I join the rest of the world today in mourning the loss of the beloved Johnny Carson. And yes, I was one of those 50 million who watched his last episode and hated to say goodbye, even then. There never will be another Johnny Carson. That look. Those eyes. That stare that said it all. He made us laugh for decades, but today he makes us cry.
I always felt proud to consider Johnny a “neighbor.” In Iowa one can get away with that sort of reasoning. After all, he was born just southeast of me, only a two-hour drive from my Onawa birthplace to his in Corning. And he grew up even closer, just across the river in Norfolk, Nebraska. I couldn’t attend a Norfolk trapshoot without thinking of Johnny.
When he established the Carson Regional Cancer Center there in 1988, I’d just begun working as a correspondent for the Sioux City Journal. Though he dedicated the treatment center in memory of his parents, Siouxlander’s in this tri-state region also were reminded how much he loved his native boyhood home. The facility – the first of its kind in the surrounding area – made it possible for patients to get treatment close to home at a time when it most mattered.
But, that was Johnny. It was the neighborly thing to do.
We’ll miss you here, Johnny. Some will thank you for all the laughs. Others will thank you for their careers. And many will thank you for their lives. You were the best kind of neighbor.