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Commentary: Losing A Friend, Gaining Some Faith
By Mitch Traphagen
Aug 16, 2007 - 8:40:00 PM

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In 2003, I wrote an article about the Sun City Center Chamber of Commerce at which Jerry Milton was president and Elaine Brad was, and continues to be, the executive director. After the interview, I asked to take pictures - and begged for patience in taking way too many of them. The begging paid off - and I got one of my first pictures of Jerry smiling for the camera - and for both of them, the smiles are obviously genuine. Over the years, I managed to get more smiling pictures but I think this one was his favorite. File Photo by Mitch Traphagen

I had probably known him for a year before I managed to get a picture of him with a smile on his face.  By that time, it had almost become a challenge for me.  He wasn't mean - far from it; he wasn't angry - not in the least; but I think the dour expression he sometimes had in photographs became something of a trademark for him.  And he certainly wasn't interested in putting on a false front.

And over the years he became a friend of the most genuine kind.  There are few people like him.  If he didn't hear from me for a while, he would call - just to see if things were OK.  He would always end calls asking me to give his regards to my lovely wife.

I'm certain I could have asked him anything.  If Jerry Milton was your friend, that honestly meant something.  Jerry was the very definition of that word - and also the very definition of a gentleman.  Think about that for a moment - think about what that means.  I know with absolute certainty that if I needed him - for anything at all - he would have responded.  

He didn't have to work at integrity or honor or commitment - he had it all in spades and it was all deeply set in his heart and soul.  He was my friend - a true friend - and I miss him very much.  The world is not a better place now that he is gone, but I can honestly say that I am a better person because he was here.  Simply by example, Jerry showed me how to be a good man.  Unlike him, however, I have to work at it.

And I learned that despite the pictures, he was anything but dour.  I occasionally saw sadness in his eyes; he mentioned loss once or twice but there was no resentment, no anger.  Jerry Milton was a man of extraordinarily deep feelings.  I was and am honored that he considered me a friend.  

It took a year but I did finally get a picture of him smiling.  He later asked me to print it for him.

Thank you Jerry - and goodbye.  I hope that someday I will be worthy of meeting you again.

This isn't That Hard

I've tried to avoid getting into the whole "golf carts crossing U.S. 301 to go to Wal-Mart" debate because I've learned over the years that dealing with a largely disinterested beauracracy is roughly equivalent, in terms of enjoyment, to having a root canal performed.  In this case, however, there are multiple bureaucracies - which brings the whole thing down to the pulling teeth with a pliers level.  That said, I recently followed traffic down 301 towards State Road 674.  As I neared the intersection I saw an elderly couple pushing a shopping cart across the highway - across the blistering hot asphalt under a blistering hot summer sun.  I think, if anyone really thought about it, the risk of someone keeling over from that is far greater than a golf cart getting smucked in the crosswalk.  But then, that would require that someone actually think about it.  

I realize we are now in a time of intense budget cuts but c'mon, is this really that hard?  Put up a flashing 'Golf Cart Crossing' sign on each side of 674 and be done with it.  Do we really want elderly people forced to race across lanes of hot pavement to get to their golf carts?  Don't we have a little more respect than that?  Geez, just fix the problem - it's not rocket science.  We can do better than forcing old people to push shopping carts across a highway.

This is Amazing

And speaking of doing better - I am literally in awe at the generosity of the people in South Hillsborough.  Donations for the clinic in Haiti that Dr. Hal Ott is involved in building were still coming in last I heard.  The total received is well beyond what Hal Ott or I would ever have imagined.  You truly made a miracle happen and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Although I had nothing to do with it, I thank you because from this point forward, on the worst days where everything seems to go wrong, I can remember the generous, selfless people who stepped forward to lend a helping hand to people they will likely never know.  From this point forward, on my worst days, I will always have that faith in my fellow man. 

Thank you for that.

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