Last December, I learned with dismay of the death of one of my longtime subscribers, Bob Wombacher Jr. When my latest politickle bounced back from his email address, I knew something was up, so I went online and found his obituary from six months prior.
That experience got me to thinking about another longtime subscriber I haven’t heard from lately. Just like Bob Wombacher, Nick “Nino” LaBella was “one of the nicest guys I never met.” A champion of justice and a tireless letter writer with a flair for phrasing, he would forward to me his succinct expositions of sound principles whenever one got published — and I would compliment him on his latest zinger.
He often ended his emails with Chesty Puller’s quote about being surrounded and having the enemy just where you want him. It was a sensation we both could identify with.
It’s been longer than usual since he shared one of his “clippings,” so I did another search and found what I hoped I wouldn’t. Nick passed away last September at the age of 77.
Nick was the caretaker at Youngs Cemetery in Oyster Bay, New York, where Teddy Roosevelt is buried. Nick knew more about TR than almost anybody, and he passed on nuggets of that knowledge to cemetery visitors.
Nick was also a former high school art teacher, an accomplished artist, and a rabble-rousing conservative activist. He stood up for truth, justice, and the American way for seven decades.
Nick occasionally suggested topics for my politickles, and Teddy was one of his favorites. I wrote a couple of limericks about TR for him and was delighted to learn that he made copies of them to hand out at the cemetery.
Nick created the image (above left) for a t-shirt that also featured the politickle below, devoted to one of TR’s most famous quotes:
IN THE ARENA
In their triumph or in their defeat,
There is credit for those who compete,
But none for the cold
And timid soul
Ensconced in the spectator’s seat.
The battle is finally over for Nick. He was definitely a competitor, not a spectator, and he went down fighting.