Tuesday, January 17, 2012

One Last Remembrance of Reason

One thing you need to know about me: I rarely go to funerals, viewings, memorial services, or other rituals of death.

No one likes those kinds of events, of course. But since burying my last remaining parent, I have tried to exempt myself from attending such morbid affairs. I make exceptions, of course - especially when it is important to someone that I be there. But generally speaking they’re just too saddening, and I find myself asking myself, “What’s the point?”

But today I made an exception for the memorial service for Ron Smith, the late Voice of Reason. And I’m glad I did.

June Smith graciously invited me to attend and to sit in the family section. Mrs. Reason is someone you can’t easily turn down under any circumstances, much less circumstances like these.

Because the service was scheduled for the middle of the workweek, I asked my boss for permission to attend. “Please go,” he responded. “It really is my honor to do this for a vet and a man of honor.”

So, I went. When I entered the Kraushaar Auditorium at Goucher, I approached the stage and inquired as to where the pre-meeting area June had told me about was. Ed Kiernan, WBAL’s General Manager, personally escorted me backstage, where about a dozen people had assembled.

It was a good mix of friends and members of the Smith family, so I didn’t feel awkward or out of place - or, at least, no more so than I normally do.

June warmly greeted me and then excused herself, saying she had to “talk to the Senator.” Turns out, two senators were awaiting her attention: Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, both in the staging area.

The former was a frequent guest on Ron’s show. Together they generated the kind of great radio you’d expect when a smart, well-informed conservative and a smart, well-informed liberal engage. Despite being Ron’s philosophical opposite, the latter reached out to Ron during his brief illness. Both were warmly greeted, mingling easily with members of the Smith family and intimate friends.

Soon, we took our seats. I’m not going to review the entire proceedings for you. Rather, I encourage you to visit WBAL’s website and experience it for yourself. Mike Wellbrock, a member of the WBAL family, apparently did much of the heavy lifting, including pulling together a production piece featuring some wild footage of Ron’s days as a WBAL TV news reporter and anchor in the 1970s.

All the eulogies were excellent. Resonating with me particularly were the remarks of WBAL TV’s Stan Stovall. At first, Stovall’s voice broke as he took the podium, leaving some of us to wonder if he would be able to carry on. But he did, and his remarks became a funny, moving, from-the-heart gush session about his friend of 34 years. (Who knew Ron had been a bodybuilder who once harbored ambitions of attacking Lou “The Incredible Hulk” Ferrigno during a past visit to Baltimore?)

Looking around the auditorium, I did notice a few other familiar faces from the political world, including Ellen Sauerbrey, State Senator Nancy Jacobs, and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger.

And, yes, a certain former congressman and governor I once worked for was there as well. 

Ehrlich sat about six or seven rows immediately behind me.  Anyway, he looked appropriately aggrieved. Seeing him reminded me of happier times during our past associations. This only compounded the inherent sense of sadness I already felt in light of the circumstances which brought me to Goucher.

Anyway, the event ended about 12:15, and I promptly hustled out of there.

I have written quite a bit about Ron Smith and the influence he has had on me both on this blog and in the pages of the Baltimore Sun, so I don’t have too much to add now – except for this final thought.

Ron Smith had loving friends, a wonderful marriage, caring children, and community that really cared about him.  In the final analysis, the best way to remember Ron is that he simply got life right. 

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