In his last newsletter, Van Horne Mayor Marty Junge reflected on a successful, informal town gathering at the town’s park, noting the one-year anniversary of the derecho that rocked the area. It was good to see the young families who came for an evening of food and friendship.
He wrote, “Only thing I would ask is that all these young families to try to get involved in the community by either joining an organization or volunteering for some of the open positions on boards, like the tree group or recreation department. I know they are always looking for volunteers.”
Just as the derecho caught us off guard, Mayor Marty’s passing also shook us up.
He believed in involvement. From my position as newspaper editor, I could tell that when something needed to be done on a county or local level, he would be behind it, and it was going to work. Look at Main Street. New library and city hall. Across the road is a community center that is used almost every night. Drive by the golf course, you’ll see what happens when locals take control. Guess again who was behind that.
Even through sight, heart and mobility challenges, he saw things to completion. He was the first one out on the streets after the derecho, then writing down clean-up plans on his legal pad. From one end of town to the other, volunteers gathered to complete the tasks he jotted down on that pad.
Covid was going to prevent our business club from getting toys from Santa to area kids. Again, with that legal pad, he sketched out the routes to get toys to the kids who signed up.
A genuine smile and laugh. If he was there, we knew we would have fun. He made friends from coast to coast, from St. Maartin to Key West, from Benton to Wartburg. He took tailgating at Wartburg to a new level. If anyone was needed to lead a chorus of “Schnitzel Bank,” he’d find a pointer and I’d grab the guitar.
He’s gone, but his presence is still here in the projects he started and completed. And it’s in the call for community involvement. It was his life.
Good neighbor, friend and colleague. We’ll miss him every day, but remember him when we think outside of ourselves to help make the community better.