Well, tonight I'm bummed out. I just read the online issue of the Daily Pilot for Thursday and find that my old friend, Joe Bell, is retiring. Thursday's column will be his last after two decades of pumping out some really great stuff.
READ HIS LAST COLUMN
You can read Joe's final column HERE and Mike Reicher's accompanying article HERE. I won't attempt to paraphrase either of them - you can read the accounts for yourselves.
I'VE LONG ADMIRED HIS WORK
I have long admired the work Joe Bell has done, both during his time as a columnist for the Daily Pilot when he began presenting his views on local issues nearly twenty years ago and before that, too. Somewhere in our library I have a copy of his book written about the original Mercury astronauts, Seven Into Space, that I purchased while living in Houston, Texas a long, long time ago and well before I came to know him.
WE SHARE A FRIENDSHIP, BUT NOT OUR POLITICS
Joe and I view the world from very different vantage points. He, a lifelong liberal who proudly wears that label like epaulets on his shoulders, is confounded by positions on issues displayed by my fellow conservatives. Over the years I've chuckled at the reaction to many of Joe's columns by the local Republican hierarchy, as he would poke and prod them with skill, vigor and joy. His final column continues that tradition.
I've admired his ability - after a career as a journalist that has stretched six decades and as he turns the corner to his 90th birthday on July 4th - to continue to pump out such prescient prose for us all to consider. In recent years, when one of his columns struck a particular chord with me, I'd just pick up the telephone and chat with him about it.
Some of Joe's most memorable columns dealt with the loss of friends and pets, which might be redundant. I think there were as many columns that brought a lump to my throat as those that plastered a grin on my face. The word-pictures he painted for us about his friendships helped make me value my friendships even more.
HE COVERED THEM ALL
Over his long journalist career Joe has interviewed and written about the famous and the tragic. He wrote about every man's dream girl, Marilyn Monroe, during his days covering Hollywood. Among his many impressive journalistic accomplishments is the fact that he interviewed and wrote about Norma McCorvy - the "Jane Roe" in Roe v. Wade - during the whole chaotic situation that swirled around her and produced abortion reform back in the 1970s, and thirty years later when she renounced her pro-abortion stance and began actively campaigning for the repeal of Roe v. Wade.
He's a member of Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation who, as a Navy flier, did his part to defend our liberty in World War II. Those of you who are among his regular readers already know that.
While an instructor at UCI he hatched and nurtured a generation of excellent journalists, many of whom have passed through the pages of the Daily Pilot and other local publications. Among them is Bill Lobdell, current columnist and former editor of the Daily Pilot and reporter for the Los Angeles Times.
As an example of just what a small world this is, Joe and I also share a couple of other links in our lives. He was the best friend of one of my bosses - former Newport Beach councilman Don Strauss. And, his sister-in-law, Jill Angel (you may remember Jill as a CHP officer who did traffic reports on KNX 1070 radio a few years ago before being promoted to Sacramento), was a very dear friend of my best friend, Larry Moore. You regular readers recognize that name. Through those links and my admiration for his writing skills, Joe and I have become friends.
HE'S NOT DONE YET
I'm going to miss Joe's weekly column, but he's promised (threatened?) to avail himself of the Forum page when the spirit moves him. I hope that happens often. Recent local political events tell us that there will be plenty of ripe targets for his consideration.
FINISH THAT DARN BOOK!
So, as my friend, Joe Bell, closes the door on this part of his life, I hope he finishes the book he has talked about for a decade and that he finds other ways to continue to display his exceptional literary skills.
ADIOS, MY FRIEND...
Adios, Joe... I'll look for the glow in the sky as they fire up the candles on your birthday cake on July 4th. It's just a darn good thing there's a fire station a couple blocks from your home.