Published On: Sat, Dec 8th, 2018

How Will you be Remembered?

Boca Raton, FL – Our community lost three giants of men recently in the passing of former President George Herbert Walker Bush, former Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson and former Florida Highway Patrol trooper Sevine Williams.

It has become a scary trend as the last three obituary-related columns I penned, were for people who died in groups of three.

While many of us were not surprised by the transitioning of “Daddy Bush” last Friday at 94, I was somewhat saddened. I find comfort, however, in knowing that he is with his widow of more than seven decades, his baby daughter, and no longer will be concerned with the issues of this world.

As I listened to the tributes, I learned so much about the man whom I came to know as our 41st president. I knew about his love for boating, golfing, of country and family. It was public knowledge that he was shot down as a young Naval aviator and was rescued by a submarine during WWII, and I am quite familiar with his “thousand points of light” promotion of volunteerism.

But unfortunately, it was not until in death that I discovered the human side of him. Far too often, in this unkind world, we allow politics to cloud the great deeds that define us as good human beings.

I was overcome with emotion a few times as many spoke about his compassion, his humility and his civility; like when his grandson, Jeb Bush Jr., grounded his Papi’s boat, Fidelity IV, while he was putting it in the slip. To add insult to injury, the younger Bush later used his “ganny’s” smart car without permission, only to get a butt chewing from her.

Just when he thought the world was caving in, he received a handwritten note from his Papi telling him to hang in there, it’s not the end of the world. There are some days like that… but some are brighter, he recalled.

President Bush was known for writing and leaving thoughtful notes in the most conspicuous places at the most opportune times.

I wondered why I felt the same way when the late Sen, John McCain died in August. It did not take me long to realize the two were gentlemen, who despite their political differences, earned the respect of those who disagreed with their beliefs – a stark contrast from the lack of character we have in our leaders today.

Another gentleman who was snatched from among us on Oct. 25 was Aaronson, affectionately called Burt.

Burt was a die-hard Democrat who genuinely cared about his constituents, regardless of how they voted.

He was “The Godfather” of South County politics. There was hardly a community meeting in West Boca, West Delray and West Boynton where Burt, who served an unprecedented 20 years in office, or his administrative assistant Mary Lou Berger, were not present. Berger, who began working for him in 1994, succeeded him as county commissioner in 2012 after term limits forced him to quit.

Burt’s accomplishments are evident across the county.

I recall in the early 1990s, he fought to prevent the county’s Solid Waste Authority from building a landfill and incinerator on 1,662 acres west of Boca Raton.

He also led the charge, which led to the creation of the sheriff’s substation and a fire station, along US 441, west of Boca Raton. He founded the Palm Beach International Film Festival and he helped open the county’s Special Olympics athletic and therapeutic center in Lake Worth.

He supported a bond issue that provided $100 million to buy land in the county’s 20,500-acre Agricultural Reserve, west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach.

Every Thursday evening, I drive by and through the 872-acre park that bears his name – Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park in West Boca Raton – and I am honored to have known this legend.

The third blow came Thursday when my fraternity brother, “So Fine” Williams, passed unexpectedly.

We first met in the late 1980s when I was a reporter with one of our local dailies.

Over lunch one day, I challenged him to make a right turn at Atlantic Avenue one Friday morning and help me change a life.

Back then, there were no guard rails along Interstate 95 in Palm Beach County so troopers were known for making left turns on the interstate.

Sevine took me up on the request and was among a few troopers who would meet and mentor students at the old Carver Middle School.

When hurricanes Frances and Jeanne destroyed Fort Pierce in 2004, he was one of two troopers who escorted two vans of school supplies and toys for kids in the city.

With the passing of these three great men, I can attest that they all have left their mark on their communities. When your day comes, what will your legacy be?


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