Commentary: True, lasting friendship is a reason to give thanks

This was in October, so the winds hadn’t kicked up yet.

But it was still a bit chill in the shadows as I left of my friend Denny Reed’s house on Karr Street, which extends north off Mitchell Boulevard on the hill beside the old International Harvester Lagonda Works.

When I cleared the shadows after having finished morning coffee and comparing frustrations with Denny, I was awash in sunshine. And, thus warmed, I answered a call from my brain stem and slid onto the hood of my car like a reptile onto a rock.

After squinting into the sun, I fought the glare on the face of my cell phone and dialed Jim Ingledue.

Many in these parts knew Jim in the 1950s when he was a sports star at Springfield High and Wittenberg University in the 1950s. Many of the same folks renewed their acquaintances with him and one another when Jim organized quarterly meetings of the Golden Era Wildcats, which met in a clubhouse at the Masonic Community.

If the slew of folks who attended the meetings ponied up and hired a consultant, that learned MBA would tell us Jim was a “convener,” someone who brought others together. Some know he did the same kind of thing by creating a fake Indy 500 race group, Team Rameri, which for years came from all over the country to attend the Indy Time Trials.

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His openness to others, which made him a natural salesman, extended beyond his generation. One of his pleasures in his recent years in Springfield was watching the resurgence of a Wildcats football team of the quality he played for when getting all-state honors. And he had no greater pleasure than being allowed to give the team a pregame talk a time or two.

So, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by what I consider my surprise friendship with Jim. He’s 70 years older than the current crop of Wildcats and only 20 years or so older than me. But, then, the Golden Era graduates of the 1950s grew up in a different culture than Vietnam era graduates of the 1970s. And it’s a gap that still wanders the land like a scar the length of the Mississippi.

A couple of things about Jim:

He always referred to his wife, Beverle, as “my bride,” and spoke of her respectfully. More than that, his eyes smiled as he turned the pages of their wedding album for another look at the first day of their 63 plus years together.

The Ingledues had migrated back to Springfield after being away most of their lives with hopes of living out their lives here. But, too soon after they arrived, dementia began its grim march through Beverle’s brain, which necessitated her move to Memory Care at the Springfield Masonic Community.

B.C. – that is, before COVID-19 – Jim visited her every day. And it was a pain to him, as it has been to so many others, to see a loved one drift away while wondering whether the process would have been slowed had their daily visits continued. But staff members of the unit she was in saved the note Jim brought to her each day he was able to visit and pasted it into an album that is a tribute to his faithfulness.

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I mention those things, because, though I knew him before Covid arrived, Jim was going through a difficult time when we started going out to our monthly lunches together. And, despite his difficulties – and in the midst of Beverle’s inexorable decline --, he was able to do what not all can: remain open to others and keep a great difficulty cut him off from the rest of life.

Talking with one another about small things allowed us to slide into deeper conversations as easily as we slid into the booths at Los Mariachis. He’d get the Speedy Gonzales and a Coke. I’d order either the veggie quesadilla or fajita and unsweet iced tea with lemon and a few packets of Splenda.

One of my favorite stories was the day Jim saved our late mutual friend Jim Hays from a thrashing in the halls of Springfield High School. Another mutual friend, Dave Dillahunt, had described Jim’s getting into a similar scrap when the two of them were at a dance hall at Indian Lake.

We also shared a love of Lake Superior. Jim Ingledue’s work had taken him to Duluth, Minn., just a couple of hours west of where I spent my childhood summers in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I laughed when he told me the story about having to buy a car with plug-in engine warmer so it would freeze solid overnight. So I told him the story of arriving in the U.P. to visit my grandparents on a day when it was foggy and in the 40s and waking up the next morning to 12 inches of snow.

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The bottom line is that we became good friends – good enough that I soon told him how lucky I felt to have a friend like him. Regular readers of this column may recall one I wrote a month or so ago in which Ben Hamilton told me a close friendship he developed with neighbor Mitch Workman has been, in my paraphrased words, “nothing he expected to experience in his later years.”

That made the column because of my friendship with Jim.

After his bride’s death on Aug. 16, Jim did the math and decided it would work out better if he moved to Florida to live with his son Kevin. That’s where the phone rang when I made my reptilian call to him last month and where Jim does his daily water resistance workout in Kevin’s pool.

Our phone conversations are predictably briefer than they were over lunch.

But because one conversation seems to pick up where the last left off and we always have little stories to share, the sense of connection remains.

As those who enjoy such friendships know, it’s the kind of thing that scratches an itch in the brain stem and makes one feel like a reptile on a warm rock – one of those things I’ll feel thankful for come Thursday.