An old man in a young man’s body

The week Hub Foster passed away, there was a lot of reflection and writing about his life.

And there should have been.

When creating a photo page in tribute of Hub, my co-worker Kerri Pankratz wrote “A life well lived.” That struck me as being beyond accurate.

He actually explored the world.

He wrote and read excessively.

He worked tirelessly for his community.

He loved and lived as best he could.

He literally squeezed every bit of juice out of this life that he could. Hub didn’t leave much pulp behind.

And when I read Dave Sjuts’ Business Beat column, he wrote that Hub never wanted to “outlive his mind.” He certainly didn’t.

When I think of Hub, I picture a young guy. I never knew him as young, numerically speaking. Heck, he was in his 80s when we first met.

But when you looked at him, really looked in his eyes, there was this young guy looking back – he was just shrouded in wrinkles.

His mind was sharper than mine, although he was almost exactly 50 years older. He could rattle off facts, figures, statistics. He could remember details of people’s lives from decades ago. Hub was a walking dictionary and a breathing time capsule.

Was it because he was an anomaly or was it because he simply chose to pay attention?

I find that since Hub passed away, I’m not only thinking about him but I’m thinking about my own life as well. Don’t we all do that? Don’t we ask ourselves if we’re living up to our full capacity?

Am I appreciating all that the last minute just offered me?

Am I taking advantage of the chance to have meaningful relationships with the people standing next to me?

Am I paying attention to what my life is right now – so I can use it to build upon in the future?

Am I really doing everything I can to maybe help out someone else or encourage their existence?

Hub certainly did all those things and touched so many lives in the process – in ways he probably would have never guessed.

Maybe it was the simple act of giving his old “Sports Illustrated” magazines to a young boy who grew up to become a coach.

Maybe it was telling a young man starting out in the newspaper business that he proved to be “his best hire” – that man would grow into a fine ad director, columnist and sales professional.

Maybe it was naming a high school athlete as the best in the state, then following his college football career and fostering a long-term relationship. That boy grew up to be none other than Dr. Tom Osborne.

Maybe it was sharing his joy in sending his first successful email. Not only was Hub thrilled and amazed he’d mastered the electronic sending of his column to Kerri Pankratz – she was just as entertained and happy for him, possibly inspired. What was second nature to her was a giant hurdle for Hub – and a victory for both of them.

That girl was instrumental in putting Hub’s words on the pages day after day – and she made sure to use her incredible graphic arts abilities to create a fitting and poignant tribute to Hub the day after he died.

The stories are simply endless – and we’ve been thrilled to hear from readers around the nation who were touched by this man.

As of me, I remember a wonderful gift that Hub bestowed about 13 years ago. I was new here and someone told me I was a “horrible writer.” It cut me to the bone.

But when Hub got wind of it, he told me to grow a thicker skin, “Cuz’ you’re gonna’ need it,” and “Keep writing, young lady. Don’t let ‘em get the best of ya.’”

So I went back to the computer and plugged away, year after year, striving to be at least not horrible.

Hub had a way of encouraging people to be the best they could be, because he led by example.

We can all hope that on our last day, we can look back and say we did everything we could with our days here. Hub was far too humble to admit he’d accomplished a lot in his life – but I’m pretty sure he had some idea of the respect and admiration that swirled about him.

Last fall, when Hub turned 95, it took a little longer to get him to the break room for his annual News-Times cake party. But once he was seated and we began to sing, his eyes twinkled as he looked at this eclectic group of people.

And that’s when I saw that young guy again – a young guy in an old man’s body.

He’d told Kerri and I that “I’m going to have a talk with my doctor about my future.”

She and I didn’t say anything because we didn’t know what to say, it made us feel sad.

After a brief pause, he leaned in on his cane and grinned from ear to ear. “Seeing how old I am, that shouldn’t be a long conversation!”

And he laughed. We laughed.

Because even though his clock said he was old, Hub was young inside himself and exuded that to us as well.



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