'The Colonel' walked the talk

My Thoughts

atwoods@sti.netOctober 29, 2013 

There are certain people we have met during our lives that make such an impact we never forget them. Beyond my parents and other relatives, I have a couple of others. One was Mr. Richard Campbell, my Scoutmaster and another, Colonel Rhodes Dawson, my assistant Scoutmaster.

I have written about each of these men in this column and have spoken of them to my students during my career as a teacher. Those two men had such an impact on my life, more than they could ever have imagined.

This weekend another Colonel in my life departs this area for Idaho — Col. Bruce Derry and his lovely wife, Carol, will make that one-way trek to live nearer to their grandchildren and Boise will be better off for their move. Eastern Madera County will lose a great deal as the Derry's drive off into the sunset. . The Col. will be remembered far longer than he can imagine.

The young boys and girls who have been involved in his programs will remember "The Colonel" the rest of their lives. Their children and their grandchildren will hear about "The Colonel" and that comes from the fact that Col. Bruce Derry taught them about duty, honor, and country. He taught them so much about themselves and their mettle. When confronted with a problem, those youngsters that worked with him will know that they have the intestinal fortitude to handle the situation. They will know how to lead others and they will have confidence.

They won't be arrogant because he taught them that arrogance is not worthwhile but that once they have been trained, they will have that training in their minds ready to be used at a moment's notice. Those youngsters will understand what it means to take orders. Orders are not what you wish to do but what you must do. There is a difference and those cadets know the difference.

Those young people will grow into tomorrow's leaders along with scouts and others who have gone through leadership programs. Col. Derry also taught the adults of this area a great deal. He came here in the late 1980s and quickly became a force in this town. Not by force but by his determination to make a difference. The proof of the pudding is in the simple fact that few of us when moving out of an area draw the attention of the local newspaper.

People are talking about the loss to our community and we can see that an area truly appreciates those people amongst us that make a positive difference in the world. He was named Man of the Year last year at the Angels Amongst Us dinner. We see in "The Colonel" a man who lives and breathes by a code of conduct.

He is a gentleman in every way. I wouldn't have wanted to face him as a foe and I am really happy he fought for our side. Seeing him in his dress blues, standing ram-rod straight, I could only imagine a younger-looking Marine ready to do his nation's bidding. Strong, determined, polite, and caring, he embodied the best of the Corps. The people who have encountered him know that Bruce Derry talks the talk but, more importantly, walks the talk. The young people around him see that and they desire to emulate his fine example. Parents of the children in our area should be grateful that their children got to see how a man should behave.

Years from now, most of them will be sharing a story about Col. Derry to their children or grandchildren and he won't have been elevated to the status of a saint simply because his stature is truly great enough to deserve their praise and accolades. Now we must say good-bye to our friend and wife, and wish them well. We extend to them our thanks and appreciation and wishes for a long and healthy life in Boise. Only two things left to say: "Hoorah and Semper Fi."

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