I shot off two more skyrockets last month, two more dead. Like with Abbie and Kevin, whose obituaries appeared the same day, so too were the obits for these two dear friends of mine.
Congressman Gene Snyder died. He was a mentor and strong influence on my political and public life. When running for Jefferson County Commissioner, I attended a party at Gene’s house. He shoved a mason jar of moonshine under my nose and said, “Drink this.” I demurred with a, “Thanks, sir, but I don’t drink.” “You do tonight, son,” he said louder. I did. My throat still burns.
Many will remember Snyder only for those two election year spots: the radio jingle “Vote for Gene Snyder …” and the television ad where Gene is standing behind a glass. In a somber voice, somebody pronounces, “There have been a lot of bad things said about me in this campaign …” SPLAT! Mud hits the glass, blacking out part of Snyder’s body. “Once again, in an election year, my opponent has thrown a lot of mud …” SPLAT, SPLAT and SPLAT! At the end of the 30-second spot, you can no longer see the congressman. This inoculated Snyder’s Fourth Congressional District voters against the negative hits he took every two years.
But I’ll remember most (after the moonshine) two things about my mentor, Gene Snyder:
1) Jack Anderson, the revered columnist and Washington insider, dubbed Snyder the nation’s most effective congressman.
2.) Gene Snyder was the only congressman to pack heat on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Gene Snyder richly deserves that a federal courthouse and major freeway bear his name. I, for one, applaud that it happened while he still lived and could enjoy that his name lives beyond his years on this spinning mud pile called planet Earth.
The other man who died was Sgt. Joseph C. O’Hara (ret.), Grandmaster of Imua Kuon-Tao Kung Fu. Sarge and my judo instructor were the father figures who shaped my life. At 15, his family relocated to Hawaii, and he saw “the smiles on the faces of the Jap pilots.” Lying about his age, he began his military career as a tanker under General Patton. Sarge next fought on Pork Chop Hill during the Korean War, was captured twice and escaped both times. In Vietnam, Sarge was blown out of a tank with a rocket to the chest. Despite his age, Sarge volunteered because, by doing so, his sons were spared going. At his funeral, his chest was covered with scores of medals, epaulets and ribbons. Sarge was a tanker all his life, ably serving his country.
Goodbye, Sarge. It was a good run. All of us thank you for protecting America, putting your very life thrice on the line.
Two more skyrockets have lit the night.
But anyway, I’m Carl Brown, Louisville’s Plain Brown Rapper, and that’s just my own damn opinion. If you don’t like it, sue me. But remember that these two men would never have been so honored if they were not worthy in the first place.
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