The past week, properly enough, has been one of official memorials for the military veterans who have made the supreme sacrifice for their country, and — in this corner, anyhow — has also been a time to remember others who have left us or suffered significant harm on some other kind of firing line.
It was, for example, inspiring to see former journalist and current FedEx customer service specialist Oran Quintrell out and in public and appearing to be of good spirit at the annual Bratfest sponsored by various of his fellow Democratic activists in southeast Memphis on Memorial Day. It was the first outing for Quintrell, a victim of diabetes, since the amputation of his lower legs and his fitting for prosthetic substitutes.
It would be overdoing it to say that Quintrell was jaunty, but both he and his wife, Joyce, were satisfyingly whole and back to normal in any number of impressive ways, and gave every indication that they will be on hand to add their good cheer and stimulating company in all kinds of social situations to come.
Quintrell's disease and rehab regimen have served as a "wake-up call," observed his longtime friend Steve Steffens, a co-host for the Bratfest affair.
Diabetes has been much in the news of late. It was given as the proximate cause of death for the legendary B.B. King, who has been the subject of several memorials since his death last week in Las Vegas and was to be honored with yet another on Beale Street on Wednesday of this week.
And it was the focus of attention at the recent fund-raising banquet of the West Tennessee chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).
Held at the East Memphis Hilton on May 9th, the event was co-hosted by honorary Chairman David Pickler, the former longtime Shelby County Schools president, whose company, the Pickler Wealth Advisers, is an annual sponsor of the event and whose daughter, Katie Pickler, is chief development officer of the West Tennessee chapter. Emcee for the JDRF banquet was Darrell Greene, news anchor for WHBQ-TV, Fox 13.
Speaking of "satisfyingly whole" and "of good cheer," it is hard to imagine anybody more suggestive of those phrases than Greene, a former star athlete during his student days in Arkansas and the very embodiment of public good health. Yet Darrell is one of the many victims of juvenile diabetes. After being diagnosed at the age of 24, he has had to submit to the same daily insulin regimen as other JD1 sufferers, a treatment routine that is necessary to sustain normal life, or, in some cases, life itself.
The JDRF banquet, which had a Roaring Twenties theme, attracted numerous luminaries, no few of them from the world of politics. The auction of items and services donated by various individuals and institutions raised more than $365,000 for research.
Juvenile diabetes (also known as Type 1) is so-called because it appears to be innate (i.e., likely present in some form from birth) and is not necessarily the result of specific life circumstances. Type 2, which accounts for most known cases, is more usually attributed to specific developmental circumstances, like obesity or overuse of sugar. Both kinds of diabetes involve impairment of the body's metabolism and ability to process blood sugar and are threatening to life and limb.
• Last week also presented three occasions for friends to remember former state legislator and women's rights activist Kathryn Bowers — memorial services at St. Paul Catholic Church on Friday (where video clips from her time in public life were shown), followed by a funeral mass there on Saturday and burial on Tuesday at Calvary Cemetery.
Bowers' observances occurred on the same weekend as events in Memphis connected with the annual convention here of the Tennessee Federation of Democratic Women, an organization in which she had often figured large.
Bowers, a longtime member of the Democratic leadership in the House, was well-liked and respected across party lines despite the fact of her arrest in 2005 (almost 10 years ago, exactly), along with several other legislators, in the FBI's Tennessee Waltz sting. Bowers' arrest occurred only days after she was sworn in as a state senator after winning a special election to fill a vacancy.
After serving a brief prison term for bribery, Bowers devoted much of her time in recent years to charitable activity and to voter registration drives.
• As this is a column largely devoted to memory and memorials, I will take the opportunity to express some overdue condolences — to Adrienne Pakis-Gillon, a former candidate for the state Senate and a Democratic activist, for the death of her father, Jim Pakis, and to Susan and George Simmons, activists also, for the death of their son Forest, whose extraordinary good nature so clearly derived from that of his parents.
Even more overdue: condolences to the survivors of Shirley Boatright, a tireless campaign worker and strategist for all sorts of candidates and public figures, across all kinds of ideological lines, who died back in December 2013.
This list of overlooked remembrances is by no means complete and will be added to in the course of time.
• And, speaking of memorials, there was one clear message from the crowd of advocates and celebrants who showed up for an all-day "Roundhouse Revival" event on Saturday at the site of the long-dormant Mid-South Coliseum, now threatened with imminent extinction as a result of ongoing development plans.
And that message was: Rumors of the Coliseum's uselessness have been greatly exaggerated. Discussed at the event, intermittently with music and even some 'rassling featuring Jerry Lawler and Bill Dundee versus some certified bad guys, were a number of proposals, including one for a wrestling museum, which would allow the Coliseum to be rehabbed and retrofitted for new life.
Among the political figures observed there, either as spectators or as participants, were City Councilman (and mayoral candidate) Jim Strickland, City Council candidate Chooch Pickard, and County Commissioner Steve Basar. This, too, is an incomplete list.