Whenever someone died my mother always said, “Now there will be two more deaths; they always happen in threes.” I don’t know if that was an old wives tale or some Irish expression, but it frequently seems to be true. Back on May 21st I wrote about loosing two good friends, Jim Baumgartner and Mike Kiley, and now there is a third.
That memorial statement of my mother’s came back to me with the sudden passing of Tim Russert, the beloved moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press. When his death was announced the television, radio and newspapers were filled with expressions of sorrow for him and his beloved family from millions of his fans across the nation.
Back in the early 1990’s I was a member of the NBC Television Station Affiliates Board of Directors and was attending an affiliate meeting in Los Angeles. On the opening day there was a luncheon in the big dining room of the Century Plaza Hotel and about half-way through the luncheon Tim came bounding into the room looking for a seat. He had just flown in from Washington and there was one empty seat next to mine. Upon inquiring if the seat was taken, we introduced our selves and Tim took his seat. When he learned that I was then living in Duluth, Minnesota he said, “Bob you and I will get along very nicely, because you can survive the winters in Duluth as I have in Buffalo; we’re tough guys.”
From that day forward, whenever I saw Tim his big infectious smile greeted me “How’s Duluth. Bob?” he would say and this wonderful memory lasted well after I had moved on from that city. While Tim’s fans and family will miss him greatly, it will be NBC that will really feel his loss. They say that nobody is irreplaceable, but Tim is almost impossible to replicate. His program on NBC, “Meet The Press”, appearances on MSNBC, and the Washington News Bureau will never be the same, but different for better or worse.
Just prior to Tim’s public memorial service at the Kennedy Center in Washington June 18th, Doris Kearns Goodwin, the noted historian, was interviewed. She said that at this time she was reminded of the late Eleanor Roosevelt’s comment about great men who were loved by the public, such as Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt, “The best of them had a little boy in them.” Had Eleanor known Tim, she surely would have included him, too.
I am honored for having known Tim. Thanks Tim for being an important part of so many peoples’ lives and thanks, too, for making life in these United States better for all mankind. Unfortunately God has called you far too soon, but he apparently has a greater need for your gentle loving hands.