• 55°

Mack Williams column: Remembering Tom

By Mack Williams
For the Salisbury Post
I met Tom Barrett at Danville’s First Presbyterian years ago, sometimes attending Tom’s Sunday school class. I enjoyed his teaching style, which was similar to that of Saint Paul’s Lutheran’s late Charlie Ritchie. It makes you think about your beliefs, steering clear of veering into a ditch, as opposed to the faith’s actual tenets. I said, “sometimes attending,” because I’ve never been a big Sunday school goer. No harm meant, but when someone might invite me to join their Sunday school class, I’ll say “Sorry, but I’m a conscientious objector to Sunday school.”
On the back row of Tom’s Sunday school class, a natural history friend and I sometimes performed our own fossil and rock show and tell from our collections. Fortunately, we were never discovered by Tom, who although appreciating natural history, himself might have said (in grade-school fashion), “Since you have something very interesting, please share with everyone!”
Before retirement, Tom taught industrial arts at the local Danville high school, where I sometimes part-time subbed. One day, I was assigned to an industrial arts class and remember Tom offering help if anyone got out of hand. Tom was much more imposing than I. I’m Peter Lorre’s height, minus Lorre’s implied malevolence.
Tom was also a Master Gardener, raising a fruit-bearing banana tree. Seeing it, I always remembered that old South Main service station in Salisbury where another banana tree similarly prospered long ago.
Neither Tom’s students nor his yard got out of hand, and neither did his children’s sermon attendees. All attempts at derailment were firmly, but gently, guided back on track.
Tom kept a little notebook in his shirt pocket to remember those sick or in need. I often keep one, but for a more selfish reason: to jot down my column ideas.
During Tom’s funeral, his younger brother spoke about another boy telling him there was no Santa Claus one Christmas. He said Tom beat up that boy, saying: “How dare you spoil our family’s Christmas!” I couldn’t help remembering when my big brother Joe kicked a kid all the way home after that kid tackled and knocked the breath out of little old me in a neighborhood football game (as said in an earlier column, that same kid grew into a gentleman).
Tom’s death resulted from a fall and broken shoulder, leading to internal bleeding and heart attack. About the time he passed away, I fell at a service station, hands and knees absorbing my fall’s energy. Falling at a different angle, I might have broken my shoulder, too. The smallest of things can make such a difference.
Falling at age 69, I experienced something not experienced since about age 10: skinned knees without any tearing of my trousers.
At the grocery store during the pandemic, I always tell the cashier: “Be safe!” Thinking of Tom, I want to rephrase, saying: “Be safe, not just from this virus, but from this life, itself.”

About Post Lifestyles

Visit us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SalPostLifestyle/ and Twitter @postlifestlyes for more content

email author More by Post

Comments

Local

‘Whoever we feed is a blessing:’ Providence Baptist Church distributes free meals on Thanksgiving

Local

Spencer to receive $750,000 CDBG grant for home repair

Elections

For Rowan, 2020 general election turnout statistics mostly mirror 2016

Crime

Blotter: Nov. 26

Coronavirus

County sets record for most COVID-19 positives reported in one day

News

From poult to Thanksgiving centerpiece, Evans Family Farm knows how to raise turkeys

Education

Catawba, Livingstone not bringing students back until after the holidays

Education

‘Just because’: Partners in Learning surprises staff with $15,000 in bonuses, turkeys

Local

Few applications received for state’s child care, remote learning assistance grant

Local

Girls Scouts pack meals for Meals on Wheels Rowan

Education

RCCC offering solutions for students wanting to jumpstart their college education

Education

PetSmart donation to Essie Mae Kiser Foxx

Crime

Salisbury Police ready to roll out regional crime center before end of the year

Education

Shoutouts: North Hills Christian School announces homecoming king and queen

Local

‘An icon of China Grove:’ Former China Grove Elementary students remember custodian Carl Wilkerson

College

Catawba basketball: The struggle to play the games

News

What are Salisbury, Rowan County leaders thankful for in 2020?

Christmas Happiness

Faith American Legion Auxiliary gives to Christmas Happiness Fund to honor vets

Local

‘Tis the Season Spectacular Christmas parade provides entertainment, holiday spirit

Coronavirus

Four new COVID-19 deaths, total of 131 reported in Rowan

BREAKING NEWS

Operations suspended, inmates transferred from Piedmont Correctional’s minimum security facility

Crime

Man charged with failing to register as sex offender

Crime

Police say DNA evidence ties Salisbury man to bank robbery attempt

News

Catawba College researchers say invasive beetle will kill significant portion of ecological preserve’s ash trees