TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Jean Montney brought her daughter and two grandchildren to Tallahassee on Tuesday to say goodbye to an old friend. The 83-year-old Jacksonville resident wanted the kids to get a history lesson and have a memory of former Governor Reubin Askew, who was a close friend and Florida State classmate of her late husband Dick.
“We were just privileged to know him from the beginning,” Montney said, breaking into tears. “With us, he was just a regular guy. They’d tell the old stories of all the stuff they used to do. But then I realized when I got here and they were talking about him, they were so reverential. Like he was such a fabulous person, which we knew he was.
“But he was so down to earth with his friends. Never took on airs or acted like he was a monarch or something. He was just really a man of the people and true to his friends.”
Askew gave one of the eulogies when Dick Montney had died six years ago. The two families used to go on annual trips together. Montney, 83, her daughter Lynn Wilkes, 56, and grandchildren Nick, 8, and Macie, 9, cut short a seven-day trip to Hilton Head Island, S.C., to make the trip to Tallahassee. They’ll get two days instead.
Gov. Rick Scott and other state officials lined the sidewalks around the old Capitol as a military honor guard carried the casket draped with an American flag up the steps just after 9:30 a.m. Flags around the city stood at half-staff.
Askew died last week at the age of 85. His eight years in office during the 1970s coincided with the end of the Vietnam War, Watergate and dramatic social change across the nation. A memorial service is scheduled Wednesday at a Tallahassee church. Askew will be buried with full military honors on Friday in Pensacola.
Inside the old Capitol, a short receiving line of family stood on the second floor beside the casket with a single white flower laid on top.
“We noticed it was gloomy earlier, then about 10 o’clock it’s like the skies parted and the blue and the sun came out,” said Lynn Wilkes, who carried Askew placards with friends at a Florida-Georgia football game during Askew’s first run for governor. “That was for Reub.”
Dick Montney was on the Florida State golf team when Askew was student body president. Askew later appointed Montney to the port authority board for eight years. Macie hugged her grandmother and said, “I will remember that he was a really good man and that everyone will remember him for what he’s done.”
Macie and Nick weren’t the only children getting a history lesson Tuesday. Leighanne Mortimer, 40, brought her daughters Mary, 11, and Lydia, 10, to the service to pay their respects and take part in “Arts and Culture Day.”
“I thought it’d be a good opportunity for them to see something they probably won’t get to see, a governor laying in state, very often,” said Mortimer, who’s from Tallahassee. “Just to see the ceremony is a nice thing for them to recognize someone who was important to us.
“Just to be able to see the respect given to someone who was important to Florida.”
Jennifer Martin, 56, came from Gainesville to honor the man who was the namesake of the family cat when she was a young girl. Her father picked the name Reubin in the mid-70s. Martin was already visiting Tallahassee, but made sure to get over to the Capitol.
She was a teenager when Askew was in office and not into politics, but “in retrospect, when I look at the things he did, I would support him today. He did the kinds of things I would want a governor to do. He was a progressive governor.”
Landy Wade, 22, brought his girlfriend to take part in the ceremony. He’s a political science major at Florida State, scheduled to graduate this summer. He wanted to be involved after learning about Askew in classes.