Virgil Boyd Crowe –September 31, 1913- February 21, 2012
Wow—98 years… we’d better get going. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover! Actually I’m only kidding. I couldn’t begin to touch the life of my Paw Paw in the short amount of time that he gave me this afternoon. He told us he wanted this short & sweet! And that’s okay… because he doesn’t need another sermon anyhow… and you don’t need me to convince you what a good man he was. And he certainly doesn’t need anybody to preach him into heaven… as they say. Paw Paw preached his own funeral every day that he lived. So, there’s really very little to be said today… but he did ask me to ‘say a few words’… so I’ll give it a try!
98 years may seem like a long time… but for some reason today, it doesn’t hardly seem long enough. I suppose we’re never really ready to see those we love depart, but for my Paw Paw… I know he was ready to go. He told me the other day, when I told him to ‘hang in there’… that he was going to try, but that when it was his time, he was looking forward to being with the Lord. So I have no hesitancy today in saying that he’s right where he wants to be… right home with the Lord. The Bible says, “Blessed are those who die in the Lord”… and indeed my Paw Paw was a blessed man!
And not only because of his relationship with the Lord… He was blessed in this life with two beautiful daughters… My Aunt, Bettye Jo Smith and my mom, Marcia Boydene Black. Giving his girls names like ‘Jo’ & ‘Boydene’ I always wondered if he had been expecting boys or if my Nanny was just asleep when he filled out the birth certificates? Two devoted daughters who loved their daddy… you could say they were ‘daddy’s girls’ or at least I bet that’s what my uncle Bob or my Dad would tell you. And then (to make matters worse) when he and Betty married… he inherited yet another daughter, Brenda- but she has also been such a blessing to him… and a step-son, Mike, who preceded him in death just a few years ago.
Blessed with a number of smart, intelligent and good-looking grandchildren… Bobby & Kim came along first and paved the way for my sister Debbie and I. We enjoyed having the best grandparents God ever invented. Grandparents were such a great idea… I always thought. Old & responsible like parents. They could do the things to take care of you like feed you and tuck you in at night… but they were a lot more fun! They doted on us… spoiled us. Probably gave us whatever we wanted. I remember having Coca Cola for the first time at Paw Paw’s house. Ice cream. McDonalds happy meals… whatever we wanted we could usually talk either he or Nanny into it. And then when he and Betty married… we got to share our Paw Paw with your sweet girls, Brenda… Carmen & Shannon. And he loved them just the same… and I know spoiled them, too. He would always tell me about how tall Shannon was getting to be!
Blessed with more great-grandchildren than I can count… Travis & Kylie… Andy, David, Michael & Daniel… Riley, Reagan & Ryan… & Carmen’s family… Austin, Madison (Madi), Payton… All of whose pictures you can find plastered all over Paw Paw’s house like wall paper!
And twice blessed to find special women with whom to share his life… My grandmother, Una Ray. She and Paw Paw married Nov. 29, 1935… but were married for only 54 years. She would often slip me money when I’d come to visit and tell me not to tell Paw Paw. Then he’d slip me some more and tell me not to tell Nanny. I think it was a game they played on each other. I didn’t mind it.
When they married I’m told it wasn’t ‘proper’ for a school teacher (which Nanny was) to be married… so they kept their marriage a secret for a short time. Eventually somebody let the cat out of the bag, I suppose, because I always knew they were married. He grew up in what is now Meigs County, she lived in Ray County. That was before they divided the county along the River. He used to cross the river over to see her. I guess he crossed one too many times. But I guess it worked out. 54 years ain’t bad.
After she passed away in 1988 after a long battle with Alzheimers, we were all worried about Paw Paw. What would he do? Wouldn’t he be lonely? Little did I know how his sister-in-law was already scheming to fix him up! Dating is an awkward thing. It’s really weird when your granddad starts dating… or courting (whatever it was.) But we were all thrilled when he and Betty met and tied the knot. They’ve been married 21 years now… and you (Betty) have been such a blessing to all of us… and especially to our Paw Paw… so thank you! You told me the other day that you knew you weren’t my ‘real grandmother’… but you you’ve been my ‘Ma maw’ for all these years and that’s not fixin’ to change any time soon. The relationship you shared was special… and when Celeste and I needed wedding advice those years ago… the best couple who had just planned a wedding that we could think of was you! Thanks.
As I said… 98 years seems like a long time. Paw Paw has seen many things thru the years… Many loved ones pass on… his mother & father… James William & Louella Barger Crowe… brothers & sisters… Marion, Charlie, Imogene, Claude, Walter, Willie, and a brother Luther who died as an infant. His brother Ray & sister Gayle survive him. His wife of 54 years, my grandmother, Una… a son-in-law, my uncle Bob Smith…
He did a lot of cool stuff… He served in Oak Ridge during WWII as a civilian working at the facility that made the Atom bomb and resulted in the end of the war… saving who knows how many lives around the world. He worked most of his career at Dupont… working in the facilities department as they made a radical new product called ‘nylon’.
And he’s seen many changes in our world… In 1913 the price of a gallon of gas was 27 cents at the first drive up “filling station” which opened in Dec. of that year, not that there were all that many people with cars needing a gallon of gasoline! After all, a new car cost almost $400 and that was more than most could afford. The price of a gallon of milk, though, was almost a dime. Other Happenings of 1913… Woodrow Wilson was in the White House. The NY Giants signed Jim Thorpe. The 16th amendment ratifying federal income tax was passed and the IRS immediately began collecting. The British House of Commons rejected a proposal that would allow women the right to vote in Great Britain. (Such a measure would not pass in the US for another 6 years.) Veterans of the Civil War held a Great Reunion in 1913. Stainless Steel was invented by Harry Brearley. The first paved highway from coast to coast opened, the Lincoln Hwy. Charlie Chaplin began his film career… and was paid $150 a week by the film studio. Thru the years Paw Paw saw… 17 Presidents (& was very much looking forward to the 18th), ten decades, two world wars, and about 1700 Bob Hope television specials… many of which we watched together.
He had a lot of great experiences & great days… but none of them can compare to last Tuesday, which was perhaps the single greatest day of his life. You might think that I would’ve said that about his birthday… or the day he was baptized in Wolf Creek (Rhea County), or his wedding day… or maybe the birth of his daughters… but I daresay that not even the greatness of those days hold a candle to what happened on Tuesday… Because Tuesday he went home. After a debilitating stroke just 5 weeks ago, he had hoped to recover and get back to his chores at home… but despite all of his hard work at rehab… his body was just used up. And after really only four days of it… he was ready to go home. And I don’t mean to Red Bank. He was ready to see his parents, his brothers, sisters… his friends & family members… my Nanny… and he told us so.
Our prayers were answered and on Tuesday afternoon… just as the sun peaked through the clouds… having been surrounded by family all week… he went home to be with the Lord. His body was just all used up. Of course he got more mileage out of his than most folks do, so we can’t fault that. He had 98 full, wonderful, blessed years upon this Earth… and he knew how fortunate he was! He told me that many times. But… he has gone home. So today is a day of celebration! It is a day to rejoice & be glad! Because, like the Apostle Paul, he has finished the course. He has won the race! And he has received his prize… the crown of life! (And it’s something we must ‘just accept’ as he would say.)
Now, for me… and those of us left behind… its stinky, I don’t mind telling you. I’ve lost a Paw Paw… a wonderful grandfather… the best a boy could have! He retired before I started school just so we could spend more time together—at least that’s what I thought! We hung out a lot… I helped him in his garden. He came to my ball games. I helped him mow the yard. He drove me to McDonalds. I’d help him decorate the house for Christmas, he’d pitch balls to me in the front yard. Tit-for-tat. When Nanny sent him on errands, I’d often tag along. We went everywhere. I used to hate going places with him, though, because everywhere he went he’d find somebody to stand and talk to for days! I was a little guy and had places to go… especially to the toy store if we were at the mall. I didn’t have time to waste catching up with all of Paw Paw’s old DuPont buddies. But he after his conversations, he always had the time to take me to the toy store anyway.
When he and Nanny would go to Florida, I’d go down w/ Mom & Dad and help water his plants. And he’d bring me back a rubber crocodile or some other cool souvenir. And a few times we’d all go to Florida together… which was a lot of fun. My Paw Paw loved the beach. Nanny loved Florida, but she wasn’t a beach person… not like Paw Paw. He’d get up early, go down to the beach and walk as the sun came up. Then he’d go back a little later to play in the sand or dive for sand dollars out on the sandbars. He’d go back at night to watch the sun go down. And when we’d be with them, he’d go swim with me or build sandcastles. One of the most fun vacations I remember as an adult was when all of us were down there together in ’99.
And he loved all of the grandkids. I always thought he was the coolest grandfather ever… and I count it a real blessing that we were able to share him with Carmen & Shannon & the great grandchildren as they came along, too! Because, I figured, everybody ought to have a grandfather as great as mine!
But its going to take some getting used to… to adjust to his not being around… which is why I take great comfort in… John 14, which was one of his favorite books of the Bible. He and I talked not long ago. Last year he decided he was going to read the whole Bible from start to finish in a year. Now that’s a daunting task for anybody! He started in January and was done by October! And that was reading King James ! It takes me that long to get thru one of the psalms reading it in King James English! But he did it… and we talked about what a blessing that experience had been to him. John 14 is one of those great encouraging chapters… Jesus is about to go to the cross and he knows what he’s about to say is going to be some of his final words upon this Earth. He also knows the heartache, fear & loneliness that the disciples are likely to face after he has gone… but he says this:
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” NIV
Can’t you just imagine Paw Paw in the house of God… in a room prepared just for him… enjoying catching up with all those who’ve gone on before… and having an eternity to stand there and talk…and looking forward to the time when we’ll get to join him there to? And don’t you just know he’s already out back in the garden planting some squash or okra or turnip greens… ‘cause that’s just what Paw Paw would do.