Here's Johnny - Farewell, Ben and Al
Two good men died in the last week. One of them, Woodford Sun publisher Albert Benjamin "Ben" Chandler Jr., who passed away Saturday at the age of 87, I never met. By the time I came aboard The Sun in April of 2014, Chandler had ceased his active role in the paper, though he still attended the occasional board meeting. I'll leave it to the fellow he employed as a reporter many moons ago to describe the man. Chandler hired Steve Peterson, aka The Silver Fox, in 1991 (at 37, he had already acquired the silver that inspired this writer's entirely respectful nickname) and promoted him to managing editor 10 years later. "He was a very personable and approachable guy. He managed with a light hand - he followed everything that was done in the paper, but very seldom ever tried to control what was going on and let people do their jobs," Peterson said. "Frankly, I was always comforted by the fact that, this paper being family-owned, when Ben was still coming into the office, the person who had the final say was in the office next door to mine and not some office in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He made it pretty clear to me what he wanted this newspaper to be, then he let me do my job." Five or six years ago, as the health of his wife, Toss, declined, Chandler's visits to the office became less frequent, Peterson said. Peterson said Chandler was essentially a shy man, but had a great sense of humor and infectious laugh. "He was a fun guy to sit down and talk to. You could ask him questions about things that had gone on in Woodford County and he was encyclopedic in his knowledge ." Peterson said. Chandler was a studious person who loved history and biographies, Peterson said. Chandler was the son of former governor/U.S. Senator/baseball commissioner "Happy" Chandler and the father of Sun Chairman Whit Chandler, Sun President Matthew Chandler and former U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler III. "He was a really great guy; a generous person," Peterson said. So was Al Edington. I've met a lot of people here whose stories amused or touched or saddened or inspired me, and Edington's tale touched all of those bases. I first interviewed him in September of 2015, 10 months after a stroke to his brain stem nearly killed him and, until the end of his life, made it difficult for him to speak. What made Edington's first stroke tragic was that, after his love for his young twin daughters, his greatest joy in life was participating in Toastmasters International clubs. The headline for that story was, 'A speaker who couldn't speak,' and it came from Al, not me. He talked about his road to recovery and the "angels" who helped him at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Center. Al's official comeback was Aug. 1 at the Midway Toastmasters meeting at Midway University. I arrived later than I'd intended, having had to cover a meeting of the Midway City Council. When I got there, his speech was nearly over, but my recorder captured his conclusion: "I have a story to tell, and it simply must be told. And, no, no, no! This story's not over with yet," he said. He was right. On Sunday, Oct. 16, he spoke to the congregation of Versailles United Methodist Church (VUMC). Edington praised the people who'd helped him and those he loved, and concluded with this description of the "better day tomorrow" that he expected: "With the love of God, all things can be good again." There weren't enough tomorrows for Al Edington, as there aren't for most all of us, but from what I saw of him - and heard from him and about him - his todays and yesterdays inspired many. Hours after his church speech, Edington suffered a major stroke at his Margaret Hall Manor apartment and died four days later. Fellow Toastmaster and VUMC member Sheri Wood told me that Al was proud of The Sun articles about him; that the reason he told me his tale was made clear, in part, by folks who'd read the stories. "I was feeling sorry for myself until I read about Al," one person told Wood. Goodbye, Al. Goodbye, Ben. We'll miss you.