When most people in Illinois think of former Senator Paul Simon they think of his early work as a newspaper publisher and editor in Troy, Illinois, buying the local paper at the age of 19 and building the business into a chain of 14 weeklies. Or, they remember him as state Lieutenant Governor, Congressman, and Senator as well as an unsuccessful candidate for President. But, around our house we remember Paul Simon as a Lutheran.
When Paul was born in 1928 his Lutheran Church Missouri Synod pastor father and mother had just returned from the mission field in China. His father, Martin, eventually ended up as pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Troy as well as Olive Branch Lutheran Church outside Okawville. It is the Okawville connection which caused our lives to cross paths with his.
When the MAtH (man about the house) became a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod pastor, his first parish was in Venedy, Illinois, just outside of Okawville. Although the Simons were long gone from the area by then, the family was still talked about. Eventually we met the Senator and he and my husband began something of a long distance friendship based on Lutheranism. When we later moved to Collinsville we became acquainted with his mother, Ruth, who had retired here. Paul had any number of relatives in the Lutheran ministry which caused him to keep up with church goings on. And so it went until...
2003 the MAtH was one of three finalists for the position of Chaplain of the U.S. Senate. Paul heard this news and called the house one Saturday afternoon. I was here alone, but he talked to me for a long time about how much he hoped this job would come to the MAtH and, if it was alright with us, could he make a few phone calls to some of the Senators on the committee. Wow.
Today the Paul Simon Museum in Troy opened with a ribbon cutting and reception. There was a large crowd in attendance, so many in fact, that the two rooms of the museum couldn't hold them all. The former senator, a democrat, had admirers and friends of all political stripe and today's event emphasized that. What he had was civility and good manners and kindness and an interest in everyone he met. He breeched the political divide like no one else and you will find the most ardent of present day republicans who call him "friend".
Ribbon cutting. Of interest to Illinois bloggers may be Allen Adomite, in navy shirt behind the guy in red, who is an Illinois blogger and Troy alderman. Also in the photo is state rep, Jay Hoffman, front row in the brown jacket.