Leon Emo, staffing the Lion’s Club booth at the Madera District Fair. (Annette Nordine Doud)
Leon Emo was one of a breed that’s growing rarer and rarer — a hometown boy who stayed home and made that hometown a better place by his presence.
He was was one of Madera’s diarists, who put on paper the record of what people were doing, by themselves and as parts of groups in organizations. He also sometimes turned a critical eye on what was happening, and let his opinion about it be known. In those two respects, he created a permanent record — the ones our teachers warned us about — of what went on in Madera and how it stacked up.
His “Mo’s Musings” column, which appeared twice a week for some 1,500 times in all, gave him an opportunity to report, and also to turn a phrase, at which he could be very good. It was that ability to write with tongue placed firmly in cheek — and sometimes firmly between the teeth — that kept his readers coming back for more.
A few years ago, he came up with the idea of adding a monthly “long feature,” to his lineup, which he called “Mo’s Meanderings.” At first, it was supposed to be a day-trip travel column, illustrated with a photo or two, and sometimes that was how it worked out. But once, when he didn’t have the time to go out of town to chase down a “Meanderings” piece, he closed his eyes and “meandered” down the main streets of his youth.
“Nobody will want to read that,” I thought, making a mental note to tell him not to dwell on that topic again.
A couple of weeks after I thought that, however, somebody said to me, “You know, I really liked that column by Emo where he walks down the streets of Madera the way it used to be. That’s how I remember it, too.” Leon wrote a lot of “Meanderings” about old Madera after that, and I was always happy to see them hit my email inbox.
After he retired from the Parks and Community Services Department, Leon volunteered to do more stories, and became a regular correspondent, covering community activities. In that work, he was a consummate professional.
The past few years, I saw him in my office almost every day, when he would drop by to chat and to sometimes tell awful jokes. He came by the day before he was taken to the hospital last week, and I didn’t think he looked well.
“Is anything wrong?” I asked him. “You’re beginning to look like a ghost.”
“Nah ... I’m fine,” he said. “Just a little cough.” Then the phone rang, I answered it, and he got up to leave. We both waved.
That was the last I saw of him. Not even time for one more awful joke.
O, dear God, how I miss him.