Sometimes I think I am so blessed. People ask Dave Ramsey how he is doing, and his reply is “better than I deserve.” And sometimes I feel the same way.
I lost both of my parents far too soon, but God left me with their siblings. Each had only one sibling, but visiting each of them was a chance to keep my parents a little longer.
Uncle James & Uncle Ferrell
For fourteen years now, I visited my Uncle James Roe, and I got to hear my Dad’s voice, the cadence of his speech, his Southern drawl, and what I loved most, the stories.
Uncle James was truly a model of dignity and respect to everyone who knew him—a special man. He was also my father’s older brother.
But when I visited Uncle Ferrell, it always took me back to so many good times that our families had together—the Christmas Eves which were always with the Hamricks, my mother’s family; swimming in lakes rivers & springs; camping; and traveling. The two families did a lot together.
Uncle Ferrell was good-natured, always teasing, and younger—another special man in my life. He was my mother’s younger brother.
Uncle Ferrell was only 17 when I was born. He loved to recall when he held me in church, and I wet him good. It was right there in the First Baptist Church of Monticello, Florida, or at least the building that was there in 1954. I wet him so much that it streamed down the pew and dripped on to the old wooden floor, loud enough that people looked around to see from where the water dripped.
I’ve got great memories of Uncle James, Aunt Nell, and their boys, too. They visited my Grandmother Roe, who lived next door, and a good time was always had by all. I loved best the stories, as both Daddy and Uncle James were master storytellers. The adults would sit up late into the night talking and reminiscing. I was one of those that was supposed to be asleep, but I seldom was. Those stories were just too good.
Great Role Models & Mentors
Both uncles were good role models for me. Uncle Ferrell’s determination to finish college made its mark on me. He did it while married and providing for his family, working full-time. Uncle James went to Jones Business College in Jacksonville, and he was the first Roe that I know of that went to college.
Uncle James’ work ethic inspired so many of us. World War II interrupted his college plans. Because of polio, he could not enlist; but he was called back to Jefferson County to run the Rationing Board. He did this until 1945 when Atlantic Coastline Railroad (now CSX) recruited him to join their Engineering Department in Jacksonville. He spent the next 38 years working for them.
Uncle James contracted polio at the age of 18 months. Two other children in the county were not as fortunate. It took six long years of therapy to get Uncle James to where he could lead a normal life. My Grandmother Roe said that he had to learn everything all over again, especially the walking part. And he walked on the side of his foot for the rest of his life.
It never slowed him down a minute. Sometimes I believe my Grandparents made sure that Uncle James never once felt like a victim. He plowed ahead no matter what the circumstances. His “can do” attitude, non-complaints, and work ethic inspired us the most.
Uncle Ferrell gave many of us our love for turkey hunting, including myself. He was a master hunter in his own right, so much so that one time back in the 1970s Sonny Shroyer came to Monticello to film an outdoor TV show about turkey hunting and Uncle Ferrell was in it. Sonny Shroyer was Deputy Enos on “The Dukes of Hazard”. When I decided I wanted to call on my own, Uncle Ferrell was my mentor. He showed me the calls and showed me how to scout.
Both men had kind and caring natures. Uncle James had this wonderful laugh that reminded me of Dad’s. Uncle Ferrell was a teaser and loved to get your goat. Uncle James was a Florida Gator and Uncle Ferrell an FSU Seminole. Well, we can’t all be perfect. Our family goes both directions during football season, so it depends on one’s perspective.
Both uncles’ “will to live” was phenomenal. Uncle James at the age of 96 is believed to have been the oldest polio victim in Florida.
Uncle Ferrell was diagnosed over four years ago with inoperable kidney cancer. Two years ago this past summer they told him to call Hospice because it was over. As instructed he called Hospice and showed them all and lived another two years, even planning a trip to the coast with his old Air Force buddies, literally days before he passed away.
So you see these two men were my heart. They inspired me in their own ways and I will truly miss them. They inspired all of us in the Roe and Hamrick families.
Losing them Both Within Ten Days
Uncle James passed away at the age of 96 on September 23rd and ten days later Uncle Ferrell passed at the age of 80 on October 3rd. I’m sure it was a joyous occasion in heaven, but we were shocked that they died so close to one another. We knew that Uncle Ferrell’s time was getting close, but not Uncle James’s. Looking back, though, we realize now that there were signs that we missed.
Uncle James told me several times that he planned to have a foot race with Daddy in heaven. My Dad was the star football running back in high school and Uncle James was his biggest fan never missing a game even after moving to Jacksonville.
My uncle said that sometimes he thought that because he couldn’t run that God blessed their family by giving Dad an extra helping of it. But Uncle James told me several times that when he got to heaven, there would be a footrace and that he was going to win it, too.
I told Uncle Ferrell about it, but I guess they already did it by the time Uncle Ferrell got there.
So this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful that God let us have these two men for as long as we did.