rad Strootman, who runs the radio station in Marshall, referred to the time when my dad and his buddies were in their prime as a golden age. Not the Golden Age, just a golden age.
My dad, Wimpy (Winston) Peterson, along with men like Al Zender, Doc Robbie, Don Stassen, Dick Maertens, Jim Fritz, Jim Ford, John Schleppenbach and Con Rettmer, were a clan beyond compare (I'm probably leaving a couple fine men out, but these are the names that have stuck with me). These guys gave to their communities, worked their butts off, enjoyed life and raised great families.
Con left us last Saturday, leaving only my father left from this group.
Sad. Very sad.
Since comedian Robin Williams died earlier this week, we have heard nothing but positive things said about him. It's no different with the men from this Tracy group, Con being the latest. Too bad we often avoid telling people how much they mean to us while they're still here, while we actually can. Too bad we really don't appreciate them until they're gone.
Too bad we don't get that one more conversation with them.
I'm so blessed my parents are still alive. But the city of Tracy isn't the same as it was when these guys were roaming around. Each of them left their own indelible mark on the city they called home for decades, a city I grew up in and will always call home. Tracy is different now. Not a bad different, just different. Con was a lot of things to me: my best friend's dad, a scratch golfer, a chauffeur at times, a Vikings fan (and their biggest critic), Santa Claus. He was a lot to a lot of people. All of these men were.
Con will be missed for his dominating energy, his vigor and his voice. We'll will miss his jagged prose and his quick golf swing. We'll miss his wit and wisdom. We'll miss his mouth that never stopped moving. Like the trains that storm in and out of Tracy, Con was loud, and we loved him for it - you couldn't shut him up, and you wouldn't want to. He could take over a conversation with a whisperif he whispered.
Con needed the "people person" gene in his line of work and for his daily morning radio show, and he constantly put it to good use. Somehow, he was able to contain himself behind a big desk for various periods of the day, and whether in his office or pacing the sidewalks of downtown Tracy like a man three months behind on his honey-do list, he was great at his job, and the city was better because of him.
As I recalled this "golden age" this past week and the men who made it, it made me think of what I have done to give back like these guys did for so many years. Do I do enough? Is coaching or starting a softball club in Tracy enough?
What else can I do for the town I grew up in, even if I live 12 miles away from it?
These are questions we should all ask in our mirrors, and we should challenge ourselves to do something for others whom we share time with while we're on this wonderfully-bizarre planet of ours. Ask not what your community can do for you - ask what you can do for your community
Communities are strong and vibrant, not because of their location or because they have a Wal-Mart, a Menards or an Applebee's, they're strong and vibrant because of the generous people who live there. If no one gives, no one gets.
My goal is to be remembered someday like I remember these fine men. We don't all have to leave behind a legacy - that's a pretty big word - but we should leave something behind, not just for our kids, but for everyone.
Con, like others mentioned here, will be mourned for days and missed for years. The city of Tracy has been lucky to have men like him and the rest of this gang pass through and help form the bedrock of the community. Of course, other cities have great male role models, too, but if you ask me, none can boast a group like this.
What a collection.
I know there will come a day when my dad will join these hunting/golfing buddies upstairs, but selfishly, I hope that day isn't anytime soon. However, when it does come, I can take solace knowing he'll have a lot of really good friends waiting to BS with him, or shoot a round of golf, or a goose, with him.
And when all these great souls who have meant so much to their communities are reunited, heaven will be a better place. Louder, but better.
(A portion of this column was part of a blog earlier this week on the Independent website).