At 2:05 a.m. one week ago today, Baxter Springs lost a giant and I lost a friend.

Charles Gordon Leverich died in his home with his wife Maggie beside him. Chuck was a unique human being with a wonderful sense of humor and a love of life.

It was one of the greatest privileges of my life to get to know him and become his friend.

I first met Chuck when I was the director of the Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum. He was a less-than-young but still enterprising reporter for the Baxter Springs News and he'd come out to take pictures of Living History Days and to get a story.

We immediately hit it off, and quickly became friends. I wasn't able to see him as much as I would have liked the next few months, as he'd left the paper for personal reasons.

Just a few months later, however, I became managing editor of both the Baxter Springs News and Columbus Advocate after a management shake-up and the first thing I knew I was getting a call from Chuck, could he come by and talk?

Of course, he could, and we spent several hours talking, mostly about where he'd like to see Baxter Springs go.

Before long he was back to work for the paper as a freelancer, covering local events in his own inimitable style, and giving the entire community a chuckle with his column "Ramblings."

He was a man of humor, and driving intelligence, with a passion for his home town. He firmly believed with a little work and dedication, Baxter could become a tourist destination - it was a belief it was hard not to catch when Chuck was around.

He and I agreed on little politically. A life-long liberal Democrat Chuck generally greeted me "hello you heartless conservative ." Which was fair, since I tended to call him a "bleeding heart, liberal weenie."

And then we'd get down to the serious arguing.

There was never any rancor in it, from either of us. Just a love of debate. Maggie told me Chuck just loved to get people riled up and he would look like a little kid on a playground swing as he went back and forth with whomever he'd managed to entice into an argument.

This is not to say the man was perfect, none of us are. He could from time to time get - cranky. He got heated with me on more than one occasion. But you know, he invariably called me no later than the next day, and often within minutes of hanging up to apologize for whatever he'd said - and he wasn't always the one who was wrong.

There just was no malice in the man.

Alas, I didn't get to know him for long. We were friends for just under three years - all too short a time to spend in the presence of such a man.

Chuck was irascible, sometimes mercurial, always funny and always a character. He'd caused the Baxter Springs Lions Club to pass a rule forbidding him to sing. He actually had a good singing voice, but apparently would deliberately sing badly at Lions Club. My guess is the inveterate practical joker, who was known to dress up in a gorilla suit and wander the neighborhood at Halloween just thought it would be funny.

Chuck, my friend, rest in the peace you so richly earned.

I'll miss you.

(Patrick Richardson is the managing editor of the CCNA. He can be emailed at pat.richardson@sekvoice.com. Comment on this and other stories at www.sekvoice.com.)