We put a good man in the ground last week, or at least, the shell he last inhabited. It wasn’t what it used to be, before his 94 years took their toll.
He wasn’t the only good man I knew, but the only one I called Daddy, even when he no longer knew what to call me, or anyone else.
Few people outside of Lincoln County, Georgia, knew his name, which was William, though most people called him Billy, or “Mr. Billy.”
A few old-timers, mostly dead now, called him “Bull.” In high school, he weighed 160 pounds and was the biggest guy on a very bedraggled football team.
His education was basic, just what he picked up in the 11 years of school available in the 1940s, and in a few classes during a stint in the Navy. Still, he knew the land well enough to raise large and productive gardens, and he understood machinery well enough to head up the pilot plant at the spinning mill where he spent most of his career.
He was strong and smart and industrious – solid – but I remember him mainly as the most faithful man I ever knew.
Being faithful was not a complicated matter for my father: when he made promises, he kept them. When he took on responsibilities, he fulfilled them. He let his “Yes” be “yes.”
He was faithful to my mother for the 73 years of their marriage. Like him, she died a few days before Christmas, just four years earlier.
He was faithful to his three boys, whom he raised with unspoken love and an unstinting work ethic. He taught us to be considerate and self-sufficient and willing to do what needs to be done.
He was quietly faithful to God and his church, serving as Sunday School secretary and helping out with building maintenance – anything that didn’t involve praying or speaking in public.
If he had a passion, it was for football, mainly the local high school team. On a frigid night in 1960, he took me with him to watch the “Lincolnton Red Devils” defeat Coosa for the state Class C championship.
He avidly supported the team’s Booster Club, and for a while he helped it raise funds by running the concession stand for home games. I sold a lot of hot dogs, Cokes, and candy bars in those days, when 50 cents could get you all three.
It was a given that my brothers and I would play football. Neither of my parents ever missed a game. Long after we graduated, they were still car-pooling with friends to away games, where they would shake milk jugs spiked with dried corn to make noise for the team.
When their health declined, they listened in on a transistor radio. Eventually, dementia took that away from him.
For Daddy, being faithful wasn’t just something you did – it was who you were.
After a poorly done hip replacement 40 years ago, Daddy always walked with a limp, and before my more successful hip replacements, it was sometimes said that I walked like him.
In many ways, I have often wished I could.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.