Just as I was trying to recover from the shocking death of a man I admired and for whom I had deep affection, another event hit me right in the face.
Buddy Seewald’s death this past weekend in an early-morning auto accident in Amarillo hit me hard. Buddy was a friend and a frequent contributor to the newspaper where I worked for nearly 18 years before leaving that job a year ago.
And for years Buddy would joust with another gentleman in a feature we called “Point/Counterpoint.” They would pick an issue on which to disagree; Buddy would write the liberal argument while his “opponent” would argue the conservative view.
The foe was Amarillo resident Virgil Van Camp, who died this past weekend at the age of 87.
First it was Buddy, then it was Virgil — another man I considered a friend — who would leave this world.
My goodness, what a profound coincidence.
Virgil was a dedicated World War II veteran who saw action in the South Pacific. He was immensely proud of his service in the Army Air Force and he continued his interest in aviation well into his senior years. He flew airplanes and gliders. Virgil became active in the Civil Air Patrol. He offered more than once to take me gliding. I accepted his offer, but sadly never collected on my friend’s generosity.
Virgil and Buddy could not have been more different in any conceivable way you can mention. Buddy was an unabashed liberal activist; Virgil was a rock-ribbed conservative. Buddy was openly gay; Virgil was married to the same woman for 50-plus years. Buddy was involved in political causes; Virgil didn’t pick up the bullhorn, choosing instead to go about his life more quietly.
Here, though, is the lesson both men taught me over my many years knowing them both: They could differ on issues of the day, but they remained friends and, as near as I can tell, they each had a mutual affection for each other.
We would meet every quarter or so for lunch. Virgil, Buddy, myself and my administrative assistant, Debbie Dudley, would go through topics they could debate in print. We’d settle on the issues, they might tussle a bit at lunch over why they were right and the other guy was wrong. We’d finish in about an hour; we’d stand up, shake hands and go our own ways.
Buddy and Virgil both were gentlemen and gentle men. They were wedded to their ideologies but their zeal never got in the way of their friendship.
Oh, how I wish we could have just a touch of that to soothe today’s poisonous political climate.
At this very moment, I am absolutely certain Buddy Seewald and Virgil Van Camp have ascended to the Great Beyond and are picking up right where they left off. I am likely to think of them both the next time I hear a clap of thunder.