Owen, nicknamed “Deek”, was admitted to hospice at age 82 with end stage congestive heart failure. Deek grew up in the small rural town of Beaver, Ohio where he and his older brother, Sandy, were members of “The Pig Turd Alley Gang.”
Deek explained, “At least that’s what the old neighbor man, Daddy Schrader, called us. I was ten years old back then and my friend ‘Copperhead’ was sixteen. He was old enough to drive. We hoed corn, moved hay and planted and picked up potatoes for Daddy Schrader. We were like farm hands.”
Faith, Deek’s sister-in-law, pointed to a 72-year-old picture of “the gang” of five young boys hanging on the wall. The picture reminded me of “Our Gang” from the old television serial. With her characteristic comedic wit and sly grin, Faith pointed out that, “Deek was a runt, but he was a runt with an attitude.”
Deek reflected on his career, “I always worked in management”. Faith added, “I don’t know how, but he always managed to start at the top.” Deek added with a grin, “So, I never had to do a days work in my life.” His last job of 13 years was as a traveling manager for Bonded Oil convenient marts. He filled in during the managers’ leaves of absence and vacations.
He shared how he always left a bouquet of flowers and a thank you card, for the hotel staffs, wherever he stayed, “My company liked the idea but they told me not to use my own money anymore.”
Deek was proud that his company frequently received complimentary feedback from the stores about how nice he had been to their employees. He stated, “I liked working with people… I’m a lot like Mark Twain, the fellow who said, ‘I’ve never met a man I didn’t like.’” Deek immediately corrected himself, “That wasn’t Mark Twain who said that was it; that was Will Rogers.”
Deek lived most of his adult life in Springfield, Ohio, but after his divorce from a 32 year marriage, he moved in with his sister-in-law, Faith, to help care for his ailing brother. Deek had always been close to his nieces and nephews but after the move he grew even closer. And after his brother’s death, Faith stated, “Deek just stayed on.”
Deek reflected, “I’ve always loved children…A Mexican man and woman were hitchhiking from Columbus to Yellow Springs during sweet corn season…They had three kids with them so I picked them up. When they got in the truck I asked them, ‘What’s that black bucket you have with you?’ They told me they cooked corn in it and that the kids hadn’t eaten anything but corn for two days. So I bought them some bologna and pop.”
Deek continued, “Once when we were at the bus station buying a ticket to Idaho, there was a young fellow wanting a ticket to somewhere down south, but he only had enough money to take him part way…He needed twenty-five dollars, so I paid the rest. I told the girl, ‘Give him a ticket all the way.’” Faith added, “Deek didn’t want him getting off the bus in the middle of the night and having to walk the rest of the way.”
Deek shared a final story, “I heard about a couple down the road that didn’t have any food for their kids so I bought them $60 worth of groceries. When I dropped the groceries off they didn’t say a word; no thanks or anything, but that’s alright. That’s not what I did it for anyway. They’re doing alright now.” And there were the clothes and the diamond earrings Deek bought for the great nieces; the battery operated “Gator” for the young boy next door, and on and on.
Deek evaluated his life, “I could have been a millionaire if I hadn’t listened to my ex-wife. ITT was down to one dollar a share and I had $10,000, but my wife told me not to risk it…I’ve lost three houses and three cars in my divorces…I’ve lost a lot of money but I’ve also given a lot away.” Deek paused, surveyed the gallery of pictures of his great nieces and nephews hanging on his bedroom wall and concluded, “But I never lost a thing”.
I came upon another fitting quote by the late Will Rogers (1879-1935): “Live your life so that whenever you lose, you are ahead.” Or in Jesus words, “…whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-26) I think Deek would whole heartedly concur. What about you?