I was correct on the radio gig at Hillbillies games. He did it for the last 30 years. Great service at a packed First Baptist Church. He buried two wives. Jeremiah and Justin lost their mom to MS. Basically, the three of them were care givers for her last 15 years, mostly confined to a wheel chair. The pastor described some incredible moments where Steve carried Gayle up the stairs of the high school stadium so she could sit with him in the press box. After losing Gayle, several years later Steve decided to date again. His second wife had cancer when they were married. So a few years later, he buried another wife. Steve was buried between them. It was an incredible scene at the burial, something I won’t forget. It felt like most of Ozark was there. The pastor told the story of asking Steve about the possibility of dating again to find another wife. Steve, usually reserved and quiet, had a great comeback. He said, “No, I think all the women in Ozark know my track record and they are staying clear.” The church cracked up. Steve was a deacon there and taught Sunday school for 20 years.
It’s easy to see how Jeremiah and Justin turned out so well. They were a chip off the old block. Jeremiah works and lives in Loveland, Colo. Justin – Dr. Gage – teaches history at the UA. Matt did a nice story on Justin for our magazine a few years ago. Of course, I’ve written and posted about Jeremiah, my fly fishing mentor, many times here.
OK, I’ll replay the way Jeremiah and I met. In the early days of the HI board, I noticed someone posting a lot and always in our chats, a UA student posting with the name Gage. We had many private exchanges. He always cracked me up with his humor and wit.
Then, for about three days he was gone. I mean he always was there and in chats. At the same instant I noticed him gone, I picked up the paper and just found myself in the middle of the obits. I read them more today than I did back then. It was probably just destined for me to see that one obit. It was of a lady from Ozark, and it turned out to be his mom. I put it all together. I looked up his email in the admin. I sent him a note telling him that I figured out that he’d lost his mom just by adding up all the clues, but not for sure. I told him that if it was indeed his mom, how sorry I was.
I told him that I had deduced that he loved fly fishing. I also explained that I’d lost my mom at nearly the same age. I was hopeful of learning fly fshing. I think a lunch or a fly fishing trip might be a good time for us to share our stories and I sure wanted to hear his. He came to my office about two days later. Soon, he began to teach me how to fly fish. He is still the most artful caster I’ve ever seen. We’d go and sometimes I was mesmerized just watching him cast. We’ve been close ever since. He taught me, then years later, I began to share my creations at my fly tying bench. It did my heart good a few years ago when he wrote and asked for me to send him some of my flies for a specific Colorado river. What an honor, send flies to my mentor. He probably knew what he was doing because he always likes to make others feel good.
I figured out something today: Steve and I are almost the same age. He was at Arkansas Tech when I was at State College (now UCA). We probably did some of the same things to each others campuses. He was a prankster and I sure was around plenty like him. I won’t share all of the stories I heard today, but they were classic prankster type things. Jeremiah has that same kind of fun mischief in his heart. I just smiled as the pastor told those stories, all the time with wet cheeks.
So, sorry if I got long in this. Does a guy good to just type it sometimes.
I’m back to work now, getting ready to go cover football practice and the post-practice interviews.