In the newspaper business, especially when you’ve been at the Citizen for nearly 25 years like Anna and I, you hear a lot of complaints.
You can make enemies.
Some of them aren’t very nice.
But you also make friends.
Lots of them. In a business that deals with the public for its existence, you learn to appreciate those friends ... folks who might not agree with what the newspaper covers or its opinions on community issues, yet they still remain friends.
Sadly, we often lose those friends.
They are in a better place, but we still miss them.
Two of our friends left us last week.
Both had big personalities, although their lives probably couldn’t have been more different.
The first was Dan Clemens.
The second was Bill Miller.
Clemens was Webster County’s state senator for eight years. A farmer in the High Prairie area for decades, I knew I liked Dan the first time I met him. He was small but had a booming voice. You certainly knew he was in the room.
He never met a stranger. He had an infectious smile.
Above that, as a politician, he pulled off the impossible.
Prior to running for offi ce, Clemens’ previous “political” experience was serving as a school-board member in Marshfield. Frankly, he was anything but a politician ... too candid and truthful to fit the role.
When he ran for the fi rst time in 2002, his opponent was Nixa’s Jim Kreider.
At the time, he was House Speaker Jim Kreider, the mos-powerful man in the Missouri House of Representatives and perhaps the state.
Clemens kicked his tail in the general election.
It wasn’t close.
For the next eight years, he was a stellar state senator.
And he was no stranger to Seymour.
Have you ever been in the middle- and high-school media center in Seymour?
If so, thank Dan Clemens for the million-dollar facility, which was built because he worked on a special piece of legislation with former Seymour R-II School District Super intendent Lonnie Leatherman to make the building possible.
Courtesy of Clemens, the district was able, via a truly unique piece of legislation, to one-time transfer Fund 1 money (operations) to Fund 4 (buildings) to build the media center.
Our school had a need.
It appeared there was no way to address it.
Then Dan Clemens created a solution.
To me, he was the defi nition of a stellar state senator, although current State Sen. Mike Cunningham has followed in his friend’s footsteps.
Clemens also was a fine bird hunter, a pretty good karaoke singer and could tell a great joke, all three tasks accompanied by his booming laugh. I’ll never forget hunting quail on his farm in High Prairie with about a half dozen political types and laughing until I nearly cried as Dan harassed our new sheriff.
Yes, it was a very young Roye Cole.
Miller, in many ways, was much like Clemens.
If you were in a room with my friend Bill, you knew he was there.
He had many stories spanning about seven decades in Seymour.
Retired from the Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) in Springfi eld, Miller frequented local coffee shops.
He also kept up on the local news; more times than I can count, he gave me leads that became big stories.
He had a big heart. Off the top of my head, I can think of several young people in Seymour facing tough situations growing up who he helped, both financially and with constant encouragement. Those who knew him knew Miller had a tough exterior and a huge heart.
His constant companion was Larry Hume, known to most here for his many decades of service at the Brooks White Top Gas Company here in Seymour.
Typically, those two would come by the Citizen office together.
They would pull up to the conference table near my desk, then the stories began. Anna and I learned about fights at Forrest Lynch’s old restaurant or who the pool sharks were 40 years ago just up the street. They told us about the fastest cars and the craziest characters. Many times, I would peek around the corner and see Anna with her head in her hands, laughing hysterically.
That’s how I’ll remember Bill.
I’ll remember him making me laugh, as he often played Dean Martin to Larry’s Jerry Lewis or vice versa.
I suppose it’s fi tting that Larry is the one who found Bill in his home last week. They were best friends. And in the end, I’m surprised that Bill didn’t have some sort of practical joke waiting on his pal.
A few years ago, Bill said something to me that I’ll never forget.
“You know, when I’m dead, there won’t be a story about me in the paper,” he said with a smile.
Oh, yes, there is, Bill. And I’m smiling back.
Two good guys.
I’ll miss them both.
I know many of you will, too.
Dan Wehmer is the Citizen’s editor, publisher and owner.
He can be reached at 417-935-2257 or via e-mail at email@example.com.