It happens all the time. Tink will meet someone new around where we live and, invariably, that person will mention my daddy.
“You should have knowed Ralph Satterfield,” one man said during an encounter at the funeral home. “Finest man I ever did know.”
“You should have heard him preach,” the plumber said as he labored over the lines broken during a winter’s freeze. “He could get hold of the hand of God like nobody else I ever seen.” His eyes moistened. “Now, I’m tellin’ ya it was something to behold. He was a great man of the Lord.”
“I’ll never forget when I was in the hospital for a month, fighting against a miscarriage,” said a cousin who stopped by the table during lunch at the soda fountain, “Ralph came to see me and before he left, he took my hand and said, ‘There you go, kid.’ He closed my hand around some money.” It was $35, a lot more money 50 years ago than it is today. Probably all he had.
“He had a way about him like no one I’ve ever known,” said our pastor from the pulpit once. “I admired him so much because I have never seen a preacher who had such a powerful, captivating way in how he delivered his sermons. He had a remarkable way of holding an audience in the palm of his hand.”
“One time I took my car to him to get it fixed,” recalled a farmer, now old and gray. “I said, ‘Now, Ralph, I ain’t got no money to pay ya right now.’ He drew himself up and looked at me with a stern eye and said in that no nonsense voice he used sometimes, ‘Now, you don’t worry about that, do you hear me? I ain’t a bit worried about gittin’ my money. You just pay me when you can and if you can’t ever pay, that’ll be fine, too.’ He fixed it and it took me about a year but I got him paid a little at a time.”
“I got saved under his preachin’ one time during summer revival. He baptized me, too, in Town Creek near the Stancil farm.” This came from someone Tink met in the hardware store.
One day, Tink came in from the barbershop after hearing a new Ralph Satterfield story. “I just love hearing stories about your daddy. What a great man he must have been. Whenever anyone from around here finds out that I’m married to you, they want to tell me about your daddy.”
From the myriad stories that have risen up from strangers or new friends and presented themselves to Tink about my daddy, his admiration has grown to the point that he always says to them and then to me, “I wish I had known him. He did so much good with his life and helped so many people.”
My husband has opened my eyes to something I took for granted — I was raised and schooled about life by a man of legendary portions; a man, though humble and one who ran a garage business through the week in order to feed his family, farmed in the early mornings and Saturdays, then preached for the Lord on Sunday, who will never have a monument built to his honor. His name, though remembered by many now, is not famous and will, most likely, be forgotten after two or three generations of us die out.
But those touched by his 78 years on earth have not forgotten. They remember well the finest example of a simple common man with an uncommon touch for helping his neighbors. He served his country, his God, and his community.
I’m ashamed that I had overlooked much of it in the years he’s been gone. I’m thankful to Tink who showed me Daddy from a new set of admiring eyes.
Mostly, though, I’m thankful for such a good fatherly example.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of There’s A Better Day A-Comin’. Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newspaper.