Our family had spent the week at Callaway Gardens on vacation. I think we camped at FDR State Park. I had rented a canoe and, like the teenage imbecile I was, paddled around for hours shirtless. I had the worst sunburn of my life -- raised blisters on my shoulders. But it had been a fun week and our exhausted but happy carload pulled into the driveway of the handsome brick parsonage on Timothy Avenue in Summerville park, ready to unload and rest up.
We were surprised to see someone mowing our front lawn. It was our tall family friend and Trinity United Methodist Church board chairman, Leonard Hancock. Leonard was an executive with the historic Rome business The Fairbanks Company. He had helped me illustrate some of the procedures they used in the manufacture of wheels for industrial equipment for a school project in high school. He and my father had the important connection -- brotherhood really -- of being fellow Marines.
Today this wonderfully gentle man, one of my fathers closest friends and parishioners, had the sad task of informing my father that his dad, my Daddy Shaw, had died suddenly.
And I had the sad task, but memorable privilege, of driving my Daddy -- leaving probably less than an hour later -- from Rome to Conyers to join his mother and brothers in grief. Only the second time I had ever witnessed my father cry.
It is strange, I suppose, that such a sad occurrence should tie me so emotionally to a family, but it did. Leonard's obviously genuine concern and gentle manner that day endeared him forever to me.
This week Leonard's equally gentle and loving widow died. Her funeral was right at the end of the school day on Friday and I felt I shouldn't ask for a second special time off for the week (my co-workers and principal had already covered for me for another funeral earlier in the week) so I didn't get to attend. My mother and the Rev. Wayne Hopper presided. I am sorry I missed it.
Leonard and Frances were a model couple. Their love for each other was obvious to anyone who witnessed them together. And they doted on their precocious son, Sam.
Sam, you have a grand heritage in both of your parents. I miss them and I know you do. I am saddened by their passing.