Monday, August 3, 2009

Goodbye, Uncle John

A favorite uncle has died. My family will miss him and remember him.

Uncle John was a country boy who grew up to become a country gentleman. Born and raised in Spotsylvania, Virginia, he never strayed far from home except for his time in Europe during WWII. He was proud of his achievements - a long and loving marriage; a still growing family with 4 kids, 10 grandchildren, and, at least, 4 great grandchildren; several successful businesses; voluntary contributions to his community, especially the baseball field; and a love of God.

Surviving the great depression left him with a dedication to hard work. I doubt if he spent much time questioning if he was "happy," he just dug in and worked hard. And he respected those around him that worked hard. Once he told my husband and me that he made enough to support his family and (with a twinkle in his eye) "a little bit more." To mark his sucess his biggest personal extravagance was his Lincoln Continental. He loved riding the country roads in style and comfort. Turn on his favorite country music and cruise. He, also, took great pride in having his wife, Elizabeth, dressed in nice clothes and shoes, nothing flashy, but quiet quality that he knew reflected nicely on his ability to support his family. Otherwise his wants and needs were pretty simple.

He loved baseball - from the kid with his first mitt to the Baltimore Orioles. Many of life's lessons are learned from the game - patience, the benfits of practice and hard work, team play. the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. He coached, groomed fields, built fields, oversaw leagues, drove players to games and tournaments. No task too small or too great for him to do for love of the game and love of the players. He hoped he passed along the lessons of the game to countless kids. And exposed them to the joys of the game for the rest of their lives.

With a twinkling eye and thick southern drawl he was quite a storyteller. Hunkering in the dirt or leaned against the bed of his pick-up truck, he would tell tales of the people he admired, poke gentle fun at the characters he knew. recount many of the interesting encounters in his day. The war was the one area about which he kept quiet like so many of his fellow soldiers. But from his many businesses and deals he could harvest the colors, textures and patterns of life that made great stories told with respect for the country folk he knew and lived with.

Although not formally educated in business, he had an innate wisdom for building a good business, buying the right real estate, backing the good idea at the opportune time. He worked hard and made the good deals. I don't even know the many businesses he ran throughout the years, but I remember the lumber mill, the clearing and excavation, the gas station and the auctioneering. (How I loved to hear him do the auctioneering spiel.) He was proud of his successes. For him all these were done with honor - for many years his deals was sealed with a handshake - and respect - the other guy needs to feel he has gained from the deal. He was a gentleman in business and in life.

I'll miss Uncle John. I'll miss the twinkle in his eye. I'll miss his stories. I'll miss his love. I hope I can honor him by working hard and developing my talents. I'll continue to try to earn his admiration. He is one of the people in my life who by example make me want to do better and be a better person.

Goodbye, Uncle John.

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