Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Rest of the Story

Last year, I wrote a bit about Mom on mothers day, and posted a picture of Dad on Fathers Day. This year, I did nothing for Mothers Day, and am going to write about Dad for Fathers Day.
Luther Campbell McKinnon Sr. was born February 22, 1916, on a farm in Rowland, North Carolina. Europe was stuck in a war that would change the world, and not until The United States got involved. This didn’t happen for another year.
Luke was the youngest of four children. After life as a farm boy, he went to Wake Forest University, and then came back when his Daddy died. He ran a family dairy for a few years, and went to live in New Jersey. He lived near a prison, and saw the lights in the neighborhood dim when the electric chair was used.
In the early fifties, he came to Atlanta to live. This was where his beloved sister Sarah stayed with her husband and two daughters. One day he went into the C&S bank on 10th street, and took notice of one of the tellers. A few months later he married her. Jean Dunaway was his devoted wife for the rest of his life.
At some point in this era he started selling shoes. He would go to warehouses, gas stations, and wherever barefoot men needed shoes. He was “The Shoe Man” .
Before long there were two boys, and he bought a house, then another. The second house is the current residence of my brother and myself, and is probably worth 15 times what he paid for it. He had the good fortune to not buy in an area that was “blockbusted” in the sixties, as so many neighborhoods were.
And this was his life. He tended a garden, went to the gym, and was in the Lions Club for many years. When he met Mom, she let him know that going to church with her was part of the deal. They found a church that was good for their needs and made many friends there. The Pastor at Briarcliff Baptist, Glen Waldrop, was his buddy.
Glen had a great story when he spoke at Dad's funeral. Luke was selling him some shoes, and said they would be so comfortable you would get up an hour early every day to wear them.
A few weeks later, Luke asked Glen how he liked the shoes. " The shoes are great, but I am about to die from lack of rest".

When I think of the character of this man, there is one night, which stands out. My brother was away at the time. The day before, Mom had discovered she had a detached retina, and was in the hospital awaiting surgery. Her job had arranged a “leaf tour” by train in North Georgia, and she got one of her friends at work to take me. There was some mechanical trouble on the train, and it did not get back into town until 3am Monday morning. And yet, Daddy stayed at home, did not panic, and had faith that all of us would be back soon, which we were.
Through all the struggles of his life, Dad was cheerful, laughed a lot, and was good company. He left me with a rich repertoire of country sayings, and had many stories to tell. He was surprising mellow about black people, if a bit old fashioned. (In the south when I grew up, this was highly unusual).
Dad was always in good, vigorous health, and I thought he would be with us for a long time. Well, that is not how things work. A cancer developed in his lungs (he did not smoke), and spread to his liver before it was discovered. After a mercifully brief illness, we lost him on February 7, 1992. This was a few months after the Braves made it to the World Series, which greatly surprised many of us.


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