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Opinions of people change after death

By Dennis Minich

Sadly, another of the realizations of getting older is that people you grew up knowing about or liking are going to die or simply disappear from sight. As I have shared before, I remember vividly watching my mother cry when she heard Frank Sinatra had died. I didn’t get it, he was just some old singer to me, but to her, he was the young , hunky singer she admired as a young lady.

Last month, I got to attend the Kansas City concert of the last-two living members of the Monkees. As I wrote about at the time, it was like a brief flashback to some wonderful days of my childhood. In my memories, they are young guys out playing around and singing. That was many years ago.

Little did I know at the time how special the event would be. Just a few weeks later, one of the living duo would die. It seems strange to me how many tributes have come out about Mike Nesmith and the contributions he made to music since his death. While, living, he was mentioned mostly as a member of a made-for-television band and was not a serious musician.

For many of us though, he and his trio of buddies were more than just a TV band. They were real feel-good images of a happy life. I fell so fortunate to have been able to attend the show.

Another person died this week, one whom I truly respected. Bob Dole represented so many things I admired. He was a war hero, he was a statesman and was a genuinely nice man.

I remember the first time I saw Bob Dole. I was in grad school and I had been hauled off with my parents to some convention my dad was attending in Wichita. Dole spoke that day and as a youngster I didn’t know much about him, but I noticed the crippled hand gripping a ball-point pen. I got the chance to speak with him, it was the first time I ever got to shake hands left handed. He treated me with respect that day.

Having met him, I was eager to learn more about him and studied about his military heroics followed by his life in public service. I met him several times through the years. Only once did I have enough time to say much more than nice to see you, but I enjoyed every time I heard him speak.

One thing I really admired about him was while he was a staunch partisan, he also was a statesman, something this country used to be able to produce handily, but one in pretty-short supply these days. Whether you agreed with what he said or not, chances were pretty good if you met Bob Dole, you liked him.

I remember a few years ago when I got to go to Washington, D.C. to provide coverage of an Honor Flight, I had really hoped Dole would be there, as he often was, greeting veterans visiting the World War II Memorial.

As impressive as the memorial is, I have heard many who met Dole there tell about the stories he shared and how passionate he was about remembering the many men who died during the war.

I think one of the tributes to Dole which I liked the most came from Sen. Roy Blunt, who noted that Dole was often considered a third senator from Missouri. I am pretty sure that sentiment was held by many from the Midwest because Dole came from simple origins in the middle of Kansas, went to war, then came home and was among people who worked the fields and made homes for their families.

The issues he addressed were the same if you were from Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota or Kansas.

Again, the world hears a much different story about a man after he dies. All week, tributes have come from all ends of the political spectrum about what a great man Dole was.

I am glad I had the chance to meet him.

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