I have heard it said that life is short but I prefer the idea that, “Life is not short, it is the longest thing you will do.” It makes me feel like there is plenty of room to be memorable. To make a mark.
My uncle Herbie died a few days ago. He was my uncle by marriage and has actually been my ex-uncle for several years. I didn’t feel any differently about him but I also didn’t see him much recently. The news of his death was sad but felt disconnected from my life until I had some time to think about it. Losing anyone who has been part of your life is hard to process.
My first memory of my uncle Herbie is actually, a memory of my cousin and I sneaking into his attic and digging out a pile of magazines from an innocuous looking cardboard box. I had never seen so many boobs but I was a little confused about why all the women seemed to have a beard below their bellybuttons. Thank goodness those magazines were from the eighties. I don’t know if we could have handled the full-blown truth of the shorn Playboy women of the nineties. I remember much more than a box of nudy-magazines.
I remember that Herbie always had a luxurious head of hair, something like Bob Segar mixed with Fabio. He played lots of instruments prodigiously and loved to perform. I remember several jam sessions and singing in their musical household. Herbie was a true product of the 70’s and a pretty cool dude. Today I learned that he was even more interesting than that. My aunt sent me a letter that she found on Herbie’s computer. A letter he wrote about his life and there is something in the words that is both sad and beautiful.
I was born in Bolivar, Tenn. Dec. 29, 1954, around 11:30 pm. My father was in the army ( Korea at the time.) so I became an army brat, never living in any one place longer than 3 years. I referred to our family as the “winds of the world”, Georgia, Kansas, Tennessee, Missouri and three different cities in Germany, on our whirlwind tour of life. My high school years were in Germany so I have especially fond memories of those years. High school trips and sports allowed me to see most of Germany, with special clubs in school such as the ski club, which took us several times to Krimmel, Austria to ski in the Alps. Also our youth church group had 2 week summer and winter retreats in Berchtesgaden. We returned to the USA at the end of my junior year, in which I attended Central High in Bolivar but then went to Ft Leonard Wood, Missouri for my senior year. I enjoyed my youth and school and especially the opportunity of experiencing different environments and cultures.
My parents cared for us children and provided everything they could. Army pay was limited but they always made do and supported us in most endeavors we chose. Discipline was rigid and immediate, but we learned its lessons quickly with few repeats of that behavior or deed. I have two younger sisters, Denise and JoAnn so I was protectorate and role model for them. In our early years we were very close but in later years with adulthood, life distanced us from each other.
At times I seemed to be a bully magnet. I will always remember the name Searcy Spears until the day I am laid to rest. Man he was rough and once he caught me and his girlfriend caught Denise and we both got ass-whupped at the circus in Nurenberg.
I began, as soon as I could, to participate in sports at school, mainly football and soccer. I went out for basketball in my freshman year and ( why I’ll never know cause I don’t, haven’t and will never play basketball ) saw right away that this wasn’t for me but I saw the wrestlers in the other end of the gym and said, “That’s it.” I wrestled all through high school, but was just too small for football. I became a fair wrestler, winning some, losing some, winning a big one in front of our school’s first assembly to feature wrestling. I beat Jeffery Packs from Jefferson, Missouri who was the state champ the prior year, impressively I won in the first set!
After high school graduation in 1972, and on Halloween day, I joined the U.S. Navy, with boot camp at Waukegan, Illinois. Then to San Diego, California, for hospital corpsman training, touring in Memphis, before returning to California and Camp Pendleton, California for training as a marine field medical corpsman. After much grunt training with desert training in 29 Palms, California, I went to Okinawa, Japan for my final 13 months in service. While there I also went to the Philippines and mainland Japan, Tokyo during my overseas tour.
After my discharge in 1976, I attended Jackson State Community College for a while studying “campusology”. Then on to Bolivar where I began working at Western Mental Health Institution as a psychiatric technician for about 2 years. I left there and went to Tishomingo Miss. to work as a laborer on the nuclear power plant, which when it closed, I did odd jobs such as lettering boats. My next employer was for a stroke victim, Herman Gann – President of Piggly Wiggly Corporation, as his valet, chauffeur and attendant. I would drive him to board meetings in Birmingham and conventions in New Orleans, and anywhere else he wanted to go.
Returning to Tenn. in 1981, I again was employed at WMHI as assistant teacher/counselor at the Timber Springs Adolescent Unit, when I married my first wife, Judy. During this time I decided to improve my financial standing so I attended the JSCC Radiology Technology course, which I passed Magna Cum Laude.
I worked at Jackson Madison County Hospital for 5 years as a Special Procedures Tech. Upon my divorce I wanted a new start and began working at Regional Hospital of Jackson, third shift, and was there for over ten years.
In 1992 I met and fell in love with Pam whom I married 3-3-93 at 3:00pm (so we would never forget). She was truly the love of my life and she has made a better person of me. We were very happy for many years.
I helped raise stepsons in both my marriages. We had the usual conflicts and managed to work through confrontations satisfactorily. I’m proud to say I helped raise two fine sons. I haven’t had contact with Adrian for a long time. Pam’s son, Jesse, and I had a special connection because of our mutual love of music. I was fortunate to be able to be an active band parent, and was even elected President of the Northside High School Band Boosters. We are now connected by our military service. Jesse is an Army helicopter pilot; flying Kiowa’s. He has served 3 deployments, one to Iraq and 2 to Afghanistan, earning many medals and accommodations, his Bronze Medal being my favorite! I am so very proud of Jesse in his accomplishments, and feel that he IS my son.
I am a musician and love most music with a melody. I play guitar, mandolin and harmonica fluently, but play some piano and banjo as well. I attempt to play any instrument I pick up. I’ve always enjoyed performing but have particularly fond memories of impromptu concerts with my fellow enlisted musicians while in the Navy. I’ve also performed in local businesses since settling in Jackson. Now days my performances take place in my home and for my own pleasure.
Herbie didn’t finish his letter and I can’t help but feel that, like his life, it was cut short.
There were a couple of things that jumped out at me. The first one is that Herbie spent a good part of his life drifting. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that my aunt was a bit of a free spirit herself. I think it is beautiful that they drifted into each other at a McDonalds and somehow found love and stability that made them both better people. Herbie became a step-father to my cousin and even though things weren’t always easy, they shaped each other’s lives. Herbie shared a love of music and gave Jesse a frame of reference for being a step-parent (something that I am sure is relevant to his life today). Jesse gave Herbie the joy of seeing a gift passed to the next generation. In fact, one of the greatest gifts you can give anyone is purpose; a feeling that life was worth the effort. I can see in Herbie’s words that he enjoyed the life he lived and saw value in the things he did.
It feels surreal to read something like his letter. To be looking over his shoulder as he pours his life onto the page. I wish everyone would write a cliff notes style autobiography. Imagine a world where you can read someone’s account of themselves and the things that shaped who they are. To see what you meant to someone and to understand what they mean to you would make the world a better place.
Herbie Moore died on February 2nd 2016 but on lots of days before that one… he lived.
Thank you Herbie for being part of our story.