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So long Duke

Bill Ritter's daily take on the news.
January 10, 2013 1:21:38 PM PST
I remember when I first met Rusty. Tall and incredibly handsome, with a head of lush red hair. He had an incredibly strong handshake and an infectious smile. It was an instant friendship. He was way smarter than me, and way funnier.

That was 36 years ago, right about now. We played basketball, watched basketball, talked and sometimes argued politics.

We met at critical time in both of our lives - before we settled down, before marriage(s), before kids, before mortgages and car payments. Before Rusty got sick.

Long before.

He would eventually drop the nickname, Rusty. Everyone who knew him, called him Russell. Russell Eagan. And he had become a successful executive for some popular and very large restaurant chains.

The cancer attacked a kidney, and it was removed. The cancer and the kidney. If anyone could survive on one, it was Rusty. And he did. For several years. Rusty had a remarkable sense of self, and an even more remarkable inner strength. Then, last summer, they found cancer in his other kidney. And other places. And even this big, strong hunk of a guy couldn't fight it, at least not for long.

The end came Wednesday morning, at sunrise. 36 hours before that, he had told his wife Mary and their two kids - Sarah, 20, and David, 15 - that he wanted to stop fighting this devil of a disease, that he wanted to go in peace. And so they let him.

People die every day. Hearts are broken over the loss. Families grieve. Friends mourn. Today, I'm one of those friends, mourning. And thinking about Rusty's family, that's grieving. These last few days have brought me in contact with old friends, who also cry for Rusty. We've been emailing old photos - of us as younger and less gray.

It seems like yesterday. It seems like forever. So long Duke. I so-hope you got as much from our great friendship as I did.

Everyone has a back story, and today, that's mine, as we prepare our 11 p.m. newscast.

Tonight at 11, we're going to take a look at the growing worries about the flu. It's not panic, but the fears from health officials are real, 5 weeks before the flu season officially ends. There's a reported shortage of vaccines, and the number of emergency room visits from people complaining of the flu or flu-like symptoms is growing. Fast.

We'll have the latest.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Meteorologist Amy Freeze (in for Lee Goldberg) with her AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho (in for Sade Baderinwa) and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER

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