William Ray Turner, my dad, passed away June 12, and my mother just a few days earlier. Life can change so suddenly and the passing of my parents has left a huge void in the lives of family and friends. Thanks for all the kindness expressed to my family during these difficult times.
I know some folks looked forward to my dad’s occasional articles here, and for those readers I thought I’d share some of the words that were spoken his funeral. They are just a few casual memories, quickly written a few hours before the service. I hope you enjoy them.
Dad was a real character. I usually called him “Pap” or “Pa” and it just seemed to fit. As his friends know, he was full of fun and loved to talk. He had a lot to say, too. It’s safe to say that in his 90-plus years he had learned and retained more about local history than anyone else. And, at his age, he had experienced history first hand. I was always amazed at how he could rattle off dates and locations of all sorts of area happenings, as well as those involved. It’s sad that so much of what he knew is unrecorded and now lost forever. There’s a saying that an old man’s death is like a library burned. That’s certainly true with Pap.
In Pap’s younger days, when he wasn’t working, he enjoyed hiking, roving the coves and cliffs of the mountains back when life was less complicated. I walked with him some and he was hard to keep up with, even for a kid. Walking was a way of life for him, and he thought nothing of hitchhiking to North Carolina to visit a friend, and hitchhike back the same day.
If construction work got slack in the area, he’d just hitchhike to Florida or elsewhere looking for a job. He always lived in the Tracy City area, but worked wherever he had to, including going to Idaho on a train to pick up potatoes. He said the Idaho farm paid in silver dollars when he was there. Even though the wages were small, two pockets full of silver dollars slightly hindered his walk to the nearest town after payday.
In his early days, having nothing but shoe leather for transportation, he’d work construction in Chattanooga and sleep in a railroad car at night. On Friday evening, he might hitchhike back home to Tracy City with a stand of lard on his shoulder. A stand of lard was about 6-1/2 gallons in a bucket, or about 50 pounds of hog fat. You could eat lard and stay skinny, as he was then, if you carried it home the way he did.
When I was a kid in the 60s, he finally got an old truck – his very first vehicle. I noticed after a while that lots of Saturdays Pap would take off walking the few miles from our house to Tracy City, maybe to get a loaf of bread and gab with the men who hung around the depot. I asked him one day why he didn’t take the truck and he said, “I’m just going to town!” He was a fast walker, and sometimes when people would stop and offer him a ride he’d smile and say, “No thanks, it’d slow me down!”
Only 13 days ago, we gathered in this same room to say goodbye to our mother. I suppose after over 69 years of marriage Pap just couldn’t continue without her. There really is no such thing as goodbye to parents you love so much. Losing them both in so few days is a bitter pill to swallow, but there is no escape from the sad, painful reality. Today is my birthday, and I’m happy to say that, with few exceptions, I saw my parents every day of my life, and for whatever time I have left on earth, I’ll continue to see them every day, but now only in fond memories.
Those of us who remain no longer have my dad to ask all those questions about local history or hear his laughter about a funny story. I could write a book about Pap, I guess, but right now, I just miss him. I hope to talk and walk again with Pap and Ma someday.
My sincere heartfelt thanks to everyone here today. Pap would have been so pleased to know he had so many friends. I consider you my friends, too.
See you Later, Pap!