WASHINGTON – With the death of Bob Dole, a leading figure in American politics for decades, there will be those misguided souls who describe his Kansas birthplace of Russell as a small town.
I know better.
For my father, a contemporary of Dole’s, Russell was the big city. Bob Page was born in El Dorado. But after first his mother and then his father died, a half-sister who was getting married agreed he could move in with her rather than be sent to the Kansas state home for orphans. For this act of grace, I will always be grateful to my Aunt Thelma, long passed.
Their struggling farm was in Luray (current pop. 190), 25 miles southwest of Russell (pop. 4,475). Russell was the county seat, with government offices and a main street, a destination for shopping and the occasional excursion. Dole was just six months older than my father, and it seems all but certain that at some point their paths crossed, perhaps at Dawson’s Drugstore, a community hub where Dole worked as a soda jerk.