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Former editor pays homage to Mike Hand


By Chris Busby
We sat there in his liv-
ing room chatting, talking
about our families, his
grandchildren, my new son,
my dad’s new grandchil-
dren, and life in general.
That was a week and a half
ago; and then Thursday he
was gone.
The suddenness of it
almost makes it unbeliev-
able. I’m so glad I got to
see him one last time, but
it hurts so much that he is
When Jody Stewart
called me Thursday after-
noon to ask me to write
something about Mike
Hand, I rambled nonsense
on the phone with her, my
mind tumbling with what I
could say about a man that
meant so much to me. It
took me a couple of minutes
before I was finally able to
mutter “yes” to the request.
I knew Mike in many
different capacities, he
was one of my dad’s best
friends, he was my boss for
a time, he was a mentor,
and he was my great friend.
How could I do justice writ-
ing an article about the man
that inspired me the way
that he did. The answer is,
I couldn’t fully. Mike Hand can’t be summarized in an
article, he can’t be captured
in words or pictures, but
rather he is best remem-
bered in the emotions he
evoked in us all.
As I thought about what
to write, I tossed around
many ideas…talking to his
many friends, touting his
many achievements, recog-
nizing his works. But what I
kept coming back to me was
his impact on people and on
this community.
What I know is that Mike
Hand made everyone feel
special, he made everyone
feel important, he made ev-eryone know that they mat-
tered. This is his legacy. He
made everyone in LaFayette
know they counted.
I could go into the his-
tory of everything that Mike
has done for our commu-
nity, like championing the
courthouse expansion and
Joe Louis statue, but to me
what matters are the little
I’ve known Mike Hand
since “technically” before
I was born. My mom has
told me the story about us
moving to LaFayette, which
happened a month before I
was born. One of the first
people her and my dad met
was Mike at a fish fry, in
July of 1982. He welcomed
my family with open arms,
with his kind mannerisms
and big smile. My mother
told him during that first
meeting how much she
appreciated his genuine
kindness. This was not a
show for the new people in
town, this was Mike Hand.
He made my family feel
important and that we be-
longed here. I can’t imagine
how comforting that was as
my parents started their new
life here.
That is what Mike did, he
made everyone he came in
contact with feel loved. He
genuinely cared for people,
no matter their age, race,
or economic situation. He
was the kindest man I’ve
ever known. And everyone
that ever talked with him or
spent time with him felt the
same way, which is why so
many people counted Mike
Hand among their closest
In relating the type of
impact he had on the people
of this community, I have
to go back to my childhood.
I, like many other kids in
LaFayette, felt a great ap-
preciation for Mike Hand.
He made us small town kids
feel important. He put our
little league baseball games
in the paper, he put the first
deer we killed in the paper,
he put us in the paper on
our birthday, if we won a
spelling bee, or if we made
the school honor roll. If you
achieved something that
made you feel special, Mike
would put it in the paper
so that everyone could
celebrate with you.
I remember when I was
8 or 9, I won a bubble gum
blowing contest. Mike actu-
ally came to my home and
took a picture of me blow-
ing a bubble and the next
week, it was on the FRONT
PAGE of The LaFayette
Sun. Can you imagine the
excitement of a little kid
being on the front page
of the paper? That’s what
Mike did for generations
of people in LaFayette, he
showed everyone in this
community that we were all
My point is, that Mike
Hand cared about LaFayette
and more importantly, he
cared about the people of
LaFayette and wanted them
to be recognized for what
they did. It’s hard to argue
that there has ever been a
greater champion for La-
Fayette than Mike Hand.
Years later, I got to be on
the other side and had the
great privilege to work for
Mike at The LaFayette Sun.
During that time, I learned
what it meant to be a good
journalist. And let me tell
you, there were few better
journalists than Mike Hand.
Anyone that knew Mike,
knows that he was a man
that wore his emotions on
his sleeves, and it made him
that much more endearing.
I’ve handed him several
articles over the years, and
when he would get teary
eyed reading one, that’s
how I knew if I had done a
really good job. And there
was nothing like that feel-
ing when you knew Mike
was proud of you.
My fondest memories
are of sitting in his office
reviewing articles, dis-
cussing local politics and
sports, laying out the paper
each week, and that feeling
of satisfaction when we got
that week’s edition fresh
off the press. I also got to
see him interacting with
the people of LaFayette
on a daily basis. Always
welcoming anyone who
walked into that door for
a friendly chat in his of-
fice no matter what day it
was, sometimes for longer
than those of us pushing a
deadline liked. But that was
Mike, his top priority was
always making others know
that they mattered.
Back in his house that
day a week and a half
ago, as I was leaving, I
remember that final long
handshake and hug, and
how thankful I was that I
got to visit with him. I am
thankful for everything he
did for me and my family,
both as a young man and
as an adult. I’m thankful
for the opportunities he
gave me, for the advice, for
the kindness, and for the
friendship. Everyone in La-
Fayette should be thankful
for Mike Hand too. He is
what we should all strive to
be, a man who cares deeply
for those around him, a
man that cares deeply for
his community, and a man
that made a difference in so
many lives.
LaFayette is a better
place because of Mike