A call to duty

It’s odd how you can know little about the details of someone’s life yet feel as if you know them well.

One of my older friends, Jack Summerville, 89, died Thursday. I spent far more time with other men in my parents’ circle of friends than I did with Jack. We played a few rounds of golf together and shared delightful chats at social events when I’d come home during my years away from Marion, but that’s about the sum of our interactions.

As a young adult, I knew Jack had served in the Wichita police department, knew he was married and had grown kids, and knew his golf swing defied description yet got the job done.

But I didn’t need details or much time to know Jack, for he was as genuine and personable as anyone I’ve ever met. I can forgive him for having a handshake so firm it made me feel like my eyes were going to bug out. Every greeting from Jack felt like I was a favorite nephew he was glad to see. He greeted everyone like that.

I doubt I’ll get much argument suggesting that Jack saw his life as a call to duty, a call that went beyond his military and public service described elsewhere in this paper.

Jack’s call to duty was to embrace an exuberant, active life that made his little corner of the world a better place, and embrace it he did.

Jack’s calling was more a natural expression of what he felt and believed than it was driven by obligation. It permeated his relationships with family, friends, and community. Sometimes that meant lighting up a room with his deep, infectious laugh and twinkling eyes. Other times it meant tackling difficult situations with seriousness balanced by genuine concern for others. Whatever the context, Jack was who he was called to be.

Scrambling to learn the ropes and keep up in my new job, I didn’t make it to Jack’s memorial service, but rushing between assignments I did make it to the cemetery service. Jack would have understood. I can hear his rich voice saying, with a phrase he used even when I was 50, “Young man, you have a duty to get that paper out.”

I’m fortunate part of that duty is taking a few moments to remember my friend. Godspeed, Jack — duty over, job well done.

— DAVID COLBURN

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