December 04, 2013 - Somewhere Merle Smith was smiling this weekend.
That's because much to his delight – and my dismay – his Ohio State Buckeyes beat my Michigan Wolverines Saturday in a very close game in Ann Arbor.
Unfortunately, Merle won't be able to rib me about the game because the 85-year-old Oxford Village resident passed away last week.
His obituary is on Page 10.
Merle was one of those local characters I got to know because he often attended village council meetings. He cared about a lot things and a lot of people, so he liked to keep a close eye on what was going on in his community.
To him, one of the best ways to do that was by attending government meetings, so he could look his elected officials in the eye.
His intent was never to be confrontational. I think it was simply to remind our elected officials of who they represent and show them there are concerned people out in the audience being affected by their decisions.
If you truly want to change things, face time is so much more relevant and useful than Facebook.
Mostly, Merle sat and listened to the council's deliberations and the public's comments. Every now and then, he'd offer his own two cents, whether it was a compliment, a criticism, a question or a helpful observation.
He was always polite and always had that infectious smile on his face.
One of the things I'll never forget about Merle was how every single time I'd win a journalism award, he'd never fail to send an e-mail congratulating me and thanking me for my service to Oxford.
Back in April, he wrote, "Congratulations on your recent awards. You are certainly an asset to this community. So, good things do come out of Ann Arbor!"
He was a classy and gracious gentleman.
While it's true that Merle and I got along just fine, that doesn't mean we always saw eye-to-eye on everything.
Back when the village was attempting to become a city, Merle and I were definitely on opposite sides of the fence. He was an ardent supporter of the cityhood effort, while I was probably its most vocal foe.
Even though we disagreed, we still respected each other's opinion on the issue and discussed it whenever we saw each other. Merle tried to get me to see things his way and I tried to persuade him to join my side.
Although the people who were leading the cityhood effort at the time were a nasty group of self-interested folks, Merle and I never exchanged a harsh word.
Unlike some of the people who were behind cityhood, I knew that Merle's support of the movement sprang from a genuine love of the community and a desire to see things improve.
"I don't think we should look upon cityhood as just a matter of taxes and dollars . . . It's a matter of controlling our own destiny," he said during a July 2008 meeting.
Merle wasn't looking to protect his turf or gain a fancy title; he just wanted what he believed was best for Oxford. He was "selfless" before it became fashionable to throw that word around as a marketing tool.
Merle's passing saddens me.
I'll miss seeing him at the meetings.
I'll miss getting his personal e-mails and letters to the editor. I'll miss discussing bluegill fishing with him or exchanging barbs about our respective universities.
One thing is for sure – Oxford could use more Merle Smiths attending meetings, writing letters and trying to make things better. A few more Merle Smith-sized smiles wouldn't hurt, either.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.