March 25 • 05:55 AM

No 'Epilogue' to Eric's lasting story

April 01, 2009
If Eric Thuma is where I think he is, heaven is a bookstore and he's flipping through the pages of the latest analysis of our political system, global warming and man's carbon footprint, the disintegration of the English language and—yep—the Far Side cartoons.

Well, maybe not the Far Side but that's what I picture when I think of Eric—whose sense of humor and ability to poke fun at himself was unconventional and contagious. Actually, in in the all-too-brief history of our professional association—which was really more of a friendship—"unconventional" is a word I would readily use to describe Eric. His rather unapologetic departure from convention is a major contributing factor to my awe and admiration for the retired professor who died one week ago today.

Many of you may know Eric through his columns here in the paper. His bi-weekly offerings were written under the title 'Epilogue' which was the name of a public radio program he hosted for many years while teaching political science at Oakland Community College.

For those who read his columns it was obvious that Eric hailed from the world of academia. His expanse of knowledge was awesome—even somewhat intimidating. Nothing was off limits. His voracious appetite for learning and questioning was rivaled only by his gentlemanly sense of decorum.

Eric lent a unique—and most unusual, gutsy even—voice to our pages. He wore his leftist liberal ideals on his sleeve and and boldly put his progressive thoughts in black and white print for all to consider. And those thoughts were indeed considered by many readers who—uhm—got a bit "excited" about Eric's take on things. Quite so.

Yes. Quote-unquote 'excited' is a word that could describe the reactions Eric would draw from time to time. Funny thing is he always knew it in advance— "this should turn some heads," he'd email when submitting a particularly "interesting" column.

Yes. Many of Eric's columns could indeed be described as quote-unquote 'interesting' with regard to the subject matter he dared to delve into. Planned Parenthood. Darwin's Theory of Evolution. Rewriting the U.S. Constitution. Global Warming. The horrors of text-message language and the rancor of growing older. When discussing these types of subjects, Eric always elicited some rather 'excited' and/or 'interesting' responses from readers. In the past several weeks alone we received a half dozen responses to Eric's work—the last one, published on February 25, 2009 on the 200th anniversary of Darwin's theory, continued to prompt readers to put pen to paper right through mid-March.

As 'excited' as some of those responses were, in the writer's world it's all a compliment. People are reading. You're touching something—even if it is a nerve. Eric touched some nerves over the years...and prompted spirited dialogue and healthy debate.

He also sparked the imagination. Imagine sitting across the table from Dan Rather and being the one to ask the questions. How about chatting with your boyhood idol The Lone Ranger? Eric did that. Rock Hudson, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, Gerald Ford, Walter Cronkite? Been there, done that, too for Eric.

Serious stuff, indeed, which was never taken too seriously by a humble man who didn't mind poking fun at himself.

"The stations which aired the series Epilogue broadcast anywhere between five and seven a.m. and consequently, beyond me and my parents the audience for the program was hardly significant...," he writes as a preface to transcripts of some 60 radio shows.

That's where Eric was wrong. His audience continued to grow long after the program ended—through his work on the Imlay City School Board, in the Imlay City Rotary Club and on the pages of this paper.

The word 'epilogue' means to have a conclusion to your story or whatever you are writing. In Eric's case, it's just not possible for me. His story continues as long as I'm around to tell it. He was a unique and gifted individual who walked gently on the earth, pondered the complexities of man and boldly stepped up—through teaching, writing, broadcasting and community service—to make our world a better, more genteel and decorous place. I am proud to have been his colleague and friend.

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