Last I heard, the late Joe Aaron, whose columns were being re-run in The Evansville Courier and Press, was an amazing human being.

While I struggle weekly (weakly?) to develop this Saturday offering, Joe managed to produce a near-masterpiece five and sometimes six days each week.

When he and I were colleagues at the old Evansville Courier, I knew how to raise his fire, if only in jest. “Is that all you do around here …write a column?”

I learned to duck.

His style was often selfdepricating, endearing him to thousands of readers who identified with his take on the daily foibles of living. He was a guy who tried to beat some sense into a balky lawnmower with a sledgehammer, and one who could capture the essence of unconditional love with a few keystrokes. He was not fond of computers, especially those that devoured his day’s work before it was ready for an editor. (He seldom, if ever, required editing.)

On Friday mornings, such as this one, I think of Joe and his ability to personify excellence under the pressure of a daily deadline. All I do for The Messenger any more iswrite a column. Each time, I try to emulate Joe Aaron, realizing his abilities and natural gift are beyond my capabilities.

I still miss my old friend and colleague from the days when good journalism was not always appreciated, but generally respected as a reliable source of information.

Joe started his career as a reporter … a darn good one. He may have been the best the newspaper had back in the days when editors never settled for second best. In those times, entertainment was a secondary function of newspapers. Today, even on the news pages, it’s all about entertainment, often at the expense of fairness and accuracy.

A humor column, back in the day, was an anomaly. And yet, like readers all across the tri-state area, Joe was an essential part of my morning.

Maybe yours, too.

Sitting on the rocker on this about-to-be-hot-and-humid Friday morning, I thought about Joe and why we loved him so much. He was a brilliant man, but humble. He was an outstanding writer, but always tried to improve. He had strong opinions on a lot of things, including sassafras tea (he hated the stuff).

He intensely loved his wife, though he never needed words to demonstrate that. When Joe took vacation, various Courier staffers tried to fill in for his “Morning Assignment” column, including me.

Our efforts made his return to the page even more welcome.

When I became executive editor of The Messenger in 1978, the idea of writing aweekly column intrigued me. I wrote countless local editorials and “Thinking Points” over the years, but the column was my favorite part … and the most challenging.

It continues to be years after I retired to the peace and tranquility of this place inthe country. I wasn’t meant to be another Joe Aaron. My fondest hope, then and now, is to appreciate the precious gift of life given to each of us by a merciful God. If I can comment on it in a way that causes you to think, and maybe even laugh, I have accomplished my purpose.

But, there will never be another Joe.

Peace.

Mr. Clinton retired as executive editor of The Messenger in 2011. He and his wife, Barbara, live in Lone Oak.

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