Back in March of 2011… I posted the following column – WWMPD – What Would Mr Pittman Do?
Yesterday (Tues) I received an email from an Angela Pittman. I didn’t know any Angela Pittman. Now I do. Her email was to notify me that her father Leroy Pittman a/k/a “Mr Pittman” had passed away with the funeral to be Wednesday (today) at, of course, The First Baptist Church in Kinston. I hold Frequent Funeral Attendee status at that church in my Hometown.
Angela was notifying me because she and her mom just felt “BobLee needs to know”. YES I did (need to know). I immediately emailed Coby and Ed both of whom responded exactly as I knew they would. Coby asked “are you able to go to the service?” Absolutely. It’s what Mr Pittman Would Do…. plus, Yogi says “if you don’t go to your friends’ funerals, they probably won’t come to yours”.
I’m just “a smart aleck with his own website” but I received a special invite to Mr. Pittman’s funeral service. That simple Act of Unnecessary Kindness by Angela Pittman will fuel me for another 1,000 incredibly insightful commentaries.
I can’t Save Western Civilization or Throw The Eeeevil Lying Hypocrites Out of Big Time College Sports…. but maybe I can, now and then, post something “that matters”.
UPDATE: The funeral was very well done and a fine tribute to a fine man whose life touched many. We did NOT sing Amazing Grace but DID sing How Great Thou Art and A Mighty Fortress so I am confident it was “official”.
March 28, 2011: The year was 1967. My father had died and there was a visitation at our home. All the relatives and neighbors and assorted city fathers made for “a full house” …. plus Leroy Pittman. For 45 years I have often asked myself – “What would Mr Pittman do?”. Today I attended a funeral. Guess who was there? …..
Mr Pittman was my Jr High PE teacher. He was a very “good man”. I wasn’t a star athlete and Mr. Pittman wasn’t my most memorable teacher. But eight years after our paths crossed he showed up to pay his respects at my Dad’s passing. 45 years later, I’ve never forgotten Leroy Pittman’s act of unnecessary kindness.
Whenever I am faced with a “go/no go” situation involving “a friend” or casual acquaintance I ask myself “What would Leroy Pittman do?” and invariably I “do a Leroy”; and it’s ALWAYS the right thing to do.
Saturday I got an email that a high school classmate’s father had died. The funeral would be today in our hometown. I called out to Blondie “Ed’s dad died.” That’s all I said. She answered back “what time do you need to leave for the funeral?” Of course I was going. Mr Pittman would ….. little did I know.
My home town is an easy 90 minute drive. I’ve been to four events at The First Baptist Church in the past three years. Each time was for the funeral of a old friend’s parent. It’s not a terrible inconvenience and I answer to no one for my time so I’m not expecting any humanitarian award …. but lots of folks lots closer don’t show up …. I knew who would be there. I just knew.
Willie and Barbara OF COURSE and Gwaltney and Mrs Gwaltney and Ray. Counting Ed, we were just short one twin and Paul from our starting five on our State Champ BB team. We buried Coach last year or he’d a been there. Ed’s dad was 93 and a 70 year resident of the community. The sanctuary was nicely filled and four of the five hymns were “my kinda hymns”. As we exited into the narthex I noticed a fellow off to the right. He looked vaguely familiar.
Ray had been the town veterinarian since taking over his dad’s practice. He knows everybody. “Who is that?” I asked Ray. …… “That’s Leroy Pittman”. Feather – BobLee – Knock Me Over.
My home town has the highest per capita age of any community not in Mongolia or named St Augustine. It has to be in the high 70s. Restaurants don’t stay open beyond 7:00 PM. Once the “early birds” go thru, there’s no one left.
No 8th grader has any idea how old a teacher is, but Mr Pittman has to be on the backside of 80 but still looks like “Mr Pittman”. How shocked was I?
I’m past 60. “Mr Pittman” is past 80. Sure, I could call him “Leroy”. I coulda called “Coach Jones” – Paul – but I never did. It is certainly not an enforced formality at all. “Mr” and “Coach” just always seemed “more right”.
I’ve changed “a tad” in 40 years so no way he would remember me? OF COURSE he did – he is Leroy Pittman. I introduced myself and put my arm around him. I told him how I had never forgotten his act of unnecessary kindness from 45 years ago. I think he had. I suspect he has committed numerous acts of unnecessary kindness, but not too many come back to hug him 45 years later. That we were at a funeral again took this waaay into deep space coincidence. That was it. He didn’t know what to say and I had said all there was. We went our separate ways.
When you are 80 I think knowing you “mattered” matters….
Knowing “you matter” always matters.
I called Blondie and Kid. Blondie has heard “the Leroy Pittman story” on several occasions. She said “Wow, that’s neat.” Kid claimed to have never heard the story but did say “sounds like column fodder Dad.”
Ed knew I had driven a ways and was very grateful. He called me “a special friend”. Actually I came because Ed is “a special friend”…. and because Leroy Pittman taught me the lifetime value of an unnecessary kindness. ….. 45 years ago.
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