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Hark the Harold

December 23, 2022

Another Way for week of December 16, 2022

Hark the Harold

No, that is not a misspelling of a familiar Christmas carol.

Our neighbor just across the road from us was named Harold and he had a booming laugh that we could hear from our house, earning him this “title.” I would give anything to hear that laughter ring out from his porch or around our dining room table again.

Harold became a dear friend of my husband and Stuart considered him like a favorite uncle. Stuart’s own Dad died back in 1998. We moved across from Harold in 2007 and my husband and Stuart soon connected and shared many hours-long chats and conversations. Both of them were/are quite the talkers, as locals know.

Harold and wife Willie celebrating his 94th birthday on their porch this past April. It was a chilly day.

Harold did not go far in school and grew up during the Great Depression. But he was very smart, hardworking, had a memory like an elephant, and managed his chicken and cattle farm with dedication. In addition, he worked for twenty years for Walker Manufacturing here in Harrisonburg, a muffler factory. The pastor conducting the funeral noted that Harold often had a sparkle or mischief in his eye, was practical, down-to-earth, and loved his family.

Harold knew his stuff and Stuart went to him with all kinds of questions and stories: boy did they swap tales. I would often leave them talking on Harold’s porch to hurry home to make supper or do other chores but I have a feeling it was my loss. His wife Willie was my friend as well and she’s still living, but unfortunately deals with dementia making it hard to have a conversation. The four of us enjoyed going out to eat several times a year or took drives where Harold would share what and who he knew throughout our rural landscape. Last year he led us to a nearby relative’s farm where we cut down a free cedar tree for Christmas.

One of our favorite stories was the summer that a skunk walked into the live trap we had set in our garden for varmints like ground hogs and raccoons. Oh dear. How do you get a skunk out of a trap or handle it to move somewhere without getting sprayed?

Harold told Stuart to just move in very very slowly and unhook the door. Which Stuart did, with some trepidation. He got the door unhooked and left the area, checking it several times through the day. The skunk still sat in the cage. Finally, overnight, the skunk moved out without spraying anyone.

Like all of us, Harold admitted he had faults. When I talked to him about matters of faith, he would sometimes mention the years he spent smoking and now regrets. But he lived to be 94, so that’s not bad. And we assured him that we believe the good Lord would not hold smoking or chewing tobacco against him.

Harold loved his wife Willie with the passion of a teenager, which he was when he first went to ask Willie’s father if he could date her. She is a bit older than Harold, and I’m told that after the father thought about it a bit, he said “I reckon it would be alright.” An endearing photo of the two of them—very good looking and much younger, went into his casket forever. I wish I had a copy.

At the funeral luncheon (his church provided sandwiches, veggie soup, cake and fruit), stories flowed. Lois, a woman I met when I was 18 and entering voluntary service, we both attended a two-week orientation in Indiana where she was my roommate. This Lois, a Virginia native, grew up with Harold and Willie’s sons in their church’s youth group, but I never knew that. Lois led the congregational singing with two hymns Harold wanted to have sung at his funeral, and Lois’ husband, Robert, a pastor, conducted the service.

Harold made an eternal impact on us and we both will miss him greatly. I’m sure we’ll meet him on the other side someday.

Harold raking the hay on our small acreage this past September. At the age of 94.

***

P.S. I cannot look at these photos now without having tears come to my eyes. These were beloved neighbors. Willie is still living and we pray for her well-being in the weeks and months ahead, and the family members who care for her.

***

What are your memories or experiences with special neighbors.

We have been blessed with others over the years! I hope you have too!

What kind of neighbor do you aspire to be?

Share here or send your memories or comments to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of ten books, most recently Memoir of an Unimagined Career: 43 Years Inside Mennonite Media. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

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4 Comments
  1. Tim Green permalink

    A fitting eulogy to an acquired friend. Sweet memories one can only hope we leave with our friends and family.

    • Tim, nice to find you here! Thanks for your kind words … yes, memories that we hope to leave with friends and family as well. A nice way of putting it.

  2. Thank you for sharing this story from your heart. Christmas Blessings!

    • And thank you for commenting here. Harold was a true valley man, not an import like you and me! Blessings on your Christmas as well.

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