Saturday, July 12, 2008

In Memory of a "Friend" I've Never Met

Tony Snow died this morning at age 53.

I never met Tony Snow personally, but I felt as though I knew him. Along with Tim Russert, Tony is the second major news media personality who has died in the past few weeks. To me, Russert came across as a likable person. Even though I did not agree with his personal politics, he was a credible news source, whose ability as a reporter and interviewer made him one of the best in the business.

Tony Snow was different. He was not so much of a reporter as a commentator. For seven years he did anchor "Fox News Sunday" a morning "Meet the Press" type of program on Fox News Channel, but Tony was first and foremost a pundit. The most used definition of pundit is "a person who gives opinions in an authoritative manner usually through the mass media". Tony fit that definition. However, the word comes from ancient Hindi and Sanskrit words "pandit" and "pandita" which means "a learned man". He was that as well.

I first became acquainted with this multi-talented guy through his syndicated Newspaper column back in the early 90's. His conservative, common sense world view and accompanying commentary struck a chord with me. He often served as a guest host for Rush Limbaugh, bringing a refreshing touch of class to the listeners of the bombastic one. Eventually he became a fixture on cable TV and had his own syndicated radio program. Eventually Tony took a major pay cut to serve as White House Press Secretary when Scott McClellan stepped down from that position. I so often found agreement with this fellow who articulated my views so well, and I enjoyed watching his career evolve, feeling an ever increasing kinship with him. He could have probably been classified as a "happy conservative".

Roger Ailes, president of Fox News Channel called Tony a "true renissance man". He loved his family and sports and music. Most folks are not aware of his musical talent. He was a man who played five instruments and had many friends in the music business. While a self described "news junkie" Tony had the privilege to play in the spotlight, himself. He is universally described as the ultimate nice guy. I would identify him as "a conservative, but not mad about anything."

The events of 2005 createed more of a bond with me, as Tony was diagnosed with Colon cancer. After his colectomy, it was discovered that the malignancy had metastasized to his liver. The previous year I had received the same diagnosis. I was undergoing my first six month course of chemotherapy when I heard the news report that his cancer was "incurable but hopefully treatable". Those were the same chilling words that Dr. Jain had told me.

Tony faced his illness with grace and dignity. He continued to work as hard as he could. Public appearances showed the ravages of the illness on his appearance. Yet he always had that smile and pleasant demeanor. One of my big regrets is that I once had opportunity to hear him personally, but I missed it. He was the main speaker at the dedication of the new north wing of Cabell Huntington Hospital last year. I intended to go to the public dedication ceremony, but unfortunately I had to officiate at a funeral ceremony that afternoon. Dad went, and he told me he had the opportunity to meet Tony and shake hands with him.

Robert Anthony Snow was born in nearby Berea, Kentucky and grew up in the Cincinnati area. His father was an educator and his mother was a nurse. He grew up in the Ohio Valley with solid midwestern values. Ironically, his mother also died of Colon Cancer in 1973 when Tony was 17 years old.

He often said his priorities were "God, Family, and Country". Tony was known to be a devout Christian. That being the case, then we had even more in common than our politics.

His passing will be a great loss to his wife Jill, two daughters, one son, and a host of friends. It will also be shared by many friends whom he'd never met.

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