John Caddell devoted life to Decatur, to others
He was first class and first class for a long time. Now gone at age 95, John A. Caddell's identity for most of his life was his brilliant legal mind and his passion for serving his county, city and many others.
In later years, longevity crept into who he was. He was proud to be 95 and to have an active, productive and meaningful life.
Mr. Johnny, as he was known to so many people, died at Decatur General Hospital early Tuesday morning after having emergency surgery Monday to repair an aneurysm in his aorta.
Rural people have a phrase that captures Mr. Caddell's life. "He hoed his row all the way to the end."
That was Mr. Johnny. He never quit, he never tired of life and he kept giving of himself to his final days. On Friday night, he hosted a party at his home for members of his First Presbyterian Church.
The eulogies to this remarkable man came in single words, and some came as lengthy tributes to the countless lives he touched.
Some called him simply their friend; others said he was their mentor. Some said words can't adequately express their affection for this rock-solid figure in their lives, who seemed to have always been there.
He willingly allowed himself to be used. He enjoyed being able to help, to make things better, to bring new ideas to life. With his keen legal mind, he is a modern-day founder of Decatur for helping his city dig out of the Great Depression.
His late friend, Barrett C. Shelton, who published this newspaper for 60 years, drew heavily on John Caddell's talent to jump-start the local economy in the 1930s. Mr. Shelton had an idea a minute, and thought constantly about Decatur and Morgan County making progress. Of Mr. Caddell, he admiringly said, "Johnny figured out how to legally do the things I wanted to do."
The two were partners, as so many other people came to be with Mr. Caddell, in industrial recruiting, improving schools and medical care and in being civic and spiritual cheerleaders.
He was a resource we all will miss. He helped our newspaper writers give events and the ever-changing landscape perspective. Our staff called on him, probably too often, to help make sense of topics in the news.
He's still got one more newspaper assignment before we are willing to let go. Beginning Sunday, Feb. 19, Mr. Caddell's memory of events, places and people will be peppered throughout four days of reading in our annual February project, which this year is "Valley Past & Present."
His passing is a community loss, but like many individuals and groups, we at the newspaper feel the void greatly.
We shall all miss his gravelly voice, his good cheer and friendship.