December 22, 2012 9:20:58 PM
Rufus Ward - [email protected]
At Christmas we always think of children and gifts and goodwill. But do we ever stop and remember the people in our community or connected to it that year round do so much to help young people. Of course there are teachers and social workers and church youth leaders and scout leaders and so many others that I dare not list for fear of leaving someone out.
Sometimes when you look deep enough you find unexpected ties in the strangest places that really show peoples hearts. It was only a few months ago that a good friend in West Point, Norman Armstrong, passed away. Norman was active with his church, the library and just about any local cultural event. He was also a talented calligrapher whose homemade cards were treasured by all who received them. However, where he influenced more lives than we will ever know was his long time work with youth in 4H clubs.
Recently, I had the pleasure of trading a few stories with but mostly listening to Uncle Bunky. When someone is known throughout the region and even in other countries simply as "Uncle Bunky" that just about says it all. For those who are new to Columbus and to bring back delightful memories for those who grew up here, Bunky Williams for years hosted "Fun Time." a children's program on WCBI TV, where he drew "crazy animals."
When he left TV he went to work with the Sheriff's Department working with children in abuse and neglect cases. Bunky has devoted his life to helping make this world a better place for children.
Another Columbian is probably better known in Hollywood than Columbus. Josh Meador moved from Columbus in 1936 to go to work for a fellow named Walt Disney. By 1940 he headed the animation effects department at Disney Studios. He played a major role in the production of many of the all time great animated features from Snow White to Cinderella to Sleeping Beauty. One of the things he was noted for was his answering letters sent to him by children. Even though Meador lived in the heyday of Hollywood, family was of utmost importance. He married his Columbus high school sweetheart in 1936, and they were still married when he died in 1965.
Three totally different people, all striving to make life more enjoyable for children. As is often the case, if you dig deep enough, there are interesting connections between them.
Josh would come back to Columbus with his family for a visit almost every summer. On one of those trips he saw examples of Bunky's art work and offered to get him a position at Disney Studios. Bunky thanked him but said he wanted to stay in Columbus and work with and help children here.
When Norman Armstrong was serving in the Navy he wound up on one occasion in California with some free time. He was visiting with a friend who told him that a Disney animator from Mississippi lived not to far away. Norman went to Meador's house and rang the doorbell. When Josh answered the door and found out Norman was from West Point he treated him like a long lost friend. Josh got him passes to Disneyland and made sure he got first-class treatment.
Three different people all helping other people and especially children but three people with artistic talent whose paths crossed at different times. This Christmas let us not forget the real Santas and think about how much better the world would be if we followed the example of people who help others year round as though every day were Christmas.
Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at [email protected]