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.

About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

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