Sunday, October 27, 2019

My friend Jim (again)

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from Jim Lippard, chairman of the board of directors for the Davidson County Sports Hall of Fame.

For the most part, the email wasn't unusual. We were just hours away from the 18th annual induction ceremony, and for fellow board members such as myself (I've been on the board for nine years, several of them as the board's secretary. So Jim is kind of my boss), the email was designed to pump us up for the event. He does that every year.

Jim Lippard takes command and points the way...
 About halfway through the email, though, Jim announced (in a sort of 'Oh, by the way' insert) that he was closing down his tailor shop. You know, that modest little building on First Avenue that was once a bus stop and that he converted into his iconic tailor shop. You know, that building. He spent 36 years there, altering hems, stitching sleeves, sewing up loose ends, connecting with his customers, almost always with a joke on his tongue and a smile on his face. And now, at age 83, he decided it was time for retirement, effective the end of this month.

That was news that took my breath away. My brain suddenly clicked into flashback mode.

I came to Lexington in September of 1976 as a 25-year-old rookie sports writer for The Dispatch. There were two people I soon met who, little did I know at the time, would have an impact on my life.

One of them was Charlie England. It was football season when I arrived in Lexington, and Charlie was the quarterback coach for the Lexington Yellow Jackets. He befriended me almost immediately and helped me get my footing as I learned the ropes about town.

The other fellow was Jim. I met him in the spring, when the Post 8 American Legion baseball season began. Jim, I guess, was a member of Post 8 (he is a Korean War era veteran and served as an MP, if I have my story straight. He also played baseball for Post 8 in his youth). But mostly, it seemed, he was the team photographer. He was everywhere, home and away, getting everything into focus with what are now classic (maybe even antique) cameras. And somehow, we became casual friends. It probably had something to do with his irrepressible personality.

Then, in 1986, he became the team's athletic director. The rest, as they say, is well documented local history. Jim Leonard Post 8 soon dropped its financial sponsorship of the team for lack of money, and Jim started a fund-raising campaign to keep the team on the field, seeking corporate sponsorships (or even private sponsorships, whatever it took). It worked. To this day, Legion baseball at Holt-Moffitt Field is a welcome summer reprieve for many of us.

And our friendship grew.

He was inducted into the North Carolina American Legion Hall of Fame in 2000; he served as North Carolina American Legion Commissioner in 2008-09. He was the founding father of the Davidson County Sports Hall of Fame in 2002, and then he himself was inducted into the Hall in 2009. He is a recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

Meanwhile, through all of this, he was hemming and ha-hawing away in his humble tailor shop, happily keeping Lexington in stitches.

You probably wouldn't think that the closing of a tailor shop would be a big deal, but then, maybe this wasn't just any tailor shop. People would stop by just to chat. I, for one, would pop in for what I thought would be a few minutes to talk about the county Hall of Fame, and end up staying for an hour.

It was that kind of place: friendly, casual, small-town Americana with a big heart, providing an essential service to the community. You could almost sense Norman Rockwell lurking in an unseen corner, waiting for the perfect moment to put it all on canvas.

Then you realize, we were always in the perfect moment. And we are always the canvas.

Thanks, Jim. Now go enjoy your retirement.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

A Davidson County family affair

It almost makes you want to shake your head to clear out the background noise and bring some clarity back to your brain. Can this really be Davidson County?

There he was, Thomasville's Casey Medlin, all 104 remarkable years of him, sitting at his table with a remote microphone in front of him humbly offering his thanks and appreciation for his induction into the 18th annual Davidson County Sports Hall of Fame Saturday night at the jam-packed J. Smith Young YMCA.

Medlin, who was the clock operator for Thomasville football games for 46 years and thusly was the recipient of the organization's Unsung Hero recognition, was accompanied by his son, Danny. Oh, yeah. Danny, who was a football player at Thomasville, was inducted into the Hall in 2004, thanks to a stellar career as a lineman at N.C. State and who later won a Super Bowl ring playing lineman for the Oakland Raiders in 1977.

The Medlins are now the third father-son combination to be inducted into the Hall, the others being Doug and Charles Elmore and Wade and Steve Younts.

But wait. It gets better.

Keynote speaker Phil Rapp posed the question to the audience, "Will all those who won a Super Bowl ring please stand?" Danny Medlin and Ledford's Madison Hedgecock then rose from their seats. Hedgecock, who played for the University of North Carolina and then the New York Giants of the NFL, was the starting fullback for the Giants when they won the Super Bowl in 2008. He was inducted into the Hall in 2016.

Huh? Two Super Bowl rings in Davidson County, which has a mostly rural population of about 170,000? Whoa. By comparison, the city of Charlotte, by itself, has a population of 731,000.

But wait. It gets better.

Sitting a couple tables away from the Medlins was Ledford's Marcy Newton, who was also inducted last night. Newton just happened to win the United States Golf Association's U.S. Women's Amateur championship in 2000. That was just a few years after she won the USGA's Girls Junior Championship in 1995. She went on to play 13 years in the LPGA. She told the audience last night that the whole reason she got interested in golf in the first place was that as a youngster she couldn't wait to drive the golf cart on family outings.

Apparently, this is how Hall of Famers get started.

Sitting a table away from Newton was the family of Larry Beck Sr., who was inducted posthumously last night. Not many people can say they beat Jack Nicklaus in golf, but Beck did, back in 1957, when as a 17-year-old he whipped the future PGA Hall of Famer and golf legend 4-and-3 in the quarterfinals of the USGA Junior Championship. It was the only major title Nicklaus never won.

OMG, as they say these days.

Also inducted last night were Lexington's Rory Holt, who had a stellar career as an undersized 5-foot-7, 143-pound defensive back for Wake Forest football and before that, was an all-state quarterback at Lexington; football coach Dick Cline, who has a career record of 264-108 with tenures at Ledford, North Davidson, Ragsdale and Kernersville Glenn; basketball coach Matt Ridge, who turned around the boys' program at East Davidson and has since produced 10 championship seasons at Davidson County Community College; and Dale Peck, who starred in baseball and basketball for Reeds High School in the 1950s.

Almost all inductees will recognize family members as integral to their success, but last night, it seemed to be an unplanned major theme of the evening as every single one of the inductees recognized parents, spouses and children, often in heartfelt and emotionally heartrending moments.

It was a night to remember.

•   •   •

In perusing the list of past inductees, there's something else I want to mention. In addition to the three father-son combinations now in the Hall, there's two brother combinations in Gary and Steve Hinkle and Stew and Stan Lanier; there's a husband-and-wife entry in Caroline Smith and Madison Hedgecock, and Smith is also part of the only mother-daughter combination with her mother, Roxanna Smith. Tim Holt and Rory Holt are distantly related and Dick Cline and Wanda Wilson Cline are in-laws.

There are currently 127 inductees in the Hall, so there may be other combinations that I have overlooked, for which I apologize and will correct if it comes to my attention. But my point here is that the athletic DNA seems to run incredibly deep and unerringly true in Davidson County.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Real ID

Neither Kim nor I have passports or our Real ID.

And time is growing short. If you want to fly domestically, or enter a Federal building, or perhaps even a nuclear power plant, you have to have your Real ID – indicated by a star on the upper right hand corner of your driver's license – by October 2020.

Thank you, Homeland Security.

On Friday, we put the wheels into motion. In addition to a certified birth certificate, Kim also needs her certified marriage certificate to prove that her legal last name is no longer Martin, but Wehrle.

So it was off to the Register of Deeds on Friday afternoon. I expected to be behind a ton of people at the counter, but there was no line and it all turned out to be a relatively painless process. The only identification Kim needed to get her copies of her certified documents was her driver's license – which has yet to have its Real ID stamped on it – and a 20 dollar bill.

Huh? I found this to be rather ironic. All she needed was her driver's license to get the documents she needs to prove she is who she says she is in order to get her security conscious Real ID that basically gives her access to anywhere in the nation?

Outstanding. Multiple levels of bureaucracy. Is this a great country, or what?

While Kim's quest was relatively easy, mine could be a bit more problematical. My certified birth certificate is presumably on file with the Register of Deeds at the Lehigh County Courthouse in Allentown, PA, the city where I was born 68 years ago.

So now I have to put those wheels into motion. Can I get a copy of my certified (stamped with a county seal) birth certificate online? Or with a telephone call? A written request? And how do I prove that I'm me to get the document I need to prove that I'm me when I'm 500 miles away? This all seems a little loopholish to me.

Please tell me I don't have to make my third trip to Pennsylvania is six months to make a personal appearance to get this done.

I can see all kinds of crevices I can fall through.

I guess I'll find out soon enough. I'll be calling the Lehigh County Register of Deeds tomorrow for instructions.

Then the real fun begins: making an appointment at the driver's license office to get my Real ID. I can't wait.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Scarred for life

Okay, this is the last blog I'm going to write about my recent colon resection surgery. I promise. I feel like the old geezer who goes around asking, unsolicited, "Hey, you want to see my incision?"

Actually, I have asked several people that. It's kind of surprising who wants to see it, and who doesn't. Not always who you'd expect.

Just for the record, the incision has healed nicely, but it's left a visible scar on my belly about three or four inches long, from my navel to my stomach. It sort of looks like a misplaced C-section (colon section?). But the healing has pleased my surgeon, who told me I could go ahead and wear those Speedos now.

Don't worry. I'm not posting any pictures.

Anyway, speaking of my surgeon, I had my post op follow-up with him on Monday, and the news was great. The pathology report showed that the enlarged and embedded polyp that he removed – along with about a foot of my colon – was benign, and that the lymph nodes were clear. Soooo, unless I get bopped on the head by a meteorite today and everything else being equal, I feel like I might have added a few more years to my lifespan.

But the pathology report was the news I wanted to share with you. It made me feel like I dodged a bullet at a time in my life when I no longer feel so bulletproof.

I won't go as far as to say that the surgery somehow changed me, although Kim senses that I've become even more sensitive to the world than before. I will say that the day I was released from the hospital, I stood in the sun, feeling its warmth, waiting for Kim to pick me up in the car. And when I got home and took my first stand-up shower since the surgery, the water massaging my skin felt especially cleansing. I sat on my seldom-used porch swing for hours one day, enjoying, well, just about everything. It's the little things, as they say.

Hell's bells, I even shaved off my goatee.

But I'm trying to keep this all in perspective. Since my release, I've seen several amputees. I've seen several people whose only mobility is a wheelchair. Some even carry their own oxygen. So it's been a there-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I reminder that my experience was basically a necessary inconvenience. There are others who deal with far greater challenges. I know that.

But I'm still grateful for my outcome.

If I could only remember where I put my Speedos.