Friday, May 17, 2013

One final guest post.

Thank you so, so much to my many fantastic guest bloggers over the past two weeks.  If you know these men and women, please encourage them to do posts more often. I have loved their humor, their insights, the way that each encouraged me to reflect on - and appreciate - my own life a little more, and simply getting to know them better through their words.

I'll be back next week with more piddle projects, book reflections, recipes, and small-town adventures.  

First, however, one final guest post...and how fitting in honor of National Police Week.

Johnny Edrington
By: Guest Blogger, Fran Smith
When I turned on my computer early this morning, one of the first images I saw was of someone I haven’t seen in over 24 years.

For just over 8 years after I graduated from college I worked for my hometown newspaper. I wrote stories (both news and feature), took pictures of countless people, laid out pages and generally did whatever was asked of me. And I loved it. I loved meeting new people, hearing their stories and putting it into written form. I enjoyed the banter, sometimes serious and sometimes not, between elected officials and their constituents. I even didn’t mind the frequent trips down the street to McDonald’s where a 5-year-old with missing teeth and a gigantic smile was celebrating her birthday with Ronald and friends.

What I especially loved about the job were the regulars, those people you see every week, sometimes every day. You get to know those people – be it the mayor or judge executive or police or school superintendent. You ask about their kids or their spouses or what they did for fun on their days off.

And that’s where the picture I saw this morning took me back to – my tenure as a reporter/photographer/receptionist/flunky at the Central Kentucky News-Journal in Campbellsville. One of my regular tasks was to check with the local police about burglaries, shootings, accidents, etc. Wednesday mornings were hectic as our deadline was at noon. Inevitably, there was always an incident that occurred the previous Tuesday night that HAD to make the next day’s paper and it fell to me to find out the details. That meant calling the officer who had worked the case and, since he’d worked the previous night on said case, waking him up early Wednesday morning. I’m sure I’ve been cursed more times than I care to remember.

However one local policeman never seemed to mind being awakened after a late-night shift. He never seemed to consider my questions mundane and he always treated me with respect and kindness. I always apologized profusely and sincerely for waking him up. But without fail he always gave me an “Aw shucks, this is part of my job” reply then proceeded to give me the details, numerous yawns included, I needed for my story.

His name was Johnny Edrington and after serving a stint as a local policeman he attended the KY State Police Academy to become a KY State Trooper. He was serving in Laurel County when he murdered after pulling someone over in Laurel County. I will always remember coming into work early that December 20th morning in 1988 and the sports editor telling me Johnny had been killed. I knew what he was telling me had to be true. You don’t joke about someone dying but it was a fact too horrible for my mind to comprehend. He was a public servant, he was doing his job, he was my friend. And now he was dead.

Sadly the murder has never been solved. There were countless rumors, of course, and rumors about rumors but the mystery remains unsolved. According to the story on WBKO his death is one of only two unsolved police murders in Kentucky.

Johnny was a good guy. I know it sounds terribly cliché but he was. In a world where fewer and fewer people actually care about right and wrong, he did. And he was good at his job. He was competent and he did things by the book. Anyone in Campbellsville who knew him knew the state police was lucky to get him as a trooper.

Once assigned to Laurel County, Johnny had met and married a young woman there. She was pregnant with their first child when he was killed. That daughter has faithfully attended the memorial services that honor a father she never met. I know he would have been a great dad. I hope she knows it, too.

Each time I would see Johnny’s parents (both are now deceased, many said of broken hearts) we would reminisce about their only son. Inevitably tears would be shed and we would comfort each other with the fact Johnny had died doing what he loved. Sadly Johnny probably never imagined that doing what he loved would get him killed and his body left on the side of a road in Laurel County.

When it snows and there is a beautiful sunset, I always think of Johnny. There was snow on the ground when he died and the next day the sun gave a spectacular performance as it set. I took a picture of that sunset and I look at it often. It reminds me of Johnny. It reminds me how short life can be. It reminds me how the life of a good person can be snuffed out so needlessly and quickly.

My mother used to say that eventually someone will talk, someone will be drinking and begin to brag about killing a state trooper and never getting caught. I hope her prediction was right. Twenty-four and a half years is a long time to wait to find the murderer. I just hope it’s not too long.

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