Whittle: Good friends make community grow
By DAN WHITTLE
It’s been said the man who has friends enough to count all the fingers of one hand, is a blessed man.
When first moving to the rural Porterfield area back in 1988, an aged farmer stopped by one day as I was out in my yard looking at some jackasses in a nearby pasture.
“Sonny,” the visitor asked between emitting spit wads of tobacco juice, “what kind of neighbors did you have back in Missouri?”
“Sir, I had some of the best neighbors in the world,” I replied.
“That’s all I wanted to know,” the gent spoke as he crawled back in his old farm truck.
“Sir, before you go, why did you ask me about my neighbors back in Missouri?” I inquired.
His response reminded me of my farm poppa: “If you had a good neighbor, you were a good neighbor.”
Thousands are the lives this community friend, an undertaker by trade, touched during his 90-plus years of life.
Friend Bill Smith, now 95-plus years, and men like Mr. Larimer and Mr. Northcutt, have served as building blocks of Woodbury community life.
Faye George Morse is another public service type, having befriended thousands as emergency services director of beautiful largely rural Cannon County. I would like Faye if for no other reason she lives in Gassaway, one of my favorite community names.
Their public service lives remind me of longtime Murfreesboro friend John Douglas Hood. John recently celebrated with other friends during a milestone 65th reunion of his old Central High School graduating class of 1949.
At age 80-plus, John is still serving as a friend to MTSU and the new Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame.
Both friends Truman and John remain loyal to the lady loves of their lives, who have suffered health issues these past few years.
Like my old farm pappy, I admire loyalty.
Hooper Penuel goes back in my life to the 1970s, when we both worked at the old Nashville Banner. “Hoop” has stayed in the loop as one of those tried and true friends.
Cannon Courier newspaper Publisher Ron Fryar is another of my most loyal long-standing newspaper-career-related friends.
Ron and I share the belief that the media should be used as a builder of community when possible.
Lascassas resident Sharon “Gruntessa” Porterfield and I go back as friends to the early 1990s when we both helped crusade for permanent shelter for Murfreesboro’s Room in the Inn. Her nickname is derived from an interview I attempted to extract from her about helping homeless men, women and children, when she responded: “Don’t talk to me, I’m just a grunt.”
There’s no estimating how many homeless children my humble friend, the “Gruntessa,” has helped down through the decades.
Being in the media has allowed me to meet friends such as Les Leverett, the longtime now retired photographer of the Grand Ole Opry.
As a remarkable photographer, Les has befriended the legends of country music that is cradled right here in good ol’ Middle Tennessee.
Friend John Stuart, the father of country music star Marty Stuart, and I renew our friendship each September when we sponsor Fishing for Kids for low-income children from throughout the mid-state region. This one-day event is hosted each year by friends and staff at Long Hunter State Park, including Chief Ranger Thurman Mullins, another longtime tried-and-true friend
I would be remiss if I left out friends Kent Syler, Jim Demos and Wade Hays … all three of whom have helped their community in multiple charitable ways.
Wow, I must be a blessed man, for my list of friends goes on and on … Amen!!