winning but obliterating the opposition.”

It was a sweet day, and Bert picked up the check. Of course, Hale had paid the legal bill, which, even back then, was probably a few thousand dollars.

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Let’s have three cheers for a new voting provision in Missouri that has cried out for years to be implemented: Starting today, residents can vote absentee without any excuse, such as incapacitation or being out of the city on Election Day.

Many times I have gone down to the Election Board at Union Station and lied in order to vote absentee, motivated largely by simply wanting to avoid the long lines on general election days.

Now, I will be able to go down and vote with an entirely clear conscience.

I urge you readers to do the same — any time between today and Monday, Nov. 7 — because this is a long and complicated ballot, and there will be long lines at some times during the day on Tuesday, Nov. 8.


Now that we’ve indulged in those three cheers — that made me hoarse — let’s move on to the ballot itself.

Before every election, two or three people call and ask me for my voting recommendations. While I certainly am not a font of political and election knowledge, I probably know more than the average Kansas Citian, simply because I’m a news and political junkie.

So, this year I’m going to make my recommendations here.

Disclaimer: I’m only making recommendations on races and issue that I know something about or that I consider more important than some of the others.

:: For U.S. Senator, Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine over Republican Eric Schmitt

:: For state auditor, Democrat Alan Green over Republican Scott Fitzpatrick

:: For U.S. Representative, Democrat Emanuel Cleaver II over Republican Jacob Turk

:: For state senator in the 8th District, Democrat Antoine D. Jennings over Republican Mike Cierpiot

:: For Jackson County Executive, Democrat Frank White over Republican Theresa Cass Galvin

:: For 3rd District at-large County Legislator, Democrat Megan Marshall over Republican Lance Dillenschneider

:: Retention on judges, “YES” on all

:: Constitutional Amendment 1: This would broaden the list of options for the state treasurer to invest funds in higher-interest-bearing securities. Currently the constitution limits the treasurer to investments in federal or agency bonds. “YES”

:: Amendment 3: This would legalize recreational marijuana — good — but it contains provisions that would give an unfair advantage to existing medical-marijuana commercial entities. The political “fix” was in on the approval of medical-marijuana licenses, and it would be the same here. This is almost guaranteed to pass…and guaranteed to be implemented unfairly. “NO”

:: Amendment 4: This largely Republican-backed measure, aimed specifically at the Kansas City Police Department, would increase the percentage of general-fund money the city would be required to spend on the police department. Even though it applies only to KCMO, it will be voted on statewide because the police department is run by a state-appointed board of commissioners. Many voters will not understand it, and many will vote for it because, on its face, it sounds reasonable. It’s not. “NO”

:: Amendment 5: This would create a state Department of the National Guard. Currently, the National Guard is under the wing of the Department of Public Safety. In recommending against this amendment, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the military “does not need a seat at the table of civilian government” and that the measure “seems like a quick way to politicize a position that must remain apart from politics.” “NO”

:: Also on the ballot is an unnumbered question asking if there should be a “Constitutional Convention.” By law, this question must appear on the ballot every 20 years, and that is the only reason it’s on the ballot now…The Post-Dispatch said a constitutional convention “would have a tendency to attract wackos and weirdos at a time when the state already has a bumper crop of them.” Enough said. “NO”

:: Jackson County Question 1: This would renew a quarter-cent sales tax for the Community Children’s Services Fund. “YES”

:: KCMO Question 1: This would authorize issuance of $125 million in general obligation bonds, consisting of $45 million for convention facilities and $80 million for Parks Department facilities and services. “YES”

:: KCMO Question 2: This would authorize the issuance of $50 million to provide affordable housing. “YES”

:: KCMO Question 3: This would remove about 12 acres from the parks system to make way for realignment of Tiffany Springs Parkway in the Northland. “YES”


For detailed information on the issues and candidates in your area, you can go to the League of Women Voters website and enter your address.

In KCMO, you can vote absentee at Union Station, 30 W. Pershing Road, lower level, Suite 610, between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, from today until Monday, Nov. 7.

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It would be nice to think that Donna Lake, chief of the Kansas City Fire Department since 2019, actually ran the department, wouldn’t it?

You know, like generals being in charge of armies and c.e.o.s running companies, you’d think the top person at the fire department would actually be in charge.

Well, as many of you well-informed readers know, the chief has some say in how the department is run, but the actual power — the people who call the shots — are the leaders of Local 42 of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

There’s no better example of the department’s upside-down management than the case of “Fire Apparatus Operator” Dominic Biscari, who killed three people last December after careening into the intersection of Broadway and Westport Road while on a fire run that had been called off.

Yes, called off. Canceled. Finished. At least it should have been finished, and Biscari’s foot should have been on the brake instead of the accelerator.

The fire dispatcher had instructed the responders to “stand down” about a minute before the crash — — a very long time in the world of emergency response — because the fire was under control.

But Cowboy Dominic was in no mood to slow down. He was at the wheel of 40,000-pound Pumper 19, speeding unnecessarily and driving recklessly, just as he had done in other, previous incidents.

In one such case, three months earlier, an EMT reported that Biscari, while driving an ambulance — the fire department runs the ambulance service — had accelerated to 70 mph on Broadway while transporting a critically ill patient. The complainant said Biscari was driving so fast and taking turns so hard that EMTs fell off their bench seat in the back.

The complainant also reported two other occasions when Biscari was speeding unnecessarily and driving recklessly.

The complaining EMT wrote: “I went home in physical and mental pain because of my shift yesterday. I will not be getting into another ambulance with [Biscari] ever again. Please something needs to be done. Not only for the safety of other personnel and other citizens but he is tearing up a brand new ambulance.”

And yet, on the night of Dec. 15, Biscari was once again at the wheel — this time of a fire engine — foot depressed on the accelerator, despite the order to “stand down.”

His giant, northbound rig collided full speed with an SUV driven by Jennifer San Nicolas, 41, and carrying a 25-year-old passenger named Michael Elwood. (San Nicolas and Elwood worked at the restaurant Ragazza, a few blocks to the east on Main Street.)


As the fire engine propelled the SUV onto the sidewalk, a woman named Tami Knight, also 41, was about to enter her vehicle on the northwest corner of Broadway and Westport.

The fire engine propelled the SUV and the three victims into the front of a brick building.


San Nicolas and Elwood were killed outright, and Knight was buried in a wall of bricks. She was in the rubble for 10 hours before being discovered by rescue workers who pulled out her out, dead.


Now, if Donna Lake was in charge of the fire department, she — or maybe a deputy chief — would have tried to demote or reassign Biscari to a non-driving position. He obviously had no business driving any kind of emergency vehicle. His record clearly announced that fact.

But rank and status in the fire department are sacrosanct. The fire union has made it that way by chipping away — quietly and relentlessly — year after year, City Council after City Council, at management’s power. City administrators go along because their bosses, the City Council members, don’t want to take on the union for one simple reason: the union is the largest and most powerful voting bloc in town.


If a candidate has the fire fighters’ endorsement, he or she has a big leg up over an opponent running without Local 42 support.

And woe betide any Council candidate who gets elected with union support and later has the gall to go against some concession the union wants. Such members will quickly get an “X” marked on their backs, and the union will do all in its power to take them out at the next election.

Fire chiefs traditionally play the same go-along-get-along game with the union; they enjoy their lofty titles but don’t do anything to upset the practical balance of power.

Consequently, a rogue fire apparatus operator was still at the wheel the night of Dec. 15, keeping his foot pressed on the accelerator for 60 long seconds after being told to “stand down.”


The result of this is that a retired judge who is overseeing a civil suit against Biscari has determined that the victims’ relatives deserve to be paid $32 million by Biscari. That news came out yesterday.

The arbitration award is awaiting approval by a Jackson County Circuit Court judge, but as a practical matter, the chances of the families getting any substantial amount from a “fire apparatus operator” are remote. And whatever they end up getting, if anything, will not have to be paid by the city but by Biscari.

The city’s and the fire department’s day of reckoning is coming, however. The families have also filed suit against both entities, and one day a year or so from now we’ll be reading about a multi-million-dollar payout by the city.

On the criminal front, the Jackson County prosecutor’s office has been evaluating the case for months but has not filed charges so far.

…Will any of this change the Local 42/City Council dynamic? No, not at all. The lives of Jennifer San Nicolas, Michael Elwood and Tami Knight will soon be forgotten by everyone but their friends and families. But for incumbent City Council members and candidates who want on the Council, there will be campaigns to be run and endorsements needed.

Now and for a long time to come, no endorsement is or will be more pivotal in city politics than that of Local 42 of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

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I don’t spend a lot of time reading The Kansas City Star these days — the website features far too many entertainment, restaurant and Chiefs’ related posts for my tastes — but I have a feeling some changes could be coming to the paper.

I heard recently that longtime president and editor Mike Fannin is on leave…again. He took a leave of absence shortly after he was arrested in Olathe in June on suspicion of DUI, and now, I understand, he’s taken another leave.

While I’m not 100 percent sure of that report, I got it from a very good source and got enough confirmation that I’m fairly confident in it.

Two people told me that Managing Editor Greg Farmer is running the show from The Star’s new, rented headquarters in the 2500 block of Grand Blvd.

I have no idea what this leave — if, in fact, Fannin is on one — is about, but it doesn’t bode well for the leader of any organization to take two leaves within several months.

I don’t wish Fannin, who is 56, any ill will, but he’s been a lightning rod for a long time. His biggest problems, in my opinion, are 1) that he has downgraded coverage of local and state government at the expense of focusing on winning prizes (particularly the Pulitzer Prize), and 2) his policy of minimal community engagement has continued to push the paper away from the readers.

Subscribers have always taken a proprietary interest in their local papers, but in these days of corporate journalism, with hedge funds owning a significant portion of local papers, the newspaper-community bond has eroded significantly, not just here but in many metro areas.

Editors have the power to limit that erosion, however, by their coverage decisions and by doing all they can to engage the public with the paper. That can be done in a number of ways, including…

  • Inviting members of the public to meetings where editorial decisions are made
  • Sponsoring public forums where candidates and topical issues (for example, should there be a downtown baseball stadium?) are discussed
  • Soliciting guest commentaries on a regular basis
  • Featuring letters to the editor prominently
  • Loading the website with meaningful, informative stories instead of frothy items designed to get “clicks.”


Fannin has worked at the Star since 1997 — 25 years — and he’s been the editor since 2008. That’s a good long run. In May of this year, he achieved his longtime goal of The Star winning a Pulitzer Prize on his watch, when former editorial-page writer Melinda Henneberger won for her editorial campaign against former Kansas City, Kansas, detective Roger Golubski. Almost certainly because of Henneberger’s many columns, Golubski was indicted last month on charges that he violated the civil rights of two women by raping, sexual assaulting and kidnapping them.

Having achieved that goal and having held the top job nearly 15 years at KC’s still-largest news operation, maybe Fannin is now looking ahead at his post-KC Star days.

…Greg Farmer, who’s also been at the paper since 1997 and has been managing editor (the No. 2 post) since 2016, would be an excellent choice to be the next editor. He’s about 50, making him about six years younger than Fannin; he was highly regardeded by almost all staff members when I was at the paper; he is reasonable; and he has a calm and even personality.

Greg Farmer

The first orders of business for whomever succeeds Fannin should be to reassert local and state government news as top priorities and to get more “news” on the website. (That might be difficult, with hedge-fund ownership’s demands for clicks, but it should at least be the goal of the local editor.)

I have no idea if there will be a change at the top, but if there is, and if Farmer moved up, I think The Star could start regaining some of the ground and some of the good will it has lost over the last 15 or so years.

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A new and hopefully grand chapter is unfolding in the saga of the finest home in Kansas City,

That would be the Louis Curtiss-designed house at the northwest corner of 55th and Ward Parkway.

Curtiss, once called the Frank Lloyd Wright of Kansas City, was Kansas City’s most famous architect. His local work also includes the Boley Building at 12th and Walnut and the Folly Theatre, which he designed along with Frederick Gunn.

The home at 55th and Ward Parkway is considered to be one of the best examples of Prairie Style architecture in the Midwest. It features beautiful and extremely expensive leaded-glass windows, antique exterior light fixtures and an unusual, L-shaped footprint. Other singular features are its reinforced-concrete foundation and gray limestone exterior walls, with a medium-rough, or “shot-sawed” finish.

I’ve written about this house two or three times, once out of absolute horror and rage because one former resident, Keith Tucker, a former Waddell & Reed C.E.O., erected a veritable wall of tall shrubs on the east and south sides of the house, concealing it from passers-by on Ward Parkway and 55th Street.

Tucker, who died last February, had plenty to hide. He was a tax cheat, but in the end he had to pay. My theory was the enshrouding of his house was in keeping with his secretive, slimy ways.


The owner before him was a Jackson County Circuit Court judge named Michael Coburn, who tragically died in December 1994 after falling into an unsecured elevator shaft at an abandoned building that he was inspecting as part of a court case. His widow Linda sold the house to Tucker and his wife in 1998.

At this stage, I should show you a couple of photos. The first one shows what the house looked like in the early years, after it was completed in 1913. The other shows the house walled by shrubs.

To show you the arc of the value of this house, I believe Judge Coburn and his wife bought the house in the 1970s for about $150,000. The Tuckers paid $1.65 million for it in 1998. I believe Ann Dickinson, former chairwoman of a holding company that formerly owned Bank Midwest, bought it for $6 million in 2005…On her watch, unfortunately, the shrubs remained in place.

Now, let’s fast forward to June of 2021, when a daughter of Joe Brandmeyer, one of several people who started with Marion Labs and made fortunes on their own, bought it. According to Zillow, the sale price was $4.77 million in June 2021, which seems low, if indeed Ms. Dickinson paid $6 million in 2005.

At any rate, one of the first things Ms. Brandmeyer did was have the shrubs removed…When I drove by there one day and saw that those hideous shrubs were gone, I gasped with excitement…Ms. Brandmeyer was, at last, pulling back the drapes so people could see that fabulous house!

(I don’t know Ms. Brandmeyer’s first name. If any of you knows, please share that information.)

Removing the shrubs was just a start. Ms. Brandmeyer is renovating the entire house and the grounds. Here’s what it looks like now…

For months, day after day, work trucks have lined 55th Street. When I went by today, the trucks were most of the way down the hill, almost to State Line Road. During the time I was there, traffic was stopped for a few minutes while a large fork-lift vehicle transferred a load of building materials from a truck to the grounds of the house.

I can only imagine how much Ms. Brandmeyer is putting into the house. From looking at those trucks on 55th Street, I would estimate she’s investing at least $10,000 a day.

Undoubtedly, she can afford it. Her father who is in his 80s and living in Florida, I believe, sold a company in 2008 that manufactures skin disinfectants for surgical and vascular procedures. Joe Brandmeyer’s company, Enturia Inc., was bought by a much larger company called Cardinal Health for — gulp — $490 million.

When the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts was under construction, the Joe and Jeanne Brandmeyer Family Foundation contributed $12 million. Today, Brandmeyer Great Hall is the glass-enclosed lobby area between Muriel Kauffman Theatre, home of the Lyric Opera, and Helzberg Hall, home of the Kansas City Symphony.

The Brandmeyers have three sons and two daughters. Perhaps the highest-profile offspring, Mark Brandmeyer, bought the T-Bones in 2019 and renamed them the Kansas City Monarchs.

At least for the present, though, my favorite Brandmeyer is the daughter who bought the Louis Curtiss house with an incredibly rich history.

I fervently hope Ms. Brandmeyer will not erect shrubs around the house as part of her renovation. That would be a crime, and it would mark a return to the years when Keith Tucker — that rat — sealed that spectacular residence from public view.

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The Kansas City Star is getting the ass-kicking it deserves for publishing an Illinois man’s letter to the editor criticizing Patrick Mahomes.

To refresh you on what happened, on Sept. 30 The Star ran a letter to the editor from a man named John Geimer of Glen Carbon, IL, which is in southern Illinois, about 14 miles northeast of St. Louis.

Geimer wrote…

After watching the Kansas City Chiefs for the past two years, I think it is clear that Patrick Mahomes is not a team player. He doesn’t care if his team wins or loses. All he cares about is how he looks. It’s beginning to look very obvious. He’s a good quarterback but really doesn’t care about his team as a whole.

Now, why The Star decided to run such a letter, especially from a person who lives 250 miles from Kansas City, is a mystery. Maybe the editor who decided to run it — probably Derek Donovan, who has been with the paper 27 years — simply wanted to create outrage. I have no idea. Whatever the reason for the decision, it was a horrid mistake. The writer, Geimer, cites no rationale or evidence for his assertion; it’s just a flip opinion he pulled out of his ass.

Whoever made the decision should have dismissed the letter out of hand. But he or she didn’t…And then things got worse. Compounding the error, The Star tweeted the letter out in such a way that it appeared the content represented The Star’s opinion of Mahomes.

I don’t have a Twitter account, but I’m told the tweet generated more than 1,000 responses. Among those responding were Mayor Quinton Lucas and former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.

McCaskill wrote: “Someone needs to fire the person who decided this tweet was a good idea. They got clicks but paid a very steep price. Dumb.”

Today, The Star published a reader reaction piece consisting of six letters to the editor either lambasting Geimer and the newspaper or praising Mahomes.

Here are excerpts from five of the letters…

Jim Wooten of Springfield, MO: “He (Mahomes) is a great teammate. There is nobody I’d prefer at the podium after a win or a loss than him. In victory, he praises coaches and teammates. In defeat, he takes the blame.”

Craig Prentiss, Kansas City: “That Mr. Geimer’s wisdom would be the first letter alongside three thoughtful perspectives on gun violence, funding the library system and tax abatement for major development projects debases The Star and the paper’s role. Save this section for opinions of community import.”

Blake Isern of Phoenix: “Publishing this behind the guise of just posting someone’s opinion is weak-spined and destroys what little credibility you might’ve still possessed.”

George Franklin Anderson, Kansas City: “As a child, I recall reading the words of columnist Joe Posnanski, so I am truly disappointed to see what The Star has become.”

Kim Ewing, also of Springfield: “All it (The Star) cares about is clickbait on social media. It’s very obvious.”


What happened here reflects the perils of having a very thin staff. There are far fewer eyes on material being published and too people involved in critical decision making. I suspect that Donovan — or whoever made the decision to run the letter — did not consult anyone before running Geimer’s letter. And whoever made the decision to post the letter on Twitter also probably acted alone…Because the staff has been decimated at every level, editorial redundancy is severely lacking.

The only thing good I can say about The Star on this is that it featured those six critical letters prominently. But my God, the overall result is that The Star’s already diminished reputation has sunk to its lowest point yet.

As of March 31, The Star had about 33,000 digital subscribers. That’s extremely low for a metro area this size. I would expect this incident to slow down whatever rise there has been in online subscriptions. This will be a hard nut for The Star to swallow.

Note: A member of The Star’s editorial board, Toriano Porter, posted a tweet on Oct. 1, saying Derek Donovan was on vacation when Geimer’s letter was approved for publication. So Donovan apparently is in the clear. Porter did not say who approved the letter, but it probably would have been another board member, maybe Porter.

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An unusual occurrence has had me thinking about obituaries recently.

No, I haven’t been diagnosed with a terminal illness and am tying up loose ends. Fortunately, I’m going along pretty well.

What’s been eating at me is that one of my old grade-school friends from Louisville died more than a month ago, and the family has not taken the time to write an obituary and get it published in my hometown paper, the Louisville Courier-Journal.

My friend’s name was Eddie Aubrey. I wasn’t real close with Eddie, but we played on the grade-school basketball team together and ran, basically, with the same group.

Eddie was ahead of most of us physically. His voice deepened and he sprouted hair on his legs and in his armpits in about fifth grade, when the rest of us were hairless — except on the head — and talking in higher voices.

I remember getting on his bad side once — can’t recall what the issue was — and he threatened to throw me down the long, wide front staircase going from the second floor of school, where the gym was, to the school entrance. Nobody messed with Eddie.

I didn’t hang around with Eddie very much, but I remember one time when he and I were at his house, when we were 14 or 15. His parents weren’t home, but a car was in the driveway. Eddie suggested we do a little driveway driving, and, with Eddie at the wheel, we drove up and down the driveway for 15 or 20 minutes. It was a mild thrill, and at least we had the good sense not to go out into the neighborhood.

Although we went attended the same high school, our interactions became quite limited. I don’t know if he went to college. What I do know is that he got a job in Florida and moved down there and spent most of his life there. I believe he and his first wife were divorced and that he remarried. He had children with one or both wives.

Several weeks ago, a mutual friend — a Louisville resident I keep up with regularly — called and told me Eddie had fallen down a flight of stairs and died. It was a shock, and I was looking forward to reading the obituary to find out more about him and his post-grade school life.

But the obit never came. Our mutual friend knows one of Eddie’s sisters, and I asked my friend to try to find out why there had not been an obituary. He got back with me and reported that Eddie’s widow and other survivors were “a mess” and apparently couldn’t face the prospect of writing an obituary.

I guess I’m lucky that I had good enough connections I was able to find out he had died. But imagine all the people whose lives he touched who would appreciate getting word he had died and yet don’t know.

This might seem harsh, but I’ve decided that Eddie’s family’s failure to report his death to the “world at large” is rooted in selfishness. They may be “a mess,” but they have a responsibility to everyone who knew Eddie to establish a public record of his departure. An obituary is not a big deal; somebody in that family surely is able to put a few paragraphs together about Eddie.

The way I see it, there’s really only one valid excuse for not writing an obituary about a loved one: you can’t afford it. Obituary costs in major metropolitan papers, like The Star and The Courier-Journal, are expensive, and some people, I fully understand, cannot afford it.

That certainly isn’t the case with Eddie’s family, though, and from what my friend learned it’s all because they are emotionally distraught.


Decades ago, I heard a priest say something in a sermon about death that I have never forgotten. He said, “We are all hurtling toward out ultimate mark on the horizon.”

That is so true. When we die, our children and even our grandchildren are just a few short steps behind us. One’s obituary is a nod to and a formal recognition of that mark on the horizon. If one’s end isn’t noted, the mark is not erased, but it is blurred and amorphized.

I hope Eddie’s surviving relatives come around to that realization soon because they’ve already done him a disservice. His ultimate mark on the horizon deserves to be formally acknowledged.

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