Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Memories of John Glenn that will last forever

When I was in college, I wrote a term paper on the novelist Thomas Hardy. I never knew what compelled me to do that, but I think it might have been his sense of orderliness.
In his many volumes of writings, he never left any loose ends. When he brought up a subject, he finished it.
There must be a reason why I am telling you this. And there is.
A couple weeks ago, when I was writing about John Glenn and the man who worked for him for so many years, Dale Butland, I left some unfinished business. I said there were three things about the former astronaut and U.S. senator that I will never forget. I promised to recapture them. This is the day.
Dale has worked for John since 1980, and reports that his former boss is now 92 years old and living well and quietly, although he is no longer driving – which must seem strange to a man who orbited the Earth all alone in a space capsule and never had to look for a parking space.
One of the things I remember best about John Glenn came during one of his occasional visits to The News-Herald, when he stopped in just to chat, which he did from time to time.
He had with him a copy of People Magazine. It was dated Oct. 13, 1980. A teaser headline on the cover said: “How Mrs. Glenn overcame stuttering.” (The beautiful blonde on the cover was Cathy Lee Crosby. But I digress.)
The lengthy article inside told how “A senator’s wife licks her political nemesis: stuttering.”
To say that her husband was proud of her would be more than a mere understatement. You had to know the man to understand how much he loved her and the high esteem in which he held her.
“Here,” he said, “you can keep this,” as he handed me the magazine.
Those of you who know me and who have seen the jazz records in my basement are aware that I don’t throw many things away.
Which is totally opposite from the lady of the house, who never lets a day go by without throwing things away.
As you have probably guessed, I still have the magazine. I wish I had asked John to sign it, but I never think of things like that until it is too late.
I do think, however, I will take it with me when I have lunch with Dale Butland at Corky and Lenny’s and ask him to get John to sign it for me.
There is a great picture of John and Annie sitting at the controls of his twin-engine Beechcraft Baron. Which brings up the second thing I remember about John.
I was in Washington for a visit with the four men who represented this area at the time. Three of them were most cordial.
U.S. Rep. Bill Stanton asked me to his home to have dinner with him and Peggy, an invitation I was happy to accept.
Rep. Charlie Vanik sat in his office and chatted with me for more than hour. Charlie was one of the finest gentlemen you could ever hope to meet.
Bill was a Republican and Charlie a Democrat, but they were both Great Americans and so thoroughly decent that it’s a shame we can’t have a few hundred more like them in Congress instead of some of the ... oh well, let’s skip that.
I had a long chat with John Glenn in his office. He started out by saying, “How’s Ev Mastrangelo?” I told him Ev was fine and that I played bridge with the Lake County Democrat chairman at least once a week.
After our lengthy conversation, John asked how I was getting home to Ohio. He offered me a ride in his plane. I thanked him profusely, but said my car was parked at Hopkins, and he said he was flying into Burke Lakefront. So I had to turn down his very kind offer.
(The fourth person I hoped to see was Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, but he flatly turned me down. Oh well, three out of four isn’t bad, especially when the three were all people so beloved by the pubic.)
Here’s my third remembrance of John Glenn. He stopped in at the paper one day just as we were about to start construction on a new pressroom at our former building, which is only a few steps from our present building.
“Come with me,” John, I said. “We’re going to have a groundbreaking and there’s an extra shovel.”
So a dozen or so of us went outside, we grabbed shovels, and one of our crack photographers took a picture of us, including the senator/astronaut, digging a shovel of dirt to break ground on the addition.
That picture is another thing I probably have stashed away someplace, but please don’t ask me where that might be. It might take me a few days to find it.
A footnote: The reason I met Dale Butland for lunch at Corky and Lenny’s was so he could introduce me to his candidate for U.S. Senate, P.G. Sittenfeld, who will be running next year in the Democratic primary against Ted Strickland. The winner will oppose Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who remains one of the nicest people I have ever met. Dale and P.G. were on a whirlwind tour of Akron, Cleveland and Youngstown, and our lunch spot was the closest place we could connect.


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