Thursday, October 11, 2007

From the Jonesboro Sun, October 9, 2007
Opinion page

Behind-the-scenes work suited Kiwanian just fine

By Roy Ockert

Harry Findley was always there, doing whatever needed to be done

Harry Findley was the kind of person who makes a civic club profitable in the way that a civic club should be-in service to the community. He did whatever the Jonesboro Kiwanis Club needed to get done and I suspect that'[s what he did in every endeavor of his personal and professional life.

Unfortunately, Harry lost a long battle with cancer on Saturday at the age of 74.

Harry was never president of the Kiwanis Club. He preferred to work behind the scenes. And did he ever work!

Civic club presidents come and go, and most people who fill the role become quite active two or three years around that presidential year. Most tend to become much less active afterward.

But Harry's service was year in and year out until he was felled by this awful disease. He received the Kiwanian of the Year Award several years ago, but the truth is he was deserving of that honor every year.

Our club's signature event is Pancake Day, held annually in late winter of early spring. It draws thousands of people and raises enough money to fund our contributions to dozens of projects and three scholarships to Arkansas State University.

To people who go through the line, I'm sure that putting on Pancake Day looks easy. And to those of us who man the griddle, the hard part is keeping your eyeballs from getting cooked.

But it takes dozens of people working together for such an event to be successful. And until this year Harry probably worked longest and hardest of anyone every year.

I didn't really appreciate how valuable his efforts were until my year as president when I was, of course, more active.

We start setting up on Thursday morning, and it takes two full days to get everything in place for our 6 a.m. Saturday start at the fairgrounds. That means hauling chairs and tables, collecting supplies, covering our work space with cardboard to facilitate cleanup, setting up the gas-fired griddles and scrubbing everything.

Harry didn't give orders, but he was always there, and if you really wanted to help, you could just ask him. He knew what needed to be done, and if no one was available to do it. he would.

On Pancake Day most members find time to work 2- or 4-hour shifts. Harry was there from long before opening to sometime after closing, doing whatever needed to be done-from filling in on a griddle to pouring coffee to making a run for more supplies to taking out the trash. He made sure the event went well, and, at the same time his good humor brightened the mood for all.

Not only that, but his wife June was usually there helping, too-possibly because that was the only way she'd see him that day.

The worst part of Pancake Day comes on the following Monday when we must take everything down and clean up including all that sticky syrup people spill. Most of us try to find excuses to miss that part-the office calls-but not Harry. He was always there until the job was done.

One year he even lost the use of a hand for a time after an accident. We were returning a heavy-duty batter mixer and he was in the back of a truck steadying the mixer when the truck hit a bump or made a turn and the mixer shifted.

No doubt, the accident cost him some time that spring for one of other favorite activities-playing in the Jonesboro American Legion Senior Softball League.

His service to the club wasn't just once a year, though. he could be counted on to set up for our meetings, to take attendance, to keep up with member information forms, to fill a board of directors vacancy, to sit in on a committee meeting-whatever needed to be done.

On the night I was to be installed as president, we discovered at the last moment that we didn't have a flag for the Pledge of Allegiance. Don't worry, Harry said. He took off and returned with the requisite flag and pole.

Another favorite memory of my year as president is a trip to Caruthersville, Mo., for a district meeting. Harry and another club stalwart. Fred Sitz, went with me. And on the way there and back, I got a great course in Jonesboro area history from their stories-so entertaining that I missed the Blytheville exit coming back and went on to US 63. I only wish I'd had a recorder that night.

How does a civic club replace a guy like Harry? We don't. We have other valuable members, like his good friend Fred. But Harry was one of a kind, and no one person will be able to do everything he did so well. A lot of other people will have to pick up the slack, and they did this year because he wasn't able to participate.

Still, we'll miss him. And I'[ll never cook or eat another pancake without thinking of Harry. The good works of this behind-the-scenes hero will benefit people who didn't even know him for years to come.

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