Loss of colleague means loss of wonderful friend

It is with great sadness that I write of my good friend and fellow legislator, Bob Bethell, who died in a car wreck Sunday evening, May 20, on his way home after the close of the legislative session. His funeral was Thursday.

Bob was a resident of Alden in Rice County. He had worked through the years as, among other things, a nursing home administrator, including a stint at the Peabody Memorial Nursing Home in the early 1980s. His wife, Lorene, worked as a nurse at St. Luke Hospital in Marion, primarily in what we used to call the West Wing.

Bob also was a longtime American Baptist pastor, and served more than 30 years in the churches at Alden and Raymond?and was still serving them at the time of his death.

Bob was a strong advocate for the elderly and for the developmentally and physically disabled people of Kansas. Bob also advocated for children in just about every arena possible.

Bob understood issues of people without a strong voice of their own in Topeka, and he knew well how to address those issues. It is fitting, then, that the last bill considered Sunday on the floor of the House was a bill dealing with disadvantaged Kansans and Bob Bethell carried the bill.

He was the advocate explaining to House members why the new KanCare system needed an oversight committee to verify whether the system works within its mission and spends our dollars wisely. Not so fitting for Bob?s last bill, however?it did not pass.Right now we have no legislative monitoring set up for KanCare. Hopefully that will be corrected next session.

After receiving the word of his death Monday, I tried to get work done in my law office, but time and again my mind took me back to times spent with Rep. Bethell. He was a good man, a solid man, a great example to emulate, a man who lived out his faith as well as any man I?ve ever known.

Bob was a man with whom I could disagree?which wasn?t often?without either of us becoming disagreeable. I?ve used one of Bob?s quotations in this column (without citing its author, I confess): ?It is never a good time to vote for bad policy.?

With his passing, I won?t walk across the hall any more to sit and drink Bob?s coffee while discussing the issues of the day. I won?t be able to seek his thoughts on an issue, nor give him my views on something in my areas of expertise. I won?t have my spirits lifted by this incredibly optimistic man.

However, I will always have memories of a wonderful friendship, of moments visiting about countless topics, and I will have all that good advice received from a man who?d been in Topeka longer than I.

Friday will be Sine Die, when we officially put the session to bed. As for now, it doesn?t seem fitting to spend the rest of this week?s column talking about bills we?ve passed or not passed, so I think we?ll stop right here, and leave them for another time.

I miss Bob.

You may e-mail me at: Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at 201 Meadow Lane, Marion, KS 66861, or call me at 620-382-2133. The session is over, and I?m back in Marion and Hillsboro, full-time.

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