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Remembering Lonnie

February 2011

by Michael O’Brien

In 2010, I met the one who still holds my heart and after a few dinners and movie dates, I was introduced to her circle of friends through their “supper club.” There might have been twenty or more people there, a judge, influential farmers, business people, teachers, a county official, a pilot, and others, all smiling, all curious about who I was, wanting to protect the one who holds my heart. Most asked the same kinds of questions about where I came from and where I worked and for how long. I met lots of nice people that day, people I miss today, and one especially stood out to me; the tallest guy in the room watched my interactions but we hadn’t spoken yet. As the evening wore on, I found myself standing beside him and introduced myself. We shook hands; his was a working hand and my professor hand disappeared in his grip. I remember him saying “I’ve got my eye on you.”

After a bit I circled back to talk to him and asked how he thought I did, and he told me that all the people there looked out for the one who holds my heart, and that I did ok for my first night.

Later, the one who holds my heart asked me about the night. I told her everyone was nice, and Lonnie was looking out for her. She laughed and told me about a time in Chicago when he played the part of a security person and told a doorman that a person she climbed Kilimanjaro with was a U.S. Senator and they should let his party in. I wasn’t there but could see Lonnie doing things like that: he loved a good joke, and as a former military operator, he was always watching out for his friends.

When Lonnie and his wife and the one who holds my heart were in New Orleans, I noticed he would walk in front of our little group and the sea of partiers in Bourbon Street magically parted in front of him. And as a woman in mardi gras garb grabbed my arm (she was tall with a deep voice and an unexpectedly strong grip) I saw Lonnie smiling at me as I worked to politely decline her offer of entertainment… today Istill wonder if he might have incentivized her to grab my arm….

The one who holds my heart and I attended many supper clubs, weddings and other social events over the years, and I always felt Lonnie went out of his way like Jeff, Bob, and Donnie to make me feel comfortable. It meant a lot to me since I don’t know as much about farming, fishing, and local news and always struggled to keep up in conversation.

Lonnie passed on today. I hope I get to say goodbye to him. He was a bull rider, a patriot, a farmer, father, husband, hunting and fishing master, and as a “land man” was in his words, a millionaire maker. People sensed his integrity, depended on him, and he never failed them, or us.

I will miss him, and will remember him always on this day, as I remember Tyler who gave his life to save my daughter on this day.

Please be kind to each other, look out for each other, and say a thanks that people like Tyler and Lonnie are looking out for us al.