Some weeks, the space I am given for my column seems impossible to fill. This isn't one of those weeks. I could write for days and still, I'm sure, not do my subject justice.
Last Friday, Michael Millar passed away. He was a neighbor and the father of one of my dearest friends.
I first met him when I delivered his newspaper as a kid. He would always invite me in to get warm when I was collecting on cold winter days.
Over the years, I would often see him riding his bicycle around town or sitting on his front porch reading the newspaper. He was a comforting and familiar figure in the neighborhood.
But I can't say that I knew him well, and that is my loss.
Over the last week, I've heard his family members, friends and colleagues list his accomplishments, describe his character and share their favorite memories.
And the overwhelming theme has been how much he invested in the people around him and the things that mattered to him.
As a professor at the University of Northern Iowa for 40 years, he invested in the mathematics department, designing and implementing numerous courses. He invested in his colleagues, working with the American Federation of Teachers and serving as president of that organization for many years. And mostly, he invested in his students, both here and abroad. Even after they left his classroom, he would monitor their progress, often cajoling them to continue their education when needed.
As an activist, he invested in countless causes, adding his voice to the voices of those he knew deserved to be heard. He spoke out for civil rights and AIDS awareness, among many other things.
One of my favorite stories was told by his daughter, my friend Sue.
In the early '80s, Sue worked as a waitress at the Convair Room, the restaurant at the Waterloo Airport. This coincided with the air traffic controllers strike in 1981. One day, after working her shift, Sue left the restaurant expecting to see her dad waiting to give her a ride home. Instead, she found him carrying a sign and walking in a picket line. When she told him it was time to go home, he handed her a sign and she spent the next couple of hours in the picket line with him.
As a husband, he invested in his nearly 60-year marriage to his wife, Ruth, setting the example of a loving, supportive, respectful partnership for his children.
And as a father, he invested in each of his six children. When they shared their favorite memories of him during his memorial service, the love, respect and pride they feel for him was conveyed as clearly as the pain they are experiencing from losing him.
Though, sadly, much of my knowledge of Dr. Michael Millar has come second hand, I am confident in my belief that all the time, effort, passion, love and concern he invested in others will pay dividends for years to come.
They are his legacy.