By Phil Brown / commentary

Sometimes the course someone's life takes just simply cannot be explained, such as that of the late Delbert Hern.

I recently wrote a column about Evan Bayh, former two-time governor of Indiana and a U. S. senator who is a candidate for president. He is the son of the late Marvella Hern Bayh, who grew up on a farm near Lahoma. Delbert Hern was her father.

Marvella was pretty and smart and an accomplished public speaker and debater. She had a strong personality, and many say her husband Birch Bayh would never have been elected to the U. S. Senate if it had not been for Marvella. Birch also made a run for the presidency but was defeated in the primary by Jimmy Carter.

One reader objected to the fact I had included in the column the fact that after the death of Marvella's mother, Delbert married another woman, and one evening he shot her in the head and then turned the gun on himself.

To me, Marvella's reaction to that incident and the fact she had been running the family farm while she was in college, and she returned to Enid to deliver the eulogy at her father's funeral, was indicative of Marvella's class and strength of character. I used the facts of her father's demise to help illustrate that. And, it needed to be included to complete the story.

But, back to Delbert Hern: Delbert was a well-known wheat farmer, and was active in Democratic party politics. I remember talking to him several times at the News -- Eagle back in the 1950s and 1960s. They always said Delbert drank too much, but I never saw him when he was inebriated.

There have been a number of people who had a high opinion of Delbert Hern, which makes the final act of his life even more mysterious. One of those was the late Calvin Bergdall, a rural mail carrier and author, whose wife, Obera, was active in Democratic party politics both in the county and on the state level. She was the first elected chairwoman of Oklahoma Democratic Party.

Calvin wrote a novel titled "Blackjack Summer." In the back of the novel, his sons Terry, Tom and Tim Bergdall included a biographical sketch, of sorts, of their mother and father. Calvin and Obera had known Delbert Hern for a long time. When he died, Calvin sent the following letter to Marvella, which she read at her father's funeral:

"Dear Marvella, When my first son was born, I was unemployed and had no hospital insurance. Delbert Hern loaned me money to take my wife and child out of the hospital. When I returned from World War II, Delbert Hern gave me employment for three summers, (and) paid me a bonus for good work.

"When I was a newlywed, Delbert Hern took some time to attend my wedding; when I was seeking employment, Delbert Hern wrote impressive letters of recommendation for me. This is the Delbert Hern I shall remember.

"It must have been torment to the real Delbert Hern, the compassionate, intelligent, understanding person we know to be the real Delbert Hern, to contend with this strange individual he became, who usurped his earlier and real identity."


I really have to say something about a couple of things:

Number One: I hear the feds are considering relaxing the airport security rules a bit. They propose ceasing to confiscate things like scissors, razor blades, nail clippers and similar personal items from airline travelers.

Could they be serious? The hijackers responsible for the 9/11 attacks took control of the aircraft with weapons as simple as box cutters. No one getting on a passenger aircraft should be carrying anything sharp that can be used as a weapon. Period.

I don't believe they should be relaxing airport security. They should be tightening it.

Number Two: This is a prediction. The proposed increase in the Oklahoma gasoline tax, which goes to a vote on Sept. 13th, has about as much chance of surviving a vote of the people as, well as a-uh, snowball in, uh ? well, the hot place. With gasoline prices what they are today why would anyone go to the polling place and vote to pay more?

Brown is a retired News -- Eagle editor.

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