Never before knew a man who would come to a social dinner with a written agenda of discussion topics. And if the discussion lingered too long on one topic, he would pull out the list and spirit the group to another. The controversies of Trump were never allowed; they were already more than well aired.

This was the John Hubbuch I came to know and cherish. His appetite for conversation was unlimited. He wanted to know what you think, and then of course he had his own opinion to share. If conversations were measured in calories, he would have become part of our obesity plague. He never got a stomach full. And the talk could start in any locale. Once while standing at the foot of Mount Rushmore on a sun-kissed day, John asked out of the blue: “What’s your position on Colin Kaepernick?”

John Hubbuch

Although John was not a man of faith, he followed his wife Marsha to church occasionally. He forever cited the minister who implored the congregation: “You need not be what you have become.” Although John always proclaimed his perspectives bluntly and clearly, he also proudly announced when they had changed. On his final day of consciousness, John admitted in a podcast interview that as a college newspaper columnist he had openly promoted violent action against the campus ROTC program. And now in his 70s, he was encouraging progressives to be less impatient.  

Although John has earned considerable attention for his all-in approach to grandfathering, I judge him to have been at his best as head of the OPRF Huskies Booster Club. It was the semiannual awards ceremony where I first saw him. Before a sizable audience of student athletes (and students in other extra-curricular passions, such as Gospel Choir) and their proud parents, he spun a mix of homemade humor, wonderfully spiced with light jabs at the local nemesis, Fenwick sports teams. He clearly reveled in the limelight, and I wanted his talk to go on endlessly.

John had a nearly bottomless faith in the good that athletic competition could do for young men and women. As a young man, he was disappointed not to be a star athlete, ultimately deciding that he could become a star student, as he did. But his years as a father and grandfather were marked by his encouragement to his offspring to compete. Occasionally, he would admit that maybe he should have exposed his boys to other cultural experiences, such as music, but he did not lose much sleep on that account. He loved sports.

What I observed most closely over recent years was John’s increasing compulsion to touch the raw nerve of Oak Park politics. Race. When he first started writing a column for Wednesday Journal, John was cautioned by his wife to steer clear of racial matters. Throwing caution to the wind, he inched into the water, and ultimately, he bathed regularly in the deep end of the pool. Although he was not alone in suggesting that the limits of the village’s consensus could be stifling, no one matched John in his repeated attempts to broaden the conversation.

By the strangest of circumstances, I wrote a note to John and his wife just days before his aorta collapsed: “When I come face-to-face with my maker, I shall ask to be judged by the friends I have made. I don’t have remarkable achievements on my lifetime resume, but I do have a hall-of-fame set of friends in people like John and Marsha. They should count for something.”

Rest assured, wherever departed souls gather, John is there stirring the pot in a beautiful way.

Although Dale Sorenson came to know John Hubbuch only in their later years, their candle of friendship was as bright as it was short.

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