John Griffin

John Griffin

Almost a year ago, Robert Hewitt Jr. showed up at my office for his annual visit about all the things we had so much fun discussing. Politics, cars, the arts and our lives.

When someone leaves us, we seize on those moments that seem all the more special after lives end. And so I remember our visits about Trump, Mustangs, our daughters, him being a grandfather before I am, and life in general. It was the best of times. Both of our weights were good, and we felt good.

Robert always bore gifts at Christmas. We were long time neighbors who were, a long time ago, not such good friends. Before I really knew him, I ran for the state legislature, and Robert was mightily opposed. Five years after that narrow loss in politics, my family moved to a home across the street from Robert. Although our history had been a little frosty, neighbors needed to have dinner, so we did. A seven-hour dinner. A friendship was built. The next morning came way too soon for comfort, though. My head ached, but my heart was full of gratitude of making a new friend.

Over the years, we would laugh at how different we thought we were. And of course we were, but we were friends. As I reflected over the past 25 years; the ups and downs and adventures that adorned our lives, the common thread for me was his generosity and authenticity. Not in any traditional way. For him, it was both personal and communal. Somehow he would find out that I was doing some sort of diabetes fundraiser, and he’d jump in and help. He helped persuade Republican governors to appoint me to the Texas Diabetes Council. I am not sure these governors would have done so without him.

He knew that I was deeply involved in the Victoria Bach Festival, and he more than just supported it. He was willing to give unvarnished feedback, praise and suggestions and even criticism when warranted. That’s what friends do — support people they think are doing good things. He was so proud of people and organizations which do excellent things that show Victoria in a positive light. The arts, history, museums and animals all mattered to him, and it showed.

All of us are different. Each of us have our quirks, skills and challenges. Yet he seemed to revel in our differences, and we had a lot of fun talking about things we shared, like daughters we love, our community and our world. And we could talk about things that were important to us.

During our visit last Christmas, he asked how I was liking my electric car. He followed my love of electric cars back in 2011, and he loved to tease me about them while discussing his love of Ford Mustangs. Never rude or catty, he’d smile when hearing about the pedestrian Chevrolet Volt or Bolt that I was driving. He was curious.

As I write this, an electric Ford Mustang Mach E is scheduled to be in my garage soon. I will miss showing him a totally different version of a Mustang, and tease him about how fast it gets off the line. Yet I am so incredibly grateful for his life, friendship and loyalty to me and my causes. And his legacy is that it wasn’t just my causes. He just made a tremendous difference in so many ways. And he did it quietly, without any need for credit or recognition.

Just reflecting on this during this holiday season in the midst of a pandemic, and thinking about our most unlikely of friendships helps us to follow our better angels and follow in his generous footsteps.

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John Griffin, a Victoria attorney, is a long time diabetes volunteer and former Chair of the Board of the American Diabetes Association.

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Jay Howard

Excellent tribute John. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your column about Robert. He was a great man, and a great example of being a steward to this community.

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