Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Leon Cline, My Friend

One doesn’t often think of the county fair in November. I don’t know about you but I put any thoughts of the fair out of my mind a day or two after the fair and don’t even start thinking about it again until sometime the next spring. This past week I spent a lot of time thinking about the Pottawatomie County Fair. I must say it was very bittersweet.

I have had the privilege to be a county agent in four different counties and I have judged the county fairs of over sixty counties in Kansas, a couple in Colorado and a few in Nebraska. I have observed many a fair board. I know every county has a small group of people who spend a great deal of time, year-round planning the county fair. Pottawatomie County is no different. We have one of the best, most dedicated fair boards around. But it is a fairboard with a big, gaping hole in it.

This past week the Pottawatomie County Fair lost Leon Cline. The best way I can describe Leon was that he was the heart and soul of our fair. I don’t think it has hit home yet what a fair without Leon might be like, it was an honor to work with him and a blessing to have called him a friend. Leon was one of the most selfless, caring, community minded people I have ever met. He was a shining example of no matter what hand life dealt you, you could serve others and enjoy the life you were given.

Leon loved every part of the fair and hardly ever missed a minute of it. In fact, when Leon was healthy I doubt he missed a minute. In later years, his health failed him and he was forced to rest, I know it bothered him greatly. I also suspect that he sacrificed his health against the better judgement of his doctors to be at the fair. Driving around in his golf cart, making sure everyone was taken care of. But that was the essence of Leon, putting others first. The thing about Leon I will miss the most is the friendly greeting that helped make even the most hectic, fair day seem better.

I got to know Leon twenty years ago when I came back to my home county to serve as the 4-H Agent. Leon was on the fairboard and he had a vision of what the fair should be and his vision included entertainment. He loved going to the talent showcase at the Association of Fairboards meeting and lining up acts for the next year. Leon brought jugglers, balloon artists, chainsaw sculptors, magicians, bands, singers and some acts that defied description. Leon’s vision worked and the acts added to the allure of the fair and brought in many new faces and added to everyone’s experience.

Leon’s legacy goes far beyond the fair. He was that rare person who put community and others first. I know without a doubt that serving others and seeing them happy was the most important thing in Leon’s life. He served the community in many, many ways and I am sure I will miss more than I mention. I know he is remembered by some as a bus driver, others as a school custodian, a dispatcher, a volunteer firefighter/ first responder and to many as a DJ at thousands of dances. He wore many hats but it is safe to say that to everyone who met him he was an incredible friend and a shining example of a life well lived.

This past week I have spent a great deal of time thinking about Leon and just how much I will miss him. The fair might not be the same this year. I say might not because as I thought about Leon this week I thought about the example he left for all of us to follow. Living our lives like Leon lived his would be one of the greatest tributes we could ever give him.

Even if you never met Leon Cline, the example he left all of us would be one worth emulating. Go out each day putting the happiness and well-being of others first. Making the people around you happy will make you happy. No matter what hurdles face you, they don’t have to stop you and most importantly those obstacles should not stop you from caring for the people around you. Enjoy the little things in life and revel in them.

If there were more people in this world like Leon Cline, it would be a much better place. We can never replace Leon but we can make sure his memory lives on in the example he gave us. Take care of those around you, make sure their happiness is your priority and enjoy life to the fullest. That is what Leon would want.

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