Bud Herron: Remembering a beloved ‘eccentric’

When my late wife, Ann, joined my extended family in 1968, her smile, openness and quick hugs made everyone embrace her.

And the sparkle behind the big octagonal glasses of the day told everyone she had some thoughts of her own — those not all women in that era felt free to reveal.

Yet, my family — and much of her family — thought she was a bit eccentric.

A war which would prove itself to be one of the greatest mistakes in the history of American warfare was raging in Vietnam. She openly opposed it, while honoring and praying for the young men and women who were drafted or volunteered to serve in the military.

Some in our families believed in the silent majority mantra of “My country, right or wrong.” Ann believed “My country always, but when it is wrong, my responsibility is to work to change it.” And work she did.

Ann also was a seminal participant in the first Earth Day in 1970. She learned and tried to teach me and everyone else about the need to “repurpose, reuse, recycle” the trash polluting our nation.

She advocated and educated others in the basic commitments needed to minimize damage to the environment. She washed out her plastic bags and reused them. She refused to use paper towels or disposable diapers for our children. She composted so much our garbage disposal remained just like new. She searched for and found environmentally safer laundry and dish detergents. She refused to accept restaurant leftovers in styrofoam containers.

And she brought a greater awareness of the basics of nutrition to our extended family. Some of her ideas threatened use of old family recipes that leaned heavily on great-grandmothers’ love of salt, sugar, lard and bacon grease. She made her own bread to overcome the nutritional deficiencies of white bread with the nutrients milled out of the flour and then replaced with chemical substitutes.

As time went on our extended family began to recycle. Some even started to compost. Most quit spraying poison on their lawns and started bending over to pull undesirable weeds. Family gatherings started having an uptick in food not designed to clog arteries, even as everyone lovingly smiled at Ann’s “eccentricities.”

She insisted that we buy the most fuel-efficient cars. And when hybrid gas/electric vehicles became available, we bought the first ones we could afford to slow the approach of environmental disasters.

So, she was indeed “eccentric” — at least by the standards of much of the rest of us. Yet, so much of what she believed, did and advocated for in 1968 moved slowly into the mainstream over time. In the end she was only out of the mainstream in that she lived what she believed and so many of us don’t.

I must admit, for instance, that while I know she was right about what each of us needs to be doing to save our planet from environmental disaster, I don’t always follow my intellectual commitments with my actions.

Several times a week Ann wrote emails or text messages or made phone calls to our legislators, advocating for or against pending legislation.

Many of the causes she considered moral imperatives were lost in the political jungle and she knew there was little or no chance her communications would change votes. But she kept at it.

She even spoke at the Indiana General Assembly a couple of times on issues dear to her heart, such as sensible gun legislation and support for public education.

Often she tried to get me to follow suit. Most often I just told her she was pounding her head against a brick wall and wasting her time. Her messages had no chance in a system dominated by big money and powerful lobbies. In other words, one person has no chance of changing the world for the better.

“I am not trying to change the world,” she would tell me. “I just want the people making the decisions to know someone is watching.”

She loved the quote from Henry David Thoreau that “Any man (woman) more right than his (or her) neighbors constitutes a majority of one.”

If she was eccentric, Ann was in good company.

Bud Herron is a retired editor and newspaper publisher who lives in Columbus. Contact him at [email protected].