Brokaw’s retirement sparks fond memories

Brokaw's retirement sparks fond memories by Bob Karolevitz Everybody writes about Tom Brokaw and his retirement these days, so I guess I can, too.

As a member of his "greatest generation" I have followed his spiraling career, and I'm proud to say I have had a few brief encounters with him.

Of course, I'm 18 years older than he is, which means I'm closer to his parents vintage-wise than I am to him. However, that has only enhanced the vicarious interest I have had in his rise to national prominence.

Actually, I knew the late Anthony "Red" Brokaw before I met his son. Our relationship with Red and Jean � from Bristol and Andover, incidentally � was mostly social, but when Tom was selected to host The Today Show in 1976, I wrote him a note of congratulations. In my inimitable fashion, I said, in part:

"We read somewhere how early you're going to have to get up. Good grief! Have you considered milking a couple of cows, too?"

His somewhat serious reply included:

"As for the hours, well, 5:00 a.m. does come early, but then that schedule can't be any more demanding than the roller coaster I've been on for the past three years."

That was the beginning of what turned out to be an irregular correspondence. Then, when Phyllis and I � with Jack and Diane Gunderson � were in New York in the spring of 1977, we called on him at the NBC studios � right in the middle of his broadcast.

Instead of being brusque with four strangers from South Dakota, he invited us to have a seat in an Easter lily set nearby until he could talk with us. As I recall, the visit was most cordial.

Since then I've written about him in history books and columns. And he has favored me with a mention in the foreword of The Greatest Generation, an autographed book, an NBC jacket and an invitation for Phyllis and me to attend the 40th anniversary party for him and his wife, Meredith.

(She was an Auld, and I grew up in a house a half a block or so from her mother's place. Oh yes, and Phyllis worked for Meredith's grandfather, too.)

Probably the highlight of our relationship occurred when he came to our farm with a television crew to do a segment on "achieving women." He interviewed me for about 20 minutes and when I said our daughter Jill owned two weekly newspapers, he commented: "Oh, she's following in her father's footsteps."

I answered back: " 'No,' she said, 'I'm making my own tracks'!"

I had stuck gold with her remark; and that was all they used of the 20-minute interview!

Later I told Tom � after he had had a street named for him � about the Robert F. Karolevitz Memorial Cattle Chute, the only thing they'll remember me for. In another note to me, he wrote:

"Your Karolevitz memorial cattle chute has given me an idea. We'll do the same for Meredith at our Montana ranch."

(I wonder if he ever did.)

I'm glad he didn't quit altogether, though. There are other books in his pen, and a few documentaries, too. Besides, there are mountains to climb and a few boats to sail.

Although I don't think he's exactly the fishing type, he made the right decision. He's got a lot of time left. After all, he's only 64.

© 2004 Robert F. Karolevitz

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