December 29, 2015

Goodbye to 2015 and four friends

     As I reflect on the past 30 days, I think of four friends who answered Heaven’s roll call during December:
     Nancy Larson
     She was a contemporary of my late mother, Marjorie.  Her Olympic-gold-medalist son, David, brought glory to our hometown in 1984. In my senior year, 1965-1966, Mrs. Larson opened my mind in her psychology class. In those days, the political-correctness police weren’t patrolling the halls of Wayne County High School.  She said, “One thing to always remember about ‘crazy’ people is that they always think everyone else is ‘crazy.’”
     Today, we’d say that in a softer, more sensitive tone.  Still, the message is the same.  Some of you probably think that I’m “not quite right.”  However, I’m smart enough to know that Mrs. Larson was a splendid teacher. And we stayed friends for 50 years.
     Margaret Dent
     Another gifted Wayne County teacher was Margaret Dent.  As a young widow, she forged ahead, nurturing her five children—Marie, Jamie, Douglas, Louis and George.  When she retired after 34 years, she didn’t sigh and settle down in a rocking chair.
     Mrs. Dent shared her energy and talents as a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, community volunteer and friend.  Travel was her passion, too.  She made laps around America’s 50 states and multiple points on the globe, too.  The Dent family joke was: “Where’s Mother this week?”
     I knew her best through my high school classmate, Marie.  And if you knew Margaret Dent, you loved and admired the difference she made in the world during her 95 years.

     Thomas Strickland
     We lived next door to his dad, Leroy.  If you thought Thomas was a fun-loving character, he got it honestly from Leroy.  When I think about Thomas, I flash back to the days he scrubbed the love bugs off my windshield at Lucky’s Service Station while commenting on world affairs.
     Then there were those Sunday-morning Brotherhood Breakfast gatherings at First Baptist Church.  Thomas was finicky about how we served ourselves at his station—the Bunn coffeemaker.  “Pour from the top pot.”  If you forgot, Thomas would remind you: If you lifted the bottom pot, the coffee would drip and sizzle on the burner.
     And I hope Thomas wore his favorite color of socks to the Pearly Gates.  Grinning, he’d say, “I never get my socks mixed up.  I only buy one color—red.”
     Dorothy Kenerly
     The Kenerlys’ backyard cornered with our backyard.  A well-traveled path cut through the hedge to their house.  As little ones, Alan, Emily and Eric were always anxious to see what was going on inside Poppa John and D-Dot’s workshop.  No matter how busy they were, our neighbors put down their tools to make our children feel as if they were the most important people in the world.  You can’t walk in our house without seeing things that Poppa John and D-Dot didn’t repair, paint or make better.  
     Alan called while I was on the road.  “Dad,” he said,      
“D-Dot is not doing well.”  I drove straight to Magnolia Street Extension.  Holding D-Dot’s hand, I told her how much our family loved her.  In a weak, 91-year-old voice, her words were clear:  “And I love you, too.”
     Family and friends are the only true wealth we ever accumulate.  And when you have friends like Nancy Larson, Margaret Dent, Thomas Strickland and D-Dot, well, even Warren Buffett, Alice Walton, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg couldn’t be any richer.
     And all God’s children said, “Amen!”