The Good Die Young
People die every day. It is a sad truth, and a harsh fact of life.
Some sage once observed that the “good die young,” and 2011 has convinced me beyond all doubt that there is at least some kernel of truth in that wisdom. After losing my longtime broadcast partner Lindsay Hill earlier this year, I reflected on the tragedy of a parent burying a child. This morning, I’m again reflecting on the tragic passing of a friend and colleague upon learning of the death of Professor Chris Raines in a car accident last night.
Raines, a professor of Meat Science at Penn State University, grew up in Western Ohio. Long before I became acquainted with Chris, I knew his Dad, Brent, a longtime sales and marketing executive with Krone North America. Brent and I worked together on some advertising campaigns way back in my earliest days at WRFD-AM in Columbus, when I was still cutting my teeth as a farm broadcaster. He is a great guy, and one of my favorite men in the industry: a straight shooter with the character and sensibilities found so often in farm folk.
Chris and I were the same age; he graduated from Troy High School the same year I graduated from Hillsboro. He earned a B.S. in Animal Science from Oklahoma State University before completing graduate study at Kansas State. In 2008 he joined the faculty at Penn State University, teaching and researching meat science in the Department of Dairy and Animal Science.
In truth, Chris and I never met, but I felt I knew him well nonetheless. One of the pleasant side effects of living in the social media era is building relationships with friends and professionals you would otherwise never meet in “real life.” Today, however, social media feels as real as it gets, because hundreds of online “friends” and “followers” from Facebook and Twitter are mourning alongside the students, faculty, friends and family suffering the loss of a young man cut down in his prime.
Chris Raines was a statesman in an arena of discourse prone to controversy. His Twitter “handle” said a lot about his professional interests and personal passions: iTweetMeat. Likewise, his website speaks volumes: MeatBlogger.org was a place for “facts, figures and thoughts pertaining to the meat we eat.”
In a time of high emotion regarding the production of animals for food consumption, Dr. Raines provided both science and emotion, in a positive way, and to a diverse audience. In reading the Tweets and Facebook posts pertaining to his passing, I am struck by the wide range of backgrounds and interests represented by those in his sphere of influence. He was truly bridging a gap between producers and consumers, between science and emotion.
And, not for nothing, he was a fun guy. Our online conversations made me laugh, and his often irreverently witty posts made me smile. We thought much the same way about a number of things; we shared the same passions for meat, the animals that produce it, and the people who make it possible.
Others who knew him better will do a more adequate job of eulogizing Chris Raines, but as John Phipps said at Lindsay’s passing earlier this year, I mourn as much for his future as I do for his person. He was a scholar on the rise, already well-published and well-respected. His mark on his university and his industry is indelible, and the work he had yet to do is momentous.
We pause again, during the season of light, to ponder the transience of life, and the transcendence of man. My thoughts and prayers are with the Raines family. My admonition to the rest of us is simple: if you love someone, be sure they know. Leave nothing good unsaid, and no kindness unrequited.
And when my Dad pulls the Christmas ribeyes off the grill this weekend, I’ll raise my glass and offer a toast to Chris.