I recall pulling into the Department of Motor Vehicles office some years back and recognizing a certain little white convertible in the parking lot.
Sure-enough, I knew the driver, who was diligently sorting through a stack of papers, presumably getting his ducks in a row for a renewal transaction inside the building.
I timed my approach so that after he closed his car door, I could walk up and say, "Hello there, sir," or something like that.
He looked up and recognized me in a split second, and his face lit up in a friendly smile as he said, "Well, hello there to you!" or something like that.
The gentleman was none other than Darwin Hindman, who passed away just last week.
I pointed to his bumper sticker, which read "NEIGHBORHOOD PACE CAR — I drive the speed limit," a distinctly counter-culture slogan I also appreciated.
Darwin told me about commissioning the batch of the stickers years ago, but when I said I'd be interested in getting one myself, he wasn't sure he had kept any — it had been a while. Oh, well.
Now that I think about it, that was the only time I remember seeing him in an automobile. As a fellow cyclist, I did run into him from time to time on a bicycle, particularly downtown or along West Boulevard near his home.
The one instance I regret, however, was traveling home one evening on Broadway, cycling up the big hill from Providence Road toward the Columbia Public Library. I was going a moderately sporty pace when I came upon a slower-moving cyclist.
Recognizing him from behind, I slowed down for a brief greeting, he responded with a kind word, and I simply proceeded on.
Darn it. I should have slowed down and tagged along at whatever pace he was going. I have more than once wondered what valuable opportunity for enlightened conversation and camaraderie I missed.
I also recall joining a group of bike/pedestrian advocates at a City Council meeting after Darwin retired from that governing body. That night, many of us offered our 2 cents during the standard time allowed for citizens to speak.
Darwin’s three minutes were far more eloquent than mine, and he even prompted a response from the audience. He knew how to lead folks and what buttons to push to get a vote in favor of a position.
Once, I was actually on the other side of a debate, and he had the same success. It was during my activist days, when I habitually chimed in about a tax proposal that otherwise faced no organized opposition — this time it was the renewal of the temporary parks sales tax, a passion of Darwin's.
Former KOPN radio show host Tyree Bynum invited me to be on a discussion panel, presumably joining city Parks and Recreation Director Mike Griggs. I showed up, and, to my surprise, the panel included Councilman Mike Trapp and none other than the persuasive champion himself, Darwin Hindman.
My heart sank. I knew little old me would be no match for his rhetorical prowess.
Sure enough, the opposition had facts and figures and vision galore, while I merely offered a philosophical set of fiscal priorities — wondering about the value of recreation funding when the police were so underfunded that 911 callers were being put on hold, for instance.
After a long hour had elapsed, Darwin offered a friendly grin and gave me a shoulder shrug as if to say I was free to hold my opinions.
Some people who are passionate about an issue take opposite opinions personally and may hold a grudge, or they give those with different perspectives a suspicious eye. I never felt that with Darwin.
Back when he was still mayor, I interviewed him on KOPN radio about general city matters. After playing polka bumper music, I mentioned being a fan of the former TV music show host, Lawrence Welk.
Darwin grinned and exclaimed, "I like Lawrence Welk!" Oddly enough, I remember those were his exact words.
My favorite radio memory of Darwin was when he retired as mayor. I hosted a very personal interview with him and wife, Axie, on KOPN. Among the take-aways: The joys of living a good life, serving a community they love and hopefully having more time to spend with each other in "retirement."
One of my last memories was a couple of years ago at community breakfast that honored local elected officials, both past and present. While getting seated, I saw Darwin approach a table nearby, and we exchanged greetings. Same upbeat guy, but his body had clearly slowed down.
It was a fitting tribute that a group ride was organized to bike to his funeral Saturday afternoon. Outside the church, a few family members stepped out to wave to the bike funeral procession. Darwin's son-in-law, Ian Thomas, rejected my customary handshake and engaged in a big hug instead.
That day, many admirers, myself included, shared positive reflections other about a fine man who, though small in physical stature, was a giant in almost every other way.