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Kevin Woster

Kevin Woster

This column should probably be all about the governor’s State of the State address last week, the first in South Dakota history by a woman.

That’s a big deal, after all. And as I sat in our living room during the noon hour Tuesday and watched live public-TV coverage of Gov. Kristi Noem addressing the state Legislature, I felt inspired, and even hopeful.

It’s a new year. She’s a new governor with a new slate of priorities. They include important commitments to transparency in state government and more protection for news outlets through a “common-sense reporter shield law protecting the constitutional right to a free and independent press.”

Imagine that, coming from a woman who seems so fond of Donald Trump, a man who relentlessly reviles the news media. So bravo, governor, on your break from the president on this issue and your support for professional news reporters and real news.

There was a lot more in Noem’s address to write about. And I will, eventually. But writing for me these days is a bit of a whimsical exercise. It’s less structured and less disciplined than it was, by necessity rather than inclination, during my full-time news career.

So when I sat down at my computer in the den to write this column, the keystrokes — which sometimes seem to operate independently from my brain — led me back to 2018, and to Ted McBride.

Well, not just to Ted McBride, the bow-tied, arts-inspired, dog-loving federal prosecutor with the admirable mix of zeal and compassion. But also to friends and journalists Dave Kranz and Denise Ross, journalism professor Dick Lee and state Supreme Court Justice Steve Zinter, thespian Graham Thatcher and legislator-Mayor Chuck Turbiville.

All people I knew and cared about, and all lost to the great beyond in 2018, the last being Ted McBride. Losses are part of life, of course. And they pile up along with the years, which is perhaps the most essential mixed blessing of age.

I was considering some of that eight days ago as I sat in the sanctuary of First Congregational United Church here in Rapid City, where McBride’s memorial service was held. We were listening to local Musicians James Van Nuys and Arjun Ayyangar sing the Grateful Dead song, “He’s Gone.”

And while I didn’t look around, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one smiling at lyrics like: “Nine mile skid on a ten mile ride. Hot as a pistol but cool inside. Cat on a tin roof, dogs in a pile.

Nothin' left to do but smile, smile, smile. Now he's gone. Now he's gone. Lord he's gone, he's gone.”

Did I mention that Ted McBride had a sense of humor? Oh, yeah. And I’ll bet he grinned when he picked that song.

There were other, more traditional songs selected by Ted’s wife, Mary Linda. They featured “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” which we all sang, and a beautiful rendition of “Softly as I Leave You” by local attorney John Dorsey, who was hidden from view for a mystical effect.

It worked. It was beautiful.

But for the recessional song, Van Nuys and Ayyangar sang another that was picked by Ted: Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” which Ted’s beloved Grateful Dead also sang in concert.

The lyrics brought to an end, quite perfectly, the memorial service for a widely admired prosecutor who mentored young lawyers up to within days of his death:

“Mama take this badge from me. I can’t use it anymore. It’s getting too dark to see. Feels like I’m knockin’ on Heaven’s door.”

So goodbye Ted. And goodbye to all those who were loved and lost in 2018.

OK, now I’m ready to move on.

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Kevin Woster writes a blog and offers radio commentary for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He can be reached by emailing kevinwoster@rushmore.com.

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