Leader Blues

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> Every death is like a loss in the family

BY GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader publisher

Several of our friends passed away last week. Two died on the same day, and another at week’s end.

Then came word Tuesday morning that U.S. forces recovered the remains of two American soldiers who’d been kidnapped in Iraq, their bodies booby-trapped and mutilated, their features destroyed beyond recognition after hours of unimaginable torture.

Pfc. Kristian Menchaca and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, who have been identified through DNA testing, were abducted Friday from a traffic-control checkpoint in Yusufiya, south of Baghdad. A U.S. soldier was killed at the scene.

When we hear about the death of an American in Iraq, it’s as if we know them and they’re members of our family. When we went to the funeral of Specialist Bobby West in Beebe a couple of weeks ago, along with hundreds of Patriot Guard Riders, we felt as if we were part of the West family as they mourned the passing of a wonderful young man at the age of 23.

Others whose obituaries we ran last week lived much longer, and yet they, too, left us too soon.

Dr. Donnie Griggs, the Jack-sonville dentist who touched the lives of hundreds of patients and children whose teams he coached, died suddenly Sunday before last.

His funeral last Wednesday at First Methodist Church in Jack-sonville was one of the biggest we’ve seen here: Mourners packed the sanctuary and the halls outside, where lines reached almost to the parking lot.

As one speaker said, Dr. Griggs was like a second father to the children he coached. Many of those children, along with their parents, were at the funeral service. It seems as if almost every summer when our kids came home from college, they went straight to Dr. Griggs’ office for dental work.

He always smiled and made them feel comfortable. That’s how Dr. Griggs was: Unassuming and always there to help.
It’s hard to believe that he’s gone at the age of 51 — much too soon.

The same day that he passed away, retired Lieut. Col. Harold A. Kohnert died at the age of 86 in Las Vegas. A veteran of the Second World War, he was a pilot and squadron commander who had a second career in Jacksonville after he left the Air Force.

Kohnert started investing in real estate more than 30 years ago with his partner William Marr, another Air Force colonel.
They worked quietly on their investments, but they were so down-to-earth that you’d never guess they were wealthy by the time they retired.

Lloyd Friedman calls Kohnert “a visionary.” He and Marr bought land along Hwy. 67/167, a corridor that includes the Wal-Mart Super-center, Chili’s, Waffle House and much more. They rented us a small space on John Harden Drive, where The Leader got its start.

Word of the death of Jackson-ville Alderman Robert Lewis reached us on Thursday. He, too, was a quiet, unassuming man. He knew all about loss and pain and suffering. He died after a long illness, but even before he became ill, tragedy struck the Lewis family when their daughter was senselessly murdered in the Sunnyside Addition.

We will miss these fine Americans who lived their lives in dignity, who inspired us to emulate their courage and devotion to their families, their communities and their country. May they rest in peace.