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Shavonne Walker column: The last wish of George Belk

 

SALISBURY — While flipping through the paper the other morning I came across a letter to the editor that stood out among the other political pieces. This one was from Salisbury resident Roy Beam.

I don’t know Mr. Beam, but his letter, which was more of a thank you, grabbed my attention. I’m from the South, where please and thank you follow requests and kind gestures. In case you didn’t read the letter that ran in Monday’s Post, allow me to recap.

Beam, who I’ve since found out is a former state trooper and retired National Guardsman, lost his father-in-law, George Locke Belk Jr., after a brief but intense illness.

George Belk was dying, and the family literally had hours to get him home where he wished to die instead of a hospital room. The hospital staff tried, but could only promise a transport to his beloved home within several hours. Belk didn’t have several hours.

The Beams contacted longtime friend Matt Loman, a captain with the Salisbury Fire Department, who then contacted Rowan County Rescue Squad Chief Eddie Cress.

“But Matt and Eddie came through and we got him home,” Beam wrote.

Minutes after George Belk was placed in his own bed by rescue personnel, he took a couple of last breaths, and he was gone.

I thought about my own father, who died at home. It was where he was most comfortable and, like George Belk, he didn’t want to be hooked up to any life-support devices.

I read and re-read the letter and wanted to know more. Who was George Belk Jr., and what did he mean to his family that they would work so hard to fulfill his dying wish?

I did what any reporter would do — I sought out Mr. Roy Beam and called him.

Beam said said his father-in-law was born and raised in Rowan County. He created a successful construction business with younger brother, Donald. The two owned and operated Belk Brothers Construction. It was a small, two-man operation, but boy did they build some houses.

They built many of the houses in the Milford Hills neighborhood, Beam told me, and many others throughout Rowan County.

“His sickness came suddenly,” Beam said.

And then he said that his father-in-law did not suffer, almost as if seeking the answer.

“I’m sure he didn’t,” I said to him instinctively.

George Belk was a man, I learned, who taught by example. He wouldn’t do something for you, but would show you. Of course, he would step in, if needed.

“He never met strangers. He went out of his way to help people. He was a great man who lived the way he talked,” Beam said.

The family took Belk on a three-week trip out west. They spent time with grandchildren and great-grandchildren throughout New Mexico and visited the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

His wife, Rebecca Belk, died June 19, 2015. The two were married for 67 years. Rebecca was a beautician. They made their home in Salisbury — between Salisbury and China Grove, to be exact. They attended Mount Zion United Church of Christ in China Grove.

Belk missed his beloved Becky and even visited her grave site every day. The time of day didn’t matter to him. He would visit and talk.

Belk’s family believed he didn’t want to be without her. He declared he would die on Thursday after being in the hospital a short time.

And he did.

He made his children — Debbie, Connie, Phoebe and Eddie — promise that if he were ever hospitalized he wanted his final moments to be at home surrounded by family.

And he was.

“If it wasn’t for them he would’ve died before we got there,” Beam said of the Rescue Squad.

It was a wish fulfilled. George Locke Belk Jr. was 87.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com or 704-797-4253.

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