Thirteen years ago
They called you Big O. You were a sailor, businessman, trucker, husband, dad, pawpaw, and friend. I’m not the only one these memories revisit so very often, there are of course others – your wife, your granddaughter, son-in-law and all of your children and grandchildren alike.
You were a man like no other; generous, loving and strong. You see, God really did break the mold when he made you. I’ve never seen a person who loved people in general so much – you just never met a stranger. Nothing pleased you more than to make someone laugh or smile. You were known to go up and put a strong arm around an unknown and give them a jovial ‘shake’ when you thought they might be having a bad day. Only once in a while would it make the person uncomfortable, but I like to think it made the day better for most.
My, how you loved Dale Earnhardt Sr. – and to say you were passionate about your racing was an understatement. At the time, the infamous Daytona 500 was the one big win that had always eluded your driver – and of course you always took a lot of heat for this. I want you to know the following month after you died, Earnhardt drove his car to victory in his very first Daytona 500 win. It was a very emotional day down here to say the least – but a bright spot nonetheless. Sadly, three years later Earnhardt lost his own life in turn 4 at that very track. There wasn’t any bigger fan of Earnhardt as was you. You and he even looked so much alike it was uncanny – I like to think you’ve both met up by now. I can just see you walking together… with your hand on Earnhardt’s shoulder, telling him your stories.
Many different occasions you’d see a girl or lady with their midriff showing, perhaps even bearing a belly-ring. I remember how you loved that opportunity to go up to these females, put an arm around them and say in your southern drawl “I’ll bet that you like sailors, don’t ya?” I can’t remember a time where the female didn’t look stunned, finally responding with a grin and a “Why?” to which you would say “Because you’re showing off your naval base!!”. You’d always laugh heartily and then flash that big Earnhardt smile. Actually, it was Earnhardt that had your smile. 🙂
I could write page after page about your character and the huge impact you had on not only my life but virtually everyone you came into contact with… but it would be further emotionally draining today and… long. I believe, though, that somehow you had an idea of how much everyone loved you. Your guidance, perseverance and faith in me greatly shaped my character. And, you would be so proud of the relationship I have with both my mom and dad today.
That fateful January 6th day of ’98 was to be your last. You had a massive heart attack that morning and went to be with Jesus. I have no doubt in my mind that’s where you are now… not a single doubt.
On the 13th anniversary of your sunset Big O, know that you’re still missed just as terribly today as you were in those moments right after your departure. So enjoy yourself up there, tell Mammaw hey for me – and we’ll being seeing ya…