Leon Worden

Dan Hon, Signal columnist

Leon Worden · December 22, 1996

I kissed his clammy forehead and told him I'd be back to take dictation for his Thursday column. I knew it was a lie. As I walked out of the Intensive Care ward Monday night I knew it would be the last time I'd see him. Because that's the routine.

I don't know how death should be, but it shouldn't be routine.

1996 has been the worst year I can remember. I am numb. It's like an all-out Holocaust hit the Santa Clarita Valley this year. If I never see the inside of Henry Mayo again it will be too soon.

Randy Wicks. Jerry Reynolds. Bob Warford. Frenchy Lagasse. Bert Scates. Gardiner Spring. Bob Downs. I lost many friends this year, none closer than Dan Hon.

Dan HonDan has been -- sorry, was -- a part of my life for over 20 years. I can still see him sitting at our family dining table in the mid-1970s, going over plans for the formation of the ill-fated "Canyon County." I had no idea what it was all about. I was around 15 at the time, and all I really remember is Dan taking me out and trying to teach me to drive a stick shift. It had to be more fun for Dan than it was for me. As with math, by aptitude for driving a stick didn't come until after high school.

We grew closer as time went on. Many a conversation in the last few years was spent commiserating about City Hall politics. About a year ago he was particularly frustrated. "What are we going to do, Leon?" he barked into the telephone. "George Pederson is running for Assembly!"

Not to worry, I said. There's a guy in Lancaster named Runner, and he's going to win. From that simple conversation, many Signal columns sprang -- with Dan and I on different sides.

In the end, Dan made peace with his long-time nemesis, City Manager George Caravalho. Although I'm not quite sure Caravalho knows it. Caravalho's name came up in a conversation just last week. "He's a decent city manager," Dan said. I knew then and there that Dan was not long for this world.

Deep down, I think Dan knew it, too. The death of Randy Wicks in August hit him hard. They were great friends. Dan sank into a deep depression that landed him in the hospital just a few days after Randy's funeral. It was a difficult stay. Dan never fully recuperated. It's eerie. Dan devoted many Signal columns this year to childhood and early adult memories, almost as if his life was flashing before his eyes.

And what a life! Some people hated him, many more loved him. I guess that means he succeeded as an opinion columnist -- the one title that he definitely deserves to have carved into his headstone. "You can take just about anything away from me," he'd often say, "but I'd be lost without my Signal column."

Earlier a frequent writer of letters to the editor, Dan started writing his weekly column in 1988, if memory serves, when Chuck Cook took over as editor. Little did I know that his piece in the Old Town Newhall Gazette two weekends ago would be his last published work. He had so many columns yet to write.

Dan cared deeply about downtown Newhall, as he did about the rest of our valley. I'm truly sorry Dan didn't stick around long enough to see the town's rebirth.

If I sound like I'm rambling, I probably am. Like I said, I'm numb. Exhausted. Writing helps. It's the only thing I know to do. When all is said and done, we write for no one but ourselves.

And Dan knew that.

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Leon Worden is a Santa Clarita resident. His commentary appears on Wednesdays.

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