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January 5, 2005

Reminiscing about old friends

I glanced across the street the other day and noticed that my neighbor for the past 24 years, Otis Shelley, was not mowing the lawn or doing other things to make his picture-perfect yard look even better. It was like a jolt to realize that he was gone. No one has ever taken better care of his yard than Otis. It was a shock to realize that he had lost a valiant battle with cancer. He had plans for improvements this coming summer but we will never know what that would have included. Besides all that, he was the kind of good neighbor everyone wishes they had. We are going to miss him. Our condolences to Jeanette, the children, grandchildren and host of friends who admired him greatly.

Both of us have been retired several years, but I had known Otis since the time I edited The Journal years ago, when he worked at the telephone office. We received the daily United Press International (UPI) report from Oklahoma City on a dedicated phone line, or Teletype, and we frequently had to call on the phone people when trouble disrupted the flow of wire service news. J.M. Markey was the phone man in charge here, but he was usually aided and abetted by Otis or his late brother, Jim Shelley, who also worked for the phone company.

One day after a summer vacation, Mr. Markey answered a summons to our office to see what was causing some line hits, or a problem of that sort. He found a spaghetti-like terminal attached to the bottom of someone's desk, and asked who rigged that up. No matter. He said it would have to be taken apart by whoever put it together, and only then would he attempt to solve the problem. And he did, after the phone company's original wiring was restored.

Speaking of those times, let me reminisce a bit more, please. I was originally hired at the newspaper office by Mr. W.K. Leatherock, editor and publisher of The Journal. After I came home from WWII, Mr. Leatherock fell ill and died of cancer at the age of 52. Some years later his daughter, Marianne, died of cancer, at the age of 52. Last month, W.K.'s grandson, Cyrus Leatherock, died of cancer in Oklahoma City, at the age of 52. Weird coincidences. All were taken much too soon. Cyrus grew up in Oklahoma City. He was the son of Wesley and Gloria Leatherock. Wesley is a retired communicator with Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in Oklahoma City and he is well known there.

I'm pleased to see that Bill Rotter's Great Big Band is going to furnish the program for the annual Chamber of Commerce dinner on Jan. 15. Better get your tickets early from Carolyn Briegge or Kaylen Martens at the C-C office and join the throng at that affair. If you heard Bill's band at their debut in the armory a few weeks ago, you know its going to be a good show.