Please excuse my personal post. My father died yesterday after a long battle with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP).
– He didn’t meet his father until he was two years old. My grandfather had left to fight in the European theater of World War II. His boat landed in England on the day my father was born. When he came home from the War, my father met him in the yard where he handed him a teddy bear. My father walked inside and his mother said, “Tommy, where did you get that teddy bear?” My father responded, “that nice man gave him to me.”
– He was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee but moved around every few years for most of his childhood. He also lived in Knoxville (where he caught a pass from the triple-threat tailback Johnny Majors in a backyard game of catch with the neighborhood kids); Greenville, SC; Mamaroneck, New York (where he went to see the Yankees play, and fondly recalls watching an old Dimaggio, a young Mantle, and his favorite Yogi Berra); and Atlanta, Georgia.
– I marvel at the political climate my dad grew up in. Schools were segregated and when desegregation was threatened, he moved to Westminster, where he was the class valedictorian.
– He used to carpool to school with Lester Maddox’s family. I find this odd considering that my grandparents were strongly opposed segregation. When my dad told me this several years ago, he forbade me to tell anyone about the carpool, for fear that someone might think he actually had an affinity for Maddox. But, I think enough time has passed for me to tell this story, and I don’t think anyone will confuse his chance association with anything other than the fact that he happened to live down the street from Lester Maddox.
– My dad graduated from Duke in three years. He had planned on doing something in science, but ended up majoring in political science and becoming a journalist.
– My dad told me that when he was in college there were two types of beer drinkers, Schlitz and Budweiser, and he preferred Schlitz. When I was a kid he drank Pabst’s Blue Ribbon and Red, White, and Blue.
– One of my dad’s college friends was friends with Newt Gingrich. So, my dad hung out with him some in college. Didn’t care much for his politics, but he knew him.
– His first job was with The Gainesville Times. His only stories from there involved covering still busts. He told me emphatically to never drink moonshine. “You wouldn’t believe what they put in that stuff. Don’t ever drink it.”
– When he worked for The Charlotte News he interviewed Billy Graham, who sent him a nice thank-you letter after the interview.
– He won prizes for the wooden bowls he crafted.
– He discovered ham radio as a child and it was his main hobby for much of his life. He preferred to talk in Morse code. One of the symptoms of Parkinson’s-related disorders is that you act out in your sleep. I have seen him work his radio, sending code and tuning the knobs, while sound asleep.
– He was instrumental in running Charlotte’s meals-on-wheels program, Friendship Trays.
– One of my favorite things was to watch my dad respond to someone else’s BS by forcefully saying “bologna,” and then storm off.
– He wrote a book on the history of the Dilworth neighborhood in Charlotte.
– My dad knew everyone in Charlotte. When we’d go to some public event every politician would say, “Hey Tom!” When this happened, I felt I was the coolest kid in the world. “Wow Dad, you know the mayor? He’s on TV!”
– He liked to read and he rarely watched TV.
– His favorite signer growing up was Buddy Holly.