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Thank you, Claude

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By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

I came looking for a job and I found a friend and serendipity.

Serendipity is something every journalist needs.

The tough, but garrulous journalism scholar John Bremner of the University of Kansas told journalists in his seminars they needed to find serendipity.

Serendipity occurs when you are on your way to one thing and you discover another thing. It brings magic and the joy of the unexpected.

You could have canned and sold serendipity.

You lived it very day.

You shared it every day.

Serendipity is when you walk into a Jiffy Store and find out the clerk's entire life story and, oh, that the boss has ordered that very store to have the lowest gas prices in town. And you only wanted an Arizona green tea to bring in to work.

My first two days on the job you showed me how to work the sheriff's beat and write up the reports. And you filled me in on the people I encountered every day.

When I mentioned a woman was bitten by a fox in the morning. You told me all about foxes, how they avoid people and are nocturnal. And you correctly predicted it was rabid, even when the first test came back negative. You saved me from making a dumb mistake of accepting the first answer. While all the other media let the story drop after the first day, I called the state a week later and found out they re-tested the fox and found it was rabid. I asked again because you told me no sane fox goes near humans.

Patience. Wow. My first two weeks here you were interviewing the women from the post office controversy and you were so patient and tender with them as they told you every minute detail of the brouhaha. Your listening gave them an outlet for their anger, but I don't think you ever gave that recognition.

Oh those snakes. When a co-worker talked abut a snake getting into her home, you started talking about snakes. They're nothing to fear, you assured me. And you showed me some great photos you had taken. You did an amazing story on Florida's native snakes. I discovered the pine snake is, well, like nice. Not a pet, but something quite beautiful.

While you had three dogs, there was a mini-dachshund that caught your eye one Friday in front of Wal-Mart. It was all new for you. It didn't matter that he was No. 4. You talked about him as if he were your first pet.

When you talked about the springs, about how each was different, you made me want to skip out on work and jump in. Your goal was to swim every one of them as often as you could.

Your eyes more often than not had a childlike twinkle in them. There was no guile. You talked with an excitement for every aspect of life.

You not only knew nature, you had one of the most extensive memories for music and TV.

And you loved food. Some of our best chats were where we would get lunch. More often than not you saved me on Monday and Tuesday by offering to get it for us. Those were our busiest days. And yet, you found the time to get out and get lunch and bring back a tidbit about someone else you encountered.

Well, I hear the angels take the good folks first because they need them.

They must need your serendipity.