We worked together off-and-on for probably 10 of the past 13 years. He was tough and strong - a real mule [yes, besides being strong, mules can be stubborn] and a workhorse. He could work at very physical things and run circles around men half his age. He was a 'steel fist in a thick velvet glove'. He'd do almost anything for someone else in need ... and he'd go toe-to-toe with almost anyone if he disagreed with them.
He died last week end at the young old-age of 69.
During the last 5 or 6 or 7 years he's been battling cancer. They'd beat it out of him in one part of his body, and then a year or so later it would show-up somewhere else. When he was able, he continued to work.
'Retirement age' meant nothing to him - he needed to be productive. When he wasn't working for a paycheck, he was working for free ... always helping others who had less [and many would look at him and his life-style and think he was the one who could have used the help]. He raised his family on very modest means.
He graduated from High School in 1957. At a time when post-high school education was not as common as today, his education served him well. He'd admit that he wasn't the best reader around, but teach him, show him, and once he learned how something was done, he owned that knowledge.
I was blessed to have been in-the-loop with his illnesses. Whenever he was doing poorly, or something else was diagnosed, or when he was hospitalized, or he just needed prayer, he or someone in his family would call me. Sometimes he would come by where I was working and see me personally - and I'd pray for him right then and there. I'd visit him in the hospital and find a noisy room full of family and friends. When it was time for me to depart I would tell him I'd like to pray with him before I left ... and the room would go dead-silent. They'd all bow their heads and honor the time for prayer - and when I was finished, the noise level went right back to where it was before. He kept the nursing staff in stitches with his jokes and funny stories.
At his funeral, I saw many pictures of a younger man with a full head of dark hair and full, long beard; now the hair was gone and the beard was mostly white. His wife, and adult children [2 daughters and a son], and grandchildren [half a dozen or so] were given the opportunity to say something about him if they would like. to The option was to write something - they all wrote something.
The preachers doing the service [one who had recently left that congregation and the other who had recently replaced him] read many of these remembrances. Any of us would love to have been remembered in such wonderful terms ... and there were more than a few references to his ability to have his say when he disagreed.
The words his family and friends wrote about him gave me another whole view of him as a person. I am truly honored to have been considered a friend. May our God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, greet him as he enters their presence and he hears the words, "Well done!"
Oh ... and behind the comma - Homer, Beloved Husband and Father