March 18, 2009 Edition

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Frankly speaking...

John Bland
Publisher

Anyone who knew Mike Bassett couldn't help but admire his outgoing, confident and winning personality. He made many friends along his earthly journey of 53 years.

For those growing up here in my era, Mike was a bit larger than life as a sports star, football hero and student body president. As a sophomore, he helped quarterback the Walnut Ridge Bobcat football team to state finals in a game against Adkins at War Memorial Stadium. A concussion took him out in the middle of that game.

At least four of his former coaches, Marvin Kennedy of Walnut Ridge, Paul Stovall of Cherokee Village, Bill Hughes of Mountain Home and Kenny Allen of Batesville were present Tuesday at a graveside service held here for Mike. There may have been others. Former teammates and classmates were also present.

In college, his athletic career changed to intramural sports, pickup basketball or golf, but his popularity continued, and he was as well liked as anyone among his fraternity brothers. He apparently made many other good friends during his banking career of almost 30 years in Little Rock.

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Most anyone who spent time with Mike also has a good story to tell about him. One of my favorites, that has been printed in this space before, occurred during his freshman year of college at the U. of A.

Apparently, it was a slow Friday night, and he and other guys were sitting around a dorm room telling what they did on weekend nights in their hometowns. Mike told the others that teenagers in Walnut Ridge liked to circle the Polar Freeze. Someone in the group said, "Let's do it," so the carload of guys drove all the way from Fayetteville to Walnut Ridge, circled the Polar Freeze and drove back. That was in the mid '70s when ferries were still in use to cross Lake Norfork and the one-way drive was close to six hours, but gasoline was a lot cheaper.

Like his father, brothers and son, Mike was a lifelong, unwavering fan of the Razorback football team, a passion he shared or nurtured within his wife, Gari. The officiating minister at his service in Little Rock noted that it would almost be appropriate to "call the Hogs."

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Mike's family, friends and coworkers will agree that life was just more fun with him in it. That's not a bad legacy to have no matter how many days we have in this life.

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