Athens, Ala. – In emergency situations, we depend on first responders to help us. Many times, first responders are unsung heroes. They simply do their job. On March 4th, one of those unsung heroes passed away, Connie Green. Connie was a retired paramedic at Athens-Limestone Hospital. One of Connie’s friends described her as having “a heart of gold.” Friend, Wendy Wright, said, “Connie was loved her family and loved her ‘kids.’ She was loyal, she was kind, and would give you the shirt off her back or her last twenty bucks. She always listened, she always gave advice, she never had a problem telling you like it was if she needed to do it.”
Right now, because of issues with insurance, the community is coming together to take care of Connie’s funeral expenses. A GoFundMe has been set up to give people a way to contribute. If you would like to help, go to the link and donate.
Athens, Ala. – I received a call of a stranded motorist, so I headed to Clark’s Restaurant to help them out. When I pulled into the parking lot, there were my dear friends Tammy Breasseale Woodward, Connie Breasseale Waldron, and Doris West Breasseale talking outside. After assisting the motorist, I went over to talk to my friends. After the conversation, I asked the ladies if they wanted me to take a picture of them together. I snapped a couple of photos and we said our goodbyes. Little did I, or the family, know that just a few days later Tammy would be re-diagnosed with cancer, a battle she fought and won just a few short years ago.
On March 7th, I received the call from Tammy’s husband, Pete. I had first met Pete when he was working at U.G. White’s on the Athens Square and my wife and I owned Tortillas Blanco. We became fast friends as I made deliveries of our chips to the store where he worked. Pete called and thanked me for the picture that I had taken when his wife, sister, and mama at Clark’s Restaurant. After a couple of minutes, Pete began talking about the news that they had been given. It was cancer and it was aggressive.
Sadly, I had heard those words before. After dealing with my granddaddy’s cancer in 1998 and my daddy’s cancer just this past August, cancer is something I am familiar with. Like so many, I know what it does and how it affects loved ones. It’s unmerciful. Pete wanted me to know what was going on and I wanted him to know that I would do whatever I could to help as they face this battle together. With that, the “Together With Tammy” idea was created. Through the challenges, Tammy not only wanted to be encouraged by friends and family around the country, she wanted to be an encouragement to others as well. When Tammy was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2011, she not only became one of the survivors, but she also became an advocate for other women who were facing cancer.
Anytime someone hears the word “cancer” there is the fear of the unknown. Tammy’s husband, Pete, was by her side the first time Tammy was diagnosed with cancer and he will be there again. As an owner of a small business, the diagnosis presents a new set of issues. At this time, Pete needs flexibility when it comes to time and finances. This is how the YouCaring “Together With Tammy” fundraiser came to be. I know there are friends and strangers alike who are willing to help. In the past 24 hours, we have already seen it as people have contributed and shared the fundraiser and Tammy’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Together With Tammy is a group of caring people coming together to help bear another’s burdens. It is with that thought in mind that I would encourage you to like Tammy’s Facebook and Twitter pages along with sharing Tammy’s fundraiser. The family needs you. Tammy needs you! The long journey has just begun, but Tammy remains positive. As she sat the chair at her home describing the blessings of the day, the emotions came out. As Tammy faces this battle, her motto is “Let’s just do today.” That is something we should all consider as we wake up and begin each new day. At this time, I would like to encourage you to join our effort and “Let’s just do today”, together, with Tammy.
Fundraiser: Together With Tammy
Facebook: Together With Tammy
Twitter: Together With Tammy
The following is an article from The Alabama Courier concerning the passing of my 3x great grandfather, James Calvin Jones Gordon, on February 23, 1932, 85 years ago today. My great grandmother, Margaret Legg White, referred to him as “Grand Pa Gordon.” It’s been said that Grand Pa Gordon fired the last shot with a cannon as part of Ward’s Artillery Battery on Sunday, April 16, 1865, one week after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered. Grand Pa Gordon was also one of the first to be elected sheriff in Limestone County post-Reconstruction.
Athens, Ala. – At his late residence in Athens last Monday afternoon, Mr. James C. Gordon, one of the best known and most prominent citizens of Limestone County, departed this life at the age of eighty-seven years.
Born in Giles County, Tennessee, he came with his parents to this county when a small boy and spent the remainder of his life among the people of his adopted county, serving them in many capacities, always well and faithfully. When grown, he taught school for many years, having enjoyed unusual advantages and was one of the best educated men of his time, and he was sought in many communities as a teacher. Few men of his day had the preparation for the work that he enjoyed.
Sixty-five years ago, he was happily united in wedlock with Miss Mary Meals, who passed away seventeen years ago, leaving the husband of her youth to mourn her passing, together with three daughters and two sons, the daughters being Mrs. W.J. Legg, Mrs. W.L. Jones, and Mrs. James Jones, the sons being C.E. and Benny Gordon.
Mr. Gordon was elected sheriff of Limestone County in the eighties and served one term, rendering a fine service and leaving an enviable record as a faithful and conscientious servant of the people.
He has made his home in Athens since his retirement from the office and devoted himself to many causes, chief of which was that of the Confederate veterans, being a solider of the Confederacy, serving four years and seeing hard service as any man in the cause. He was one of the best informed men on the great Civil War we have ever heard discuss the question. He was also a very devoted member of the Masonic order and was one of the most regular attendants on the meetings of the lodge and was for many years secretary of the local Masonic lodge, being faithful and efficient in the service given him to discharge.
He lived by the golden rule as any man we knew. He believed in doing the right thing and did his part. He gave to his children every benefit he was able. He wanted them all educated, and he offered them the best education he could afford.
For some time his health has been such that he was unable to be out of the home, but was interested in all that was going on. He has been failing rapidly of late, and his death was not a surprise to his family and friends.
His funeral took place Wednesday afternoon from his late home, and his body was laid to rest by the side of the fine woman who journeyed with him so many years and shared with him his joys and sympathized with him in his disappointments.
When he was prepared for his last rites, his body was clothed in a beautiful black broadcloth suit that he was married in and which had been religiously taken care of for more than sixty-five years for this occasion and was as beautiful as when he stood before the bridal alter and plighted his troth to the young woman who was to share with him his future years.
To the children who will miss the passing of this noble father we tender our sincere sympathy. For nearly fifty years, he has been a friend of the editor of the Courier and as such, we appreciated him. We regret deeply the passing of this noble, generous and true friend.
Washington D.C. – We all have certain things that we would like to do before our lives are over. When you find out that your days are numbered, it puts those wishes into overdrive.
On August 12th, 2016, at 3 pm, my daddy, Mark White, Sr., received the news that no one wants to hear. “Mr. White, you have cancer. It’s advanced and it’s aggressive.” The normal questions flowed. “How long do I have?”, “What will be my quality of life?”, “What are my treatment options?” The doctor gave his best guess on how long daddy had to live. At the time, it looked like daddy had months. Daddy’s first response was “Well, maybe I’ll live long enough to see Trump sworn in as president.” Daddy supported Donald Trump from Day 1. He had no doubt that he was going to be elected president. Living long enough to see Donald Trump become president was his goal…his wish. The truth was, daddy had less than a month to live.
Daddy would not live to see President Donald Trump’s inauguration. After President Trump won the election, I decided to call my congressman’s office and see about getting tickets to the inauguration. It sounded like tickets would be hard to come by. In December, I received the news that my name had been randomly selected for tickets to the inauguration. They were for the ticketed Mall area. I was thankful to have tickets and be able to make the trip in honor of my daddy. A couple of weeks later, I received another email. “Good news…”, it began. “There are some people who received tickets who could not go. You have been upgraded to Union Square.” Here I was with an even better spot to view this special moment in honor of my daddy.
On January 18th, we hit the road from our home in North Alabama to Washinton D.C. I placed daddy’s hounds tooth hat on the dash and had a picture of him in the vehicle. A couple of times I cried, but I did it quietly. It’s just something I have to go through. The thought of taking a trip for someone who can no longer do it is very emotional. Especially for my daddy.
We arrived at my wife’s cousin’s home. It was about an hour and half outside of D.C. We enjoyed their company. They’re down-to-earth people and easy to talk to. On Thursday morning, we made our trek to D.C. to pick up tickets for the inauguration from Congressman Mo Brooks’s office. Parking was difficult. We found a three hour spot and spent one of those hours waiting on the train. We arrived in D.C., exited the Metro, and headed for the Rayburn Building where Congressman Mo Brooks’s office is located. Outside of the building, there was a long line of people waiting to pass through security. Brooks’s office had indicated that there was a 3 pm cutoff on holding tickets. It was 2:45 pm. I emailed one of his staff members. “We are here, but waiting in line for security to check us.” She emailed back saying, “We’ll hold your tickets.” We went up the elevator to the fourth floor and entered Congressman Brooks’s office. There were a lot of people inside the office and quite a bit going on. We picked up our tickets, and as were walking out, I asked Congressman Brooks for a picture. We stood along the wall and had our picture made, daddy’s houndstooth hat included. I mentioned that we only had two tickets and that my wife and daughter were going to stay with family during the inauguration. He told me to hang around and they might have some extra tickets. We decided since my wife and daughter were not going to go, there was no need to hang around. We went back down the first floor to exit. Before we left the building, I asked my wife about me staying behind. I told her that I wanted to see if I could get an upgrade on tickets. I emailed Brooks’s staff member and asked if there was a possibility of an upgrade. At that time, it didn’t look like it, so the return email reflected that. By this time, my family had already left to catch the train and move our vehicle before three hours were up. I went outside to see the Capitol.
After a few minutes, I looked at my phone. I had missed a call, but they had left a message. Area code “202”. I knew it was a D.C. number. When I called back, I was met with “Mr. White, we know you have your tickets already, but if you would like to upgrade, come back to the office.” I immediately began jogging that way. I called them back. “Sure I’d like to have them, but I have to go back through security.” They said that they would be waiting on me. A lady came outside while I was waiting. “Staff ID?” Staff ID?” No staff ID here. About 5 minutes later, she came back out. “Staff ID?” “Staff ID?” Still no staff ID. Then she said, “No bags?” I looked at both my arms and held up my hands. I had no bags, so I was shuttled through another security gate. I made my way to the office. When I walked in to Congressman Brooks’s office, a young staffer said, “Mark White?” “That’s me”, I responded. One of Brooks’s staff members said, “I’m sorry I told you that we didn’t have any upgrades, we actually did.” I really appreciated her thinking about me. I traded tickets. I was now in the “Orange Section”, right behind the chairs up front! I reminded her of the story of my daddy and why I was making this trip. It’s always hard to tell the story without getting emotional. The trip meant a great deal to me.
I saw Trump sworn in as president and daddy was there in my heart. For me, it’s about tying up loose ends. It’s about closure. When daddy was diagnosed with cancer, we had no idea that he would be gone so soon. We were making plans of things that he would like to do over the coming months. The months never came. He wanted to go see that Statue of Liberty, but the closest he came to that was through pictures one night in his hospital room.
If you have things that you would like to do, I suggest that you do them. You never know when you might not be able to anymore. Life happens. It was an honor to be able to see President Donald Trump’s inauguration in memory of my daddy. Now that he’s gone, it was the best that I could do. That was for you, daddy.
Athens, Ala. – The doctor walks in and breaks the news. “We’ve done all we can. Our recommendation is now palliative care. “Palliative care?”, you ask. “There’s nothing else that can be done?” The doctor responds, “Our goal now is to keep your loved one comfortable.”
It’s never easy to admit that nothing else can be done and you would do anything to take away the illness, but you can’t. The question that now remains is how do you make your loved one as comfortable as possible while they are here with us. Enter Hospice. The paperwork is signed and a few short hours later, equipment arrives and caring individuals are now at your home ready to serve. Along with your love and concern, these are now the resources to make your loved one comfortable.
The following is the mission statement of Hospice of Limestone County:
“Hospice of Limestone County is a care system for the terminally ill patient and their families. Care is provided by a team of professional and trained volunteers. The goal of Hospice of Limestone County is to help the terminally ill patient and family live as fully and comfortably as possible the lifetime remaining through pain and symptom control, counseling and spiritual support.
Hospice recognizes that we cannot cure the dying person nor remove the pain and grief, but, we can care enough to be there. Hospice offers the healing grace of compassionate presence.”
In an effort to explain what they do, Hospice of Limestone County website reads, “In simple terms, hospice is home-based care for the terminally ill. At the Hospice of Limestone County, we provide pain control, medical assistance and emotional support for our patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our focus is the patient, and our goal is to restore as much dignity, comfort and peace as possible to the time he or she has left.
At hospice, we accept that there are some things we simply cannot do-like remove pain or grief, or prevent the terminally ill from dying. Instead, we focus our energy on what we can do: reduce physical pain, control symptoms, provide spiritual counseling and lend emotional support.”
Hospice offers adult support like widowed person’s support group, adult grief groups, parents and families group for loss of a child, and individual counseling at the Loft or at home. When it comes to young people, they offer Camp Hope, “Good Grief Club”, groups at The Loft, and individual sessions for teens and children at The Loft, school, and even at the home when appropriate.
In addition to the above, Hospice of Limestone County offers: crisis response, training for managers on how to manage grief in the workplace, special events serve to provide opportunities for remembering lost loved ones, educational workshops and presentations dealing with death, dying and grief issues, as well as a library of books, videos, and pamphlets geared toward all ages and addressing all types of losses.
Each year, Hospice of Limestone County organizes the Chili Challenge to meet the challenge of carrying out the above services. The event brings businesses and individuals alike together to support a great cause. Funds are raised in various ways. From tickets at the door to booth spaces and a silent auction, there are many ways to contribute.
This year is the 29th edition of the Chili Challenge. It will be held on Saturday, February 18th, in the Athens High School cafeteria and gymnasium from 10am-2pm. Booth spaces are still available and donations are still being accepted for the silent auction. Last week, Applebee’s Tailgate Talk announced that they would be doing a “live remote” from 10am-12pm at the Chili Challenge this year. The guys at Applebee’s Tailgate Talk hope that this will help spread the word even further and encourage friends in the community to come out the day of the event. It takes many businesses and individuals throughout the Limestone County area to make this event a success.
If you would like to participate in the Chili Challenge or donate to the silent auction, you can contact Hospice of Limestone County by phone at (256)232-5017 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find a way that you can contribute and make your plans to be at this year’s Chili Challenge on Saturday, February 18th.
Anderson, Ala. – I never imagined how quickly the years would go by after what was the most difficult moment of my young life, but here we are, almost two decades later…
The weekend before granddaddy passed away, I had driven up from Tuscaloosa to visit. During my visit, granddaddy talked about his friends Hiram Hutto and Billy Lovell coming to see him. I don’t recall much more about our visit except that when it was time for me to leave we exchanged the words, “I love you”. I had been a student in Tuscaloosa for the past semester, trying to live out my dream of being a placekicker for the Crimson Tide.
As the school year progressed, granddaddy’s health continued to decline. During his illness, dialysis became necessary. At the end of the first semester, I told granddaddy that I was going to leave the University and come home. He wouldn’t allow it. He told me that I was going to finish the school year. On January 14th, I received the inevitable call. Grandmother said, “Your granddaddy doesn’t have much longer.” Feeling that I wouldn’t have time to get back home before he passed, I called our friend, Tim Sutton, who had expressed interest in seeing granddaddy. I told him that if he wanted to see him, he needed to go ahead and go. To this day, I take comfort in the fact that Tim was able to see granddaddy and speak to him. By the time I made it home to Anderson, granddaddy was in a comatose type state. I sat by his side through the night of the 14th and into the morning of the 15th. It was only a matter of time. Later in the afternoon, as more family arrived, I went into the living room. I watched the grandfather clock which granddaddy had put together. I heard cries coming from his room. The clock read 1:15 pm. Granddaddy’s physical life ended on Thursday, January 15th, 1998. I had never felt so much pain in my life. At that moment, there was no way to make it go away.
Over the years, since granddaddy’s passing, many people have expressed their love of granddaddy. Many of the stories that friends share with me come from a long time before I was in the picture. Through his work as a preacher and Dean of Student Services at Calhoun Community College, I know granddaddy meant a great deal to so many and I appreciate that. His life’s work was sharing the Gospel. His teaching style has been described as plain and simple. His goal was to help others understand the Bible and lead them to the Truth. In his years of preaching, he worked with several congregations. Among those were the church at Ramer (outside of Montgomery), Lafayette, Georgia, ACIPCO in Birmingham, Saraland in (Mobile) Alabama, Valley View near Athens, Old Moulton Road church in Decatur, Jackson Drive in Athens, Alabama, Sun Valley in Center Point, Alabama, Hueytown church of Christ Hueytown, Alabama, and New Georgia church of Christ in Anderson, Alabama. At New Georgia, granddaddy continued to preach until he physically could do it no longer. Through granddaddy’s work as Gospel preacher, I had the privilege of meeting many wonderful people and develop lifelong friendships along the way.
I can’t help but think about how he became my granddaddy and how I became his grandson. I think about a little baby named Lynn Douglas Headrick being born to Orville Bruce and Minnie Sue Goodloe Headrick on a farm between Red Oak and Ferris, Texas, in May 1928 and how that Texas boy grew into a young man who would move to Nashville to study at David Lipscomb and eventually take a teaching job Alabama Christian College (Faulkner) and meet Mary Faye Hall and they’d get married. I think about that couple wanting to have children of their own and choosing to adopt three children in May of 1958. Because of circumstances, I was blessed to be raised in the home of Lynn and Mary Faye Headrick. I was taught to call them grandparents, but they were so much more.
I had granddaddy almost 19 years of my life, now he’s been gone for 19 years. Nineteen more years will come and go and you or I may or may not still be here. One thing I do know is that life is a vapor. Those you love are here one day and gone the next. Death is a reoccurring theme of life for all of us. Love on those you still have with you. Let them know you love them. You’ll either look back on 19 years fondly or you’ll look back on 19 years with regret and say, “I wish I could…”. There will come a day when you can’t. Do it while you can. You won’t regret that. You can mark it down.
Below are three tracts that granddaddy wrote. The tracts were originally only available in paper form until Spiritual Service Supply converted them into digital format.
Understanding The Bible
Back To The Bible For It All
The Gospel Plan Of Salvation
Athens, Ala. – According to one of the event’s organizers, Scott Richardson, there are 16 acts set to take the stage in the Rollings-Lovell Auditorium on the Athens Bible School campus during the Winter Talent Showcase tonight at 6:30pm. Final preparations were being made last night as The North Alabama Chapter of the Hutchinson Bell, who is hosting the event, gets ready for a large crowd. The event not only serves to entertain attendees, but is also a scholarship fundraiser for North Alabama students who want to attend Florida College located in Temple Terrace, Florida. Although the Talent Showcase itself is set to begin at 6:30pm, Swamp John’s plates will also be available from 3:30pm-6pm. The cost is $12 per plate. Organizers say that while the Talent Showcase is free to the public, a $5 per person donation is suggested to help their scholarship fundraising effort. If you are looking for something fun to do in a family-friendly environment, look no further than the Winter Talent Showcase tonight at 6:30pm. While you’re at it, go ahead and let Swamp John’s take care of supper for you as well! You’ll have a good time while supporting a great cause. You can mark it down!
Mrs. Addie (Woodruff) Wilson passed away two years ago on January 6th, 2015. The following is my “Letter To The Editor” which I wrote after attending Mrs. Woodruff’s funeral on January 10th, 2015. At Athens State University, a new semester has begun. Many of our students are studying to be teachers. For them, it’s important that they remember how important the profession is that they are pursuing. For current teachers, it’s important that they remember why they are doing what they do. A teacher has the ability to affect a child for the rest of their life. The following is a good example of this. For all of my teachers, I am grateful.
Athens, Ala. – On Saturday, January 10th, I attended the funeral of my kindergarten teacher from Athens Elementary, Mrs. Addie (Woodruff) Wilson. As I sat in the services, I couldn’t help but reflect back to a 5-year-old boy, crying at the classroom door on his first day of school, who grew to love his kindergarten teacher. As my teacher, Mrs. Woodruff was kind, understanding, and patient.
All three of these qualities were just what I needed at a turbulent time in my young life. In my years at Athens Elementary School, I found these qualities in many of those who worked there. There were many outstanding influences at Athens Elementary School. It was a wonderful place for a young student to learn and grow.
I was blessed to have such a caring principal as Mr. Brett and caring teachers like Mrs. Woodruff, Mrs. Thornton, Ms. McFarland, Mrs. Jackson, Mrs. Poole, Mrs. Garrett, and many others during my time at Athens Elementary School. At 35, I still think about the many great people who worked at Athens Elementary this many years later.
All of them were not teachers, some of them were support staff such as the janitors, lunchroom personnel, and the people in the front office.
There’s a saying that goes like this, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I hope this serves as a reminder to those who work in our schools how important you are. How you make the children feel will carry on throughout their lives. No matter your position in the school, you can be a powerful influence for good.
I’m grateful for people like Mrs. Woodruff and so many others like her who have had a significant impact on my life. They are very special to me.
Yesterday, we lost a dear friend in Thomas “Tom” Keese. Tom came to Athens, Alabama, in the mid-1980’s. He attended Calhoun Community College on the “Lynn Headrick Scholarship” and worshiped with us at Jackson Drive. Along with other college-aged men like Tim Sutton, Phillip Owens, Brent Siota, Lane Alexander, Eugene Rigsby, & many others, Tom Keese was part of the extended Headrick family. Although he was several years older, Tom took time with my brother and I. As a seven year old, the best I could do to show Tom how much he meant to me was to name my cat after him. About the time he was in Athens, Tom was having some physical difficulty. It wasn’t much longer before he would be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). As a tribute to him, I want to share his own words with you today. In his message, you’ll see what brought him comfort as he faced the challenges of MS. Tom is no longer suffering and that is a comfort. One of the last things Tom said to me when we visited with him back in December was “Fight for me!” Tom’s Christian legacy lives on. My deepest condolences to his family.
Although it was more than 30 years ago, I still remember distinctly our Driver’s Ed teacher’s instructions about how to conquer our fear (among inexperienced drivers) of a bridge near Comfort, TX. Although there are few of them around anymore, this bridge was half a mile long and had two very narrow lanes framed by steel girders. His advice to us was to focus on the caution light on the other side of the bridge. It made no sense to us at the time, but when I actually took his advice, it worked. The principle, looking past our current circumstances to what the future holds also works.
Now I want to deal with my present circumstances. I have been dealing with excruciating pain a result of having MS for the last 28 years and the resulting immobility. In the midst of that pain there have been very few things that will bring me comfort for my mind to dwell on. When you find yourself in the midst of this type of adversity, my advice to you is to focus on the other side of the bridge, look through the fire. One of the things I consider is to look forward to the period of time after the pain medication has taken effect. I will recite to myself Paul’s words from Romans 8:18, “the sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Another passage which brings me comfort is 1 Peter 1:6, 7:
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ…”
The trial of our faith, i.e. adversity, is many times painful. We should view it as burning away those impurities in our lives that will only hinder us from reaching our goal. Those impurities in the gold must be burned away. One way to look at this, when I endure this pain, is that it helps me like no other experience to see more clearly the things in my life that do not matter.
Preparing for Trial
I have encountered and continue to encounter brothers and sisters in Christ who deal with adversities far greater than mine. I recently heard it said that physical pain is easier to endure than emotional pain. I firmly believe that’s true. You may be dealing with the death of a loved one or the unfaithfulness of children who have turned their back on the Lord. The best time to prepare for adversity is before it occurs. If you have not dealt with severe trials like this it’s only a matter of time.
The best way to receive comfort from God’s word is to have it stored up in your heart. Just listening to the Scriptures being read or to sermons has brought me great comfort during my darkest hours.
Develop a Habitual Life of Prayer
It should be of great comfort to us that God has encouraged us to bring our problems before his throne. Philippians 4:6, 7 with many other passages urge us to pray about those things that are causing us worry. To me it is so humbling to realize our God who has created universes and solved problems so much more complex than what we are dealing with wants us to bring our problems to Him.
In Daniel chapter 3, Daniel’s three friends had every confidence that God, if he so chose, could deliver them from their fiery trial (Daniel 3:6-30). Yet, they also realized that He might not choose to deliver them. Facing the prospect of a very painful death, they saw through the fire. Likewise, we also must look past our trials of this earth which are so minuscule in comparison to our reward in heaven
Athens, Ala. – As he laid there in Athens-Limestone Hospital, a nurse walked in and introduced herself as Pam Gaston. “I’m one of the nurses here and patient liaison…” Daddy interrupted, “Are you related to Greg?” She responded, “Which one?” Daddy said, “The one with one eye.” Pam said, “Yes, that’s the one. He’s my husband. We’ve been married 34 years.” As daddy enjoyed doing, he began to tell a story. “I guess we were about 15 or 16 when Greg and I went down to The University of Alabama…” I knew this story. Daddy had told it many times before, but this time seemed more special. Daddy continued, “Greg and I were in the Athens High School Concert Band together and we went down there for a concert. We both played football for Athens too and decided to run all over the college until we found Paul “Bear” Bryant’s office. We went through every building and opened every door until I saw that ol’ checkered hat. I told Greg, ‘This is his office! This is his office!’ I asked the secretary if it was Coach Bryant’s office and she said, ‘Yes.’ We asked if we could see him and she said, ‘Yeah, you can see him.’ She opened the door and we sat down and talked to him.” Daddy paused and told Pam, “Ask Greg if he still has that autograph.” I knew daddy had saved his. Daddy said, “Dan Havely, the band director, gave us a paddling over that, but I met Coach Bryant and got my autograph!”
Three days later, daddy was diagnosed with Stage IV gallbladder cancer. While it was suggested that he might have months to live, he actually had less than a month. He had a few more stories to tell, but that would be the last time he would tell his Coach Bryant story.
On September 3rd, Alabama was set to take on USC. Daddy woke up asking, “Where’s the counter?” I asked, “What counter?” Daddy responded, “The counter to sell tickets at the door! Ten dollars to get in and five dollars for popcorn!” We had a laugh. He was in good spirits that morning and ready to watch the game that evening. By kickoff time, daddy had the “death rattle” coming from his chest and wasn’t alert enough to watch the game. Laying in his Hospice bed, with family by his side, we watched the Tide roll against the Trojans. Two days later, on September 5th, daddy was gone. For the next several weeks, I had no interest in football and I had no interest in going on the radio show I co-host called, “Applebee’s Tailgate Talk”. While he was sick, daddy had asked me why I was missing the show. I told him that I was going to stay with him. He wanted me to go on, but I also knew I’d have very little to contribute with daddy’s condition. Although I felt like I was drowning, the Crimson Tide kept rolling.
Here we are 14-0 about to take on Clemson for the second time in two years for the College Football Playoff National Championship. Win or lose, it will be a season I’ll always remember.
Like Coach Bryant, daddy had his own style of checkered hat. I wear it now in my daddy’s memory. I’ve worn it around town, I’ve worn it on the radio show, and I’ve worn it to a couple of Alabama ballgames this season. At the Alabama vs. Auburn game, an older gentleman sitting behind me asked, “Where did you get that cap?” I told him it was my daddy’s.” He said, “It’s a cool hat.” I said, “My daddy was a cool guy.”
I never met Paul “Bear” Bryant, but I knew Mark White, Sr.
As with any of us, he had his flaws, but he was a good daddy. Football was one of our many common interests, namely Alabama Crimson Tide football. On Monday night, I’ll have daddy right with me in my heart. You can mark it down. Roll Tide Roll!