Follow the Trail
When you meet someone only once in your life, it's generally difficult to come away with an accurate understanding of that person. And when that particular meeting is brief, it makes a personality assessment even more difficult.
But not always. Every so often you come across a person who makes an impact on your life no matter how brief the meeting might have been.
Having been a reporter for over 35 years, I have met and interviewed tens of thousands of men, women and children.
I have interviewed farmers, businesspeople, professional athletes, those afflicted with a terminal illness, and even a prisoner.
Some of these people found a way into my memory bank for good and bad reasons; sometimes both. During a recent visit I had while working on a story for the Mascot last Thursday, April 25, I came across one of those brief meetings.
Only this time, the gentleman I spoke with briefly will likely leave an indelible mark in my memory. The story I was working on was about the St. Edward's Catholic Council of Women sewing dresses for the "Little Dresses for Africa" program.
My interview was with Terry Van Keulen, who coordinated the local sewing efforts.
Terry met me outside when my vehicle pulled up in their driveway, then proceeded to lead me into the home. Once inside, her husband Dan was seated in an easy chair and welcomed me into the home as though he had known me all his life.
His smile was infectious and never left his face the entire time I was there.
As I began to interview Terry for the story at the kitchen table, Dan joined us; sitting to my left. This was the first time I had ever had a conversation with either of the Van Keulens. They both impressed me, charmed me, and educated me with their positive attitudes.
Every time Dan chimed in during the interview, it was to say something positive about his wife's efforts, or if the conversation turned toward someone in town, he always had something good to say about them. He spoke about his love of farming and how once you get the earth in your fingernails, it's hard to remove it.
"Once a farmer, always a farmer," he said with a laugh. He certainly made a good first impression on me. I only wish I could have had spent more time with him.
Four days after my visit, I received a message informing me Dan had died of a heart attack. I sat down at the kitchen table in my home and stared out the window. I felt a pain in the pit of my stomach.
When I later learned he had died in a field at his farm as he prepared to plan for his 57th crop, I felt a small bit of comfort knowing he had passed in the one place he likely would have chosen.
Rest in peace, Dan. You will be missed by many; no matter how much time they got to spend with you.