Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

November 6, 2013

Every columnist needs a fan like Gerta

By Keith Kappes - Publisher

Nov. 6, 2013 — It started with a phone message from a female reader in Indiana who said she wanted to meet me because I was the last item on her bucket list.

I took some teasing about the message and who might have left it.

After all, how many white-haired old dudes who’ve been married 42 years to the same woman receive such an intriguing message?

The mystery woman called again a week later and said she would be in Morehead for a reunion and wanted to meet me because she likes the stuff I write.

I sent her a message that I would be free on a certain afternoon while she was in our community.

The second phone call called triggered another wave of jokes about this puzzling woman.

Unsure of what to expect, I decided we should meet in the lobby of our building, the most public place available.

I frequently receive letters and e-mail comments from readers who say they share my values, my appreciation of history and my patriotism.

But no one had gone to such extremes to tell me in person.

As I started down the stairs, a co-worker told me he’d dreamed that a beautiful woman would take me away and that he would get my job.

I opened the door to the lobby to find two persons sitting quietly at a conference table.

I greeted a man and a woman who were at least 10 years older than me.

My friend was right about a lovely woman because, at 79, she has a warm smile, a soft handshake and a charming personality.

Over the next 45 minutes I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with two of the nicest, friendliest people on this planet – Gerta and Buddy Antle from Columbus, Indiana.

I teasingly asked her to be president of my fan club and she agreed. Buddy said he’d like to be a member.

A retired nurse, Gerta radiated a sweet spirit that no doubt has endeared her to many patients over a 40-year hospital career.

As we parted company, we made promises – I would keep writing and they would keep reading – and we would stay in touch.

I learned last week that Gerta was hospitalized with a serious medical problem. I called to tell her she was in my thoughts and prayers.

Struggling to breathe, she thanked me for calling and said she was proud to be my No. 1 fan.

I did my best to tell her I feel the same.