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Losing a special friend brings back so many good memoriesPosted Monday, June 7, 2010, at 10:33 AM
Burying a husband, father and a friend is never easy.
No matter what is said, it still hurts and there are never enough words that can convey exactly what you feel
My heart is heavy today.
My best friend Russell Julian Huffman passed away unexpectedly on Friday, the victim of a massive heart attack while he was doing what he loved best -- working on the farm.
It was ironic that "Huff", as he was known by his family and friends, died on the same farm where he was born 74 years ago -- located a few hundred yards from the Mineral United Methodist Church where those who loved him will bid their final farewells on Wednesday morning.
He loved Greene County and was so proud of his family heritage.
Being a staunch and die-hard Purdue University fan, it was also fitting that if Huff had to leave this earth and go to a better heavenly place, he did on the same day that legendary UCLA basketball coach, Hoosier state native from Martinsville and Purdue alumni John Wooden passed away.
I was talking the other night with his family about Huff and we all had to laugh that he and Johnny Wooden were probably having a great time standing at the 'Pearly Gates" talking about Purdue basketball.You know if you listen carefully you can probably hear the two chime in with a loud "Boiler Up" chant.
I cherish all the good memories I have had with Huff over the course of the last 20 years.
We had so many great times together both in Bloomfield and on the road to West Lafayette heading to football games every fall. We haven't missed but a handful of games in the last 12 years and the drives to the games were always memorable -- even the times the wheel came off of his Suburban and another time when we hit a deer.
Huff was a historian who loved to talk about agriculture and the farming heritage of the region leading from Greene County to Tippecanoe County.
Huff himself had made the commute hundreds, maybe thousands of times from his farm homestead near the small community of Mineral City in his early life and near Bloomfield in recent times. He knew how the various farms along the route up U.S. 231 had passed from hand to hand over the years. He knew the crops they planted and he always lamented about the good black soil between Greencastle and Lafayette.
You know it will never be the same going to those football games again. There will be a void that no one can fill. But you can bet I'll hear Huff cheering on his favorite team every time a Purdue touchdown is scored and his memory will be fresh in my mind again.
Our friendship was rather strange on the surface.
We came from different backgrounds. He was country. I was city.
I was an IU fan and he was probably the biggest Purdue partisan in the area.
However, soon I was converted and joined the beloved Boilermaker fans and Huff was never happier than the day I put on my first Purdue sweatshirt on a cold, windy day when the Boilermakers were hosting Northwestern.
There was always something that drew us together and we shared a bond that was always there even if weeks and months passed between the time we were together.
Huff was more than a dear close friend to me, he was like the Dad I never had.
I looked up to him and respected him as a family role model.
He was a devout Christian man, who loved God. He wasn't the kind of guy who would beat you with a Bible and quote scripture to you with every breath.
Huff lived it every day.
He loved his family so much and was so proud of his heritage and he loved to talk about the good old days and Republican politics.
I know our two girls felt he was so special -- like a Dad -- and he helped them so much in their 4-H days -- mentoring them and helping them to get animals when our family simply couldn't afford it.
He wanted them to have the same opportunities that his kids did.
And you know, our family was not the only one that he helped in that way -- there were and still are many.
Huff and his wife of more than 40 years, Sandy, have been there for my family in so many times of need -- helping us, comforting us and encouraging us.
I can not put into words the void I am feeling.
Huff wasn't a blood family member, but he was closer than a brother to me. When we came to this area more than two decades ago, our friendship formed and it never wavered.
Huff and his family shared with my family's weddings, the births of grandchildren, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. We've rung in the new year countless times together and enjoyed many Friday and Saturday night and Sunday afternoon in heated euchre card games.
There were so many other times when we were glued to the television watching Purdue athletic teams -- men's and women's.
There are so many more things I wish we could have done together. We had been talking about fishing and going camping more, but somehow those plans never came to pass.
I was always the one who was too busy and I will forever regret that those times have now passed.
There are also so many things I wish I had said to him, but again that time is now gone.
Huff was a gem, a jewel, a one of kind guy who just happened to be the best friend a person could have.
I'll miss his suspenders that didn't always match the outfit he was wearing and I guess his family can now throw away that old ragged 'wife beater' sleeveless shirt that he loved to wear.
The community lost a good man with his passing.
I have lost a friend, but I am a better person today for knowing him.
May Huff rest in peace.
His memory will never be forgotten.
Nick is the assistant editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at 847-4487 or 1-800-947-4487 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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