There was an empty chair at the City Council meeting Monday night and a nameplate on the table in front of it with the name R. Dale Jones on it.
Fortunately, the meeting was rather short. Members of the Council, along with the few visitors, pretty much had him on their minds during the entire meeting.
Mayor Greg Kubarski opened the session by requesting a minute of “silent memories” before business discussions began. I think R. Dale would have liked that.
He had spent years representing the residents of his ward, including me, and always considered the position a responsibility that he took seriously. In addition, he served many years as President of the Council. He offered the group a true voice of experience, mixed with just the right amount of humor, that guarantee he will be missed at the meetings ahead.
Of course, the City Council was only one aspect of his belief in community service. Local folks can’t even think of Cesky Den without picturing him in full costume at the annual celebration, greeting visitors and chatting with local members for years as their President.
Perhaps, however, R. Dale enjoyed his early morning hours the most, as he “held court” at the local cafe with a large table full of fellow senior citizens. Whether the restaurant was called Country Style Cookin, Holvy’s, or Barbie’s Kitchen, to that friendly bunch it was always the home of the “Breakfast Club,” and the place to be for early risers who felt like members of a “family.”
I always think of R. Dale in my mind as a consummate dairy farmer. He was born and raised on a farm and it seemed to me that he always considered himself a full-time member of that fraternity, even in later years when he lived “in town.”
He was very proud of his association with the World Dairy Expo, Wisconsin Holstein Association, and the National Dairy Shrine.
Close behind was his love for anything Wisconsin, mainly the Brewers, Packers, and especially the Badgers. He also “dabbled” in political activities and was on a first name basis with Tommy Thompson and other government leaders.
There are two things that I will always carry in my mind about R. Dale.
One was his penchant for telling enlightening and probably somewhat enhanced stories of his experiences that I always found very entertaining.
The other was his basic sense of the importance of friendships, regardless of occasional differences in opinions. Deep down, he always seemed to be able to differentiate the value of the former and the unimportance of the latter.
For years, whenever I walked into the City Council room to cover a meeting, R. Dale would offer me a cheerful hello.
When I was a few minutes late, which I have to admit was often, he would just smile and nod his head at me.
I sure missed that friendly greeting Monday night!