Ken de la Bastide: Ken de la Bastide column: Reflecting on two community icons

Apr. 19—Recently, the Anderson community lost two individuals who had a profound impact not only locally but at both the state and national levels.

Mary Jo Lee championed efforts to assist women and children in domestic violence situations.

Her efforts resulted in the creation of Alternatives, Inc., and the opening of a domestic violence shelter on the campus of Community Hospital Anderson.

Lee's legacy will long be remembered in Madison County and Indiana.

This past week, Carl Erskine, described by former Gov. Mitch Daniels as "the best we've got," passed away at age 97.

Growing up outside New York City, I was aware of Erskine's talents as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

I actually got the opportunity to watch Erskine pitch at Ebbets Field since my dad was a devoted Dodgers fan.

It wasn't until I started work at the Anderson Daily Bulletin in 1977 that I learned Erskine was a lifelong resident of this city.

There is still the vivid memory of the first time I met Erskine at the newspaper office.

As can be imagined, Erskine was friendly, and we talked about some of his playing days in Brooklyn.

There was his friendship with Johnny Wilson during their formative years when Erskine ignored the racial divisions in the community, and then, of course, his later friendship with Jackie Robinson when they were Dodger teammates.

But over the years, I learned of the truly outstanding influence Erskine was, not only for the city of Anderson, but at the state and national level.

Along with his wife, Betty, he led efforts for all people to be treated with respect and admiration. It was only natural that Erskine would be called on to help create the Special Olympics.

But there was so much more to Erskine's life, including his efforts with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, coach at Anderson University.

In a documentary on his life, I learned that Erskine worked with a Fort Wayne businessman to make the game of baseball available to challenged youth and how he helped bring Major League ballplayers to baseball camps.

Erskine had a knack for getting a message to children and adults of how we should all strive to live a life of caring for one another.

On the day that Erskine passed away, every newspaper and media outlet in New York highlighted his baseball career and accomplishments off the playing field.

As many people have commented, Erskine was one of the finest men I've ever met.

His legacy of caring will endure for decades to come.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.