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Remembering old friends

I had most of this column written last week -- a rant about the Augusta Fox affiliate"s decision to not air a variety show hosted by legendary rocker Ozzy Osbourne and family.

But as poet Robert Burns once (sort of) wrote, "The best laid plans of mice and men."

In my case, it was a couple of obituaries and a flood of memories that changed my plans.

The first came Saturday afternoon. As Miriam and I were leaving lunch at an Atlanta restaurant, she received a simple text: "He's gone."

It had been only a handful of months since we found out that Robert Langham had cancer. The doctors were very honest about his options: There really weren't any. It was a wait and see game with only one outcome in sight.

Over the years, I'd come to know Mr. Langham as a true Southern gentleman with a work ethic matched only by his dedication to his neighbors. He's changed plenty of light bulbs, cut grass and hundreds of other handyman projects for folks along Starr Hinson Road, including my grandmother-in-law.

What I'll remember most is Mr. Langham's green thumb. He was always tinkering with some flower or shrub, and took great pride in raising huge tomatoes (much to the delight of Granny and my wife.).

The day after receiving the news about Mr. Langham, I had to catch my breath after reading Harry Behrens name in The Augusta Chronicle's obituaries.

His wife was a teacher at Thomson High School, and the family lived in downtown Thomson. In the years since, Mr. Behrens ended up in rural Wisconsin, where he passed away on March 26.

Although it has been years since the Behrens family left Thomson, I had just talked about Mr. Behrens last week with my Mirror co-hort Billy Hobbs. We were talking about soccer, and I remembered Mr. Behrens' love for the sport. I also joked about how his German roots contributed to his inability to grasp the pronunciation of the letter "r." It always made me smile when he was angry with his son, Harry -- a high school buddy of mine. It wasn't "HARRY!" Instead, Mr. Behrens would chastise "Hawwy."

But it was in his obituary that I learned something I'm not sure I ever knew about Mr. Behrens. Allow me to quote: "Harry celebrated each day with his love of pastries and cheeses at a four o'clock coffee hour."

It's a wonderful eulogy for a man who touched lives, remodeled homes, beautified yards and gardens and passed on his love of soccer throughout his adopted home country.

At some point this week -- most appropriately and likely when I'm surrounded by the beauty of nature at the Augusta National Golf Club -- I'll take a moment and silently salute both men.

You know, a four o'clock pimento cheese sandwich break would cover Mr. Behrens' pastry and cheese requirement, and be just simply Southern enough for Mr. Langham.

Web posted on Thursday, April 09, 2009

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