Hundreds offer condolences at Skelton’s visitation

LEXINGTON, Mo. — Joe Bednar and John Beakley traveled from Mid-Missouri to the Wentworth Military Academy campus in Lexington, to pay their last respects Sunday to the late-U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton, 81, who died a week ago.

“I’ve known Ike since 1973,” Bednar said. “I was a Sigma Chi at the University of Missouri and as a result of getting to know him, I became an intern for him in 1976 — the year he (first) ran for Congress.”

Bednar later became a part of Gov. Mel Carnahan’s staff, and said the two men “were very similar in their principles of politics and public service.”

He was able to do the job in Carnahan’s office, Bednar said, because Skelton “taught me the fundamentals of politics.”

Beakley also worked in Carnahan’s office.

“When I worked in the governor’s office, (Skelton) and I interacted with each other regarding the commissioning of the USS Harry S Truman Commissioning Commission,” he recalled.

“My memory of Ike Skelton is someone who was always remarkably gracious, impeccably mannered and someone who was genuinely kind to everyone he interacted with.”

No one took an official count, but hundreds of people — perhaps more than 1,200 — visited with Skelton’s widow, his three sons, their wives and other family members and friends over a six-hour period Sunday.

Among those visitors was Anna Blackman of Lee’s Summit.

“Ike’s been a friend, for years,” she said. “He was my lawyer 51 years ago.

“And he was my lawyer a little later — and then he got too busy to be my lawyer.”

She said people should remember Skelton’s ability to work with members of both political parties on tough issues.

“I think he was one of the best people to negotiate with the other party,” she said.

Barbara Griffith, of Oak Grove, noted Skelton’s work at getting the military services to work together more frequently.

Genece Flick of Kingsville also cited his work on military issues.

“I understand what he did for the military and the military families,” she said, “and (he) worked for the love of our country.”

Her husband, Steve, worked with Skelton at several military conferences.

“I still believe that people like Ike Skelton need to be in the Congress,” he said. “He was a man who had tremendous character, loyalty, duty to the communities of his district. ...

“And, also, he was the kind of gentleman who had time to talk with the average citizen, if you got a chance to go to D.C.”

Lawanda Holman, Lexington, said he was like that in his hometown, too.

“He would always speak and ask how everybody was, when we would see him,” she said.

Bednar was one of several people who said Skelton should be remembered for his “integrity (and being) forever devoted to the people of his district.”

Beakley said Missourians should remember his efforts to strengthen the missions of Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood.

Skelton’s funeral will be held on the Wentworth Military Academy campus this afternoon, with the Rev. Emanuel Cleaver — who also is a congressman from Kansas City — delivering the “Words of Comfort.”

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