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  • Last modified 29 days ago (April 26, 2018)

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Change comes with the season

With Saturday’s first bona fide good spring rain, change is in the air, waving in the air as trees finally begin to unfurl their leaves in earnest.

With that April rain comes an opportunity to share an old, old joke. I’ve never been much for remembering jokes, let alone telling them, but there’s one that’s appropriate for the time that lingers from the time when I eagerly awaited the monthly Boys’ Life magazine that came along with my Cub Scout membership. I have more trouble remembering my kindergarten teacher’s name than this joke, which is always at the tip of my tongue come April.

Ready or not, here it comes:

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?

Pilgrims.

* * * * *

Change is also afoot in Marion’s Central Park, due in no small part to a volunteer with seemingly endless enthusiasm for beautifying Marion who was spotted multiple times this past week taking care of smaller things that folks might take for granted as they drive by.

Pam Byer was busy in the middle of the week, first planting five trees, and then working with kids from Circles of Marion County to plant flowers and other plants around the park. On a chilly, windy Sunday afternoon, Byer was at it again, this time pruning branches from a flowering tree. In between doing all of that, she and others were getting the community garden going for the season.

We’ve lauded volunteers in a general sense in the past, but it’s good from time to time to put a face on at least one of them. If we did them all, we’d fill the paper without any need for news, and certainly without need for this column. But as new flowers bloom and trees take root, change is coming, and we just wanted to say thank you, Pam.

* * * * *

This time next week, another change will have taken place. Sheriff’s deputy Mike Ottensmeier will have traded in his badge for a cattle ranch, and I, for one, shall miss him. In our dealings he was always the consummate professional, yet personable as well. He knew just how much information was appropriate to divulge without crossing the line, and I respect him and am thankful for that. I recall the story of a young woman from Sri Lanka with car trouble who he went out of his way to see that she got safely on the road again. She’s since returned to Sri Lanka, but she’ll never forget the kindness of Officer Mike.

There are numerous new faces that have joined familiar ones in county law enforcement since I came back to Marion four years ago. We seem to have a pretty darned good group who take seriously their vows to protect and serve. There are those with complaints about some, to be sure — it unfortunately comes along with the badge.

When two Florida officers in their twenties were senselessly killed last week when a man shot them through a window of a restaurant where they were eating, I thought of Mike and our other officers. We’d like to think that such a thing couldn’t happen here, but it’s a sad and real example of the oft-repeated statement that officers put their lives on the line every time they put on the badge. To Mike, and to all the other who remain, thank you.

* * * * *

Another note of change was struck Monday with the death of John Wiebe of Hillsboro. I knew him first and foremost as Mr. Wiebe, the new guy who became Marion-Florence school superintendent in 1975 when I was still in high school. His daughter, Dorene, was in my class.

Looking back, we students didn’t do much to make it an easy transition for the Wiebes. John was an authority figure, and we didn’t take well to authority figures in those days, as my former high school principal Martin Tice would probably attest to.

It’s only been the passing of years that has revealed more about Wiebe to me. I didn’t realize how warm that smile of his actually was as a youth, but I see the 1970s version of it dancing in my mind still. I’ve come to appreciate how passionate he was about service, not only professionally in schools, hospitals, and ministry, and most of all in his daily enduring faith in God. I had an occasion to meet and talk with his son, Jon, last year, and through him I got the distinct feeling that I missed a lot of good things about his father early on. The apple, I’m certain, hasn’t fallen too far from the tree.

It may seem odd to some to have a little tribute to Wiebe at the end of a piece that started with a lame Cub Scout joke. If you remember the smile, and add in eyes wrinkled with mirth, you might believe, as do I, that John wouldn’t have a problem with it at all.

— david colburn

Last modified April 26, 2018

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