Someday, we’ll be together
This past week was one that will be hard to ever forget as our area lost its best historian in Joni Haldeman and then lost one of the most prolific icons of local government with the passing of longtime New Boston mayor Johnny Branson.
Both were my friends. To say that it was a tough week for this ol boy would be an understatement as Sunday was also the 35th anniversary of the day my late wife said “I do” and began what would be a 30 year marriage that only ended with her passing. The fact that it fell on Mother’s Day this year only compounded the situation.
But, a good friend of mine suggested something to me that actually worked somewhat. She said that instead of focusing on the negativity of losing friends, and missing my wife, I should instead celebrate them by going through old pictures and memories and recalling the good days, the happy days. So, that is what I did.
I looked through the thousands of pictures of my kids at various ages. I went back and read text messages from Joni, of which I have hundreds, going all the way back to 2013. And I recalled times spent with Johnny. Times where we didn’t see eye to eye, and times when we did.
One of my fondest memories of Johnny Branson came on the day he announced his retirement from his long held seat at the head of New Boston politics. Johnny was a man of high regard. He was a Veteran who served our country, a successful business owner, and the catalyst for many of the good things you see in New Boston today. He was a powerful man in many ways. Yet, when he decided to retire, he came to me. He came to the Tribune and sat in my office, and we talked.
I was then and shall always be impressed, and grateful, that a man like him would come to me. He didn’t beckon me to come to his office. He sat in my office and we talked about such a wide variety of things and he helped me do my job well that week, just as he had helped me in all of the years before.
I spoke with his son, Kelley, this past week and he told me facets of his dad’s life that not many knew. Most knew Johnny as the gruff, hardnosed leader that liked to get his way. Few know that he was also very generous, kind and had a servant’s heart. He drove a church bus, he gave to those less fortunate, he often went out of his way to help others. That was the real Johnny Branson.
My friend Joni was special as well. Truly special. She is one that will live on through the legacy she leaves behind. She will live on through the lives of her son Charlie, and the lives of her grandchildren and other family members who carry with them a piece of her soul and the traits that she instilled in them. Monday morning I received a text message, from her phone, and in it was a link to a performance by Billy Joe Shavers. In that song were the lyrics, “I’m gonna live forever, I’m gonna cross that river.” I believe no truer words have ever been sung.
A song that I have grown very fond of as late is sung by a Gospel group called Ernie Haas and Signature Sound. That song sings, “Standing by the river, trying to get a glimpse of what’s over on the other side.”
That is where I am today, and I am sure that many of you are as well. We stand on the banks of the river looking over to the other side where those who have gone on are there, waiting for us to join them. Say what you want, have your opinions, and yes when we get there we will see Jesus and praise Him, but I also look to see Joni, Johnny, my Patty, my unborn son, and all of the others who are already there waiting for us to come home too.
As another song says, one that was played at Joni’s homegoing coronation, “Someday, we’ll be together. Yes we will, yes we will.”