He Was A Good Man
I am always hesitant to write about the passing of a friend. For one thing, I have been blessed with many, many friends since I moved to Southwest Georgia 37 years ago. For another thing, with my own advancing age, I find that I mourn those who have touched me with an increasingly greater frequency.
Luther Spooner passed away Monday at the age of 92. I had never heard the name “Spooner” when I moved to Georgia. I quickly discovered the name was as common as “Lewis” had been in my hometown in Alabama. If you weren’t married to one, then you were likely kin. If neither of those, then you clearly weren’t from around here.
I came to Georgia as a 21 year old upstart in the peanut world that dominated Seminole County and Decatur County agriculture. Luther was 34 years older than me, a full 10 years older than my own father. He and his brother, Joe, were already big players in peanuts, cattle, and all of the associated businesses involved in agriculture. I was just a couple of months past my last fraternity party at Auburn.
Luther wasn’t a customer of mine; in fact he became a competitor when he became involved in another peanut company a couple of years after my arrival. He could have brushed me off as a young newcomer, but he didn’t; at least if he did he never did it to my face.
We went to the same church, where his wife Martha Nell has been a pillar since long before my arrival in town. Like me, Luther married above himself. He and I actually talked about that much later in life; about the many ways a good wife makes you a better man.
Luther was part of an older group of men that for some reason took me under their wing. They were all part of that greatest generation that is fading fast. I have heard their stories so many times I can recite them like I was there.
Somewhere along the way, Luther took a real liking to me. For the last ten years of his life we truly had a great friendship. He met my grandfather the year I was born. It was a bond that kept us linked as his memory faded.
When Luther was 30 years older than I am today, he was riding a horse herding up the cows. He grew up in a big family only to become the head of an even larger one. Thirty two great grandchildren called him “Pop”.
Luther was like my own grandfather. He came from harder times. Expressing your emotions wasn’t easy for a man of his time. Ironically, that was his greatest gift to me. Luther shared during the last decade of his life how much his family meant to him.
“I am married to the greatest woman alive”, he would tell me. He talked with pride about each of his children. I would challenge him to give me every name of his many descendants and he would just laugh.
We were from different generations. Other than our church and our unlikely friendship, we had no common bond. I can only say that Luther Spooner was a good man. Sometimes, that is all that needs to be said.
Dan Ponder can be reached at email@example.com