Wednesday, August 08, 2007

You Can't Judge A Book By The Company He Keeps

When I first met Ron Book I was in my twenties and he was still in high school. Neither one of us had white chin whiskers and Ron had a decent head of hair. When I'd cover the North Miami city council meetings for the North Dade Journal Ron and his friend Jeff Mell were always there. They were on a mission! They wanted the city to build a first class football stadium for the North Miami Sr. High. Of course the school is controlled by the county school board, not the city, which complicated things, but the city had recently aquired a huge piece of mostly swampy bayfront property known as the Graves Tract. It was several miles from the school but there was plenty of room for a stadium and the requisit parking. But nothing comes easy.

Ron and Jeff graduated high school and went off to college. Ron hooked up with a rising star of a politician from Miami Lakes by the name of Bob Graham who became Governor Graham and then Senator Graham. Jeff ended up running the district office for Congressman Bill Lehman. During the twenty years that Bill was in congress I saw Jeff almost every week and did a lot of photography for him. Ron was mostly up in Tallahassee and I rarely saw him. He used his contacts to build a very successful lobbying business when Bob Graham retired. When Congressman Lehman retired Jeff briefly worked for Congresswoman Carrie Meek, then he anounced that he was going in with Ron up in Tallahassee. I hardly saw him anymore! No more lunches, no more dropping by the office to deliver some pictures or just to chat. Then one day I got a phone call. Jeff had experienced chest pains. He didn't make it. He was 51.

A few weeks ago the speaker at the monthly Chamber of Commerce luncheon was Ron Book. When I found out I marked the date in my book. I told the Chamber that I'd take the pictures at the luncheon for the newsletter. I hadn't seen Ron in several years!

I was walking around with my camera as usual when suddenly he called out my name. We shook hands and exchanged the usual old pleasantries.

And the Stadium? It's been built for several years now! It's even named after Ron Book. He's the guy who did all the arm twisting up in Tallahassee to get the money flowing. It's good to have friends like that.

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