Thursday, June 05, 2008

P.W. heads for home

Every now and then you meet someone that gives you a wee bit more faith in the human race.

P.W. Hembree Jr. was just such a fella.

He was a big man in his day, dignified, proud. I met him through his grandkids -- my second family -- and grew to love him in that way you respect wise folks of the Greatest Generation.

He was firm but had a gentle kindness about him, the kind that said, 'Here, sit down on the couch and we'll watch a ball game together.'"

Which we did. I'd often accompany my buddy Dean to P.W.'s Fountain City home for UT football games on Saturdays the Vols were suiting up out of town. P.W. shared the conservative politics of East Tennessee, loved ol' westerns and told stories from the golden days at UT and Georgia Tech.

He was a Christian, too, in the way that such people should be -- leading by example, rock solid, never having to beat you over the head because he wasn't insecure or trying to compensate for something.

P.W. fought a gallant fight these past few years. The loss of a lung had slowed him down. The death of his beloved wife Lucy a decade ago had robbed him of his sweetheart.

But his kids, sister and grandkids were the light of his life. He'd sit in his easy chair, drink a toddy, root for the Vols and laugh at old Bugs Bunny cartoons. He was an honest, good example of how to be a man.

They buried P.W. this morning. His body finally became too tired, too weary to hang around this 'ol world any longer. Dean says we're going to get together at some point over the weekend and toast this grand ol' fella with the 100 proof whisky that he dearly loved.

He'll be missed, certainly. But somehow I think Dub and Lucy are arm-in-arm this morning, walking together by a crystal river on that evergreen shore, somewhere in the sweet by and by.

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