By Gary Poole
For The Salisbury Post
As I awoke from a nap with my 13-month-old granddaughter Caroline, my wife Vicki told me my sister Carol had called and that her father-in-law, Ed Church Sr., had passed away.
We had all been expecting the news any day since being told two weeks ago that he was too weak to make it through surgery for the removal of his remaining leg. Without the surgery, gangrene would set in and, as in all such cases, would ultimately win the battle for what he had come to know as life. Life as he had lived it had been gone for some time.
Ed Sr., as we called him, was not one to pass through life without leaving a wake. I can never remember being in a room with him and not being aware of his presence.
In his later years especially, he always cut a dashing figure in his suit and tie and sneakers. He couldn’t have cared less, or if he did, he did the best job of acting like he didn’t care, of anyone I’ve ever known. Plus with the sneakers, his feet didn’t bother him like they did when he wore regular shoes, so for him it was a no-brainer.
Some may remember him as the long-serving Rowan Soil and Water Conservation agent or for his run-ins with his neighbors on Fulton Street with his chicken coops or lack of compliance with certain historic guidelines, or being Suzanne Blackmer’s local ally in trying to maintain the old Blackmer mansion, or for his articles in the Salisbury Post.When you live in a pink stucco house and carry on life with vigor, as Ed Sr. did, it’s hard to keep a low profile ó and besides that, he loved an audience. Never one to shy away from the spotlight, he seemed to be at his best whenever he was at center stage. He was a character. I always admired that about him. He never suffered from the embarrassment of being shy like a lot of folks do.
After losing his beloved Beth shortly after Carol and Ed Jr. married, she and my mom Lillie always made sure to include him in all the family gatherings such as Thanksgiving, Easter, birthdays and such. But some of my favorite memories of him are of Christmas.
He possessed a knack of giving presents. Two of the times that I remember distinctly are when he gave me and my brother-in-law Mike Whitaker one end each of a set of metal brackets that make sawbucks and told us that he guessed we would just have to work together.
Or the year he walked in and started passing out pocket knives to all the men in attendance. After passing them all out and realizing he was one short and didn’t have one for Ed Jr., he immediately went back and told my father-in-law, Giles Tucker, that he would have to have his back since he was the newest member of the family. We all shared a wonderful laugh and the spirit of Christmas was reborn again. Presents wrapped in holiday funny papers somehow took on meanings that few of us understood at the time.
Over the weekend, his grandson Weston took the field in round three of the American Legion playoffs, and I’m sure it was with Ed’s blessing. He was so proud of what Weston has accomplished as a person and a player.
Then there was the time in 2004, two months afer I lost my son Tyler in a car wreck, when we were in the basement at St. John’s Lutheran Church for the baccalaureate service of my niece and his granddaughter Lindsey, when he hugged me and cried like a baby on my shoulder as he expressed his sympathy for my loss. It touched me so deeply that I was at a loss for words, which I always regretted because I truly wanted him to know how much it meant to me.I could go on and on about how he used to keep the ditches on the driveway on his farm cleaned out by dropping the front wheel of his Buick wagon off in the ditch at 10 or 15 mph after a good rain and blowing out all the debris so it would drain right, or his days on the road as a salesman back in the ’40s and ’50s, but that may get to be boring. One thing Ed Church Sr. never was, was boring.
Thanks, Ed, for not being the guy down the street who always won the yard of the month. Thanks for adding a little color to life; we all live a little too much black and white. For standing up for your beliefs, being you and yes, for being a character. People like you make life more interesting and through your actions ultimately make us think. By the way, Mike, I’ve still got the other end of that sawbuck bracket. I don’t know if chicken coops mix well with streets of gold or not, but St. Peter better get ready. I’ve got a feeling he might have a fight on his hands.
By Gary Poole