The sun has set upon the earthly life of Mr. Otis Tebeau. As I sat there at the funeral last Wednesday morning, a thousand old memories flashed through my mind. I thought of all the acts of kindness Mr. Otie had done, not just for me and my family, but for the families of everyone sitting in that room. I’m sure there are folks who have a favorite story about Mr. Otie. I have many.
I remember as a young boy, one day forgetting to pay him for a “Nugrape” and a honey bun. It later occurred to me that I had not paid and I told daddy. Instead of waiting the next time we were by the station, daddy drove back to Springfield and made me apologize to Mr. Otie and pay him. I will never forget the look on his face or the hug he gave me as he thanked me for being honest. There were other times when we’d flip a coin to see who paid for the drinks. More times than I can count, Mr. Otie “intentionally” lost.
One spring (1966, I think), my outboard motor was in the shop with a blown power head. The river was perfect for fishing and I didn’t have a motor. Mr. Otie heard I was in need and graciously loaned me his spare motor and I didn’t even ask him for it. He joked about it for years claiming that loaning your outboard motor was like loaning out your wife. That was one act of kindness that still brings joy to my heart.
As the years went by, my family and I continued to be loyal customers, but it was more than just a business relationship. There was a bond of friendship with roots that ran deep. In the early ’70’s, there were few places to fill up with gas on Sunday. Many Sunday afternoons I would be on my way back to college in need of a fill up. So often I rode over to Mr. Otie’s house and he would be there sitting on the front porch. He never seemed to mind handing me the keys to the station and trusting me to pump my own gas, turn off the pump when I finished, write my own ticket and lock the door as I left. I never betrayed his trust. His faith in me was too important to ever think of not doing the right thing. I always felt I owed him such a huge debt for always being so accommodating. It just seemed like paying for the gas at the end of the month was never sufficient.
The only time I ever saw him shed a tear was at my dad’s funeral. Mr. Otie was one of daddy’s pallbearers. Daddy would have been proud of the men we selected. We chose his favorite people and Mr. Otie was one of the first we considered. In the months after daddy’s death, mama struggled to carry on. I was not close by to help, but Mr. Otie was. I know of several occasions when he drove the 7 1/2 mile trip out to mama’s house to jump off her car or bring her a new battery for her car or fix a flat tire. He didn’t have to do it, but he did. He did it because he had the heart of a servant. I suspect there are a lot of similar stories from others who could testify.
Mr. Otie was an accomplished fisherman. I never had the privilege of sitting in a boat with him but we always shared fishing stories and on a few occasions, we’d “loan” each other catfish. If he had an abundance, he was gracious enough to share and I always did the same.
Trading stories about fishing was a learning experience I always looked forward to. I gained a lot of knowledge from just listening to him talk. I learned to be a successful fisherman by listening to his words of wisdom...using a certain kind of bait at a certain time of year or fishing at the right depth in the right place, and on and on.
There are nine fruits of the spirit, according to Galatians 5:22 and Mr. Otie possessed them all — “Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self control.”
His family can take comfort in this fact. “A tree shall be known by its fruit.” Mr. Otie produced good fruit.
He will be sadly missed. I am thankful to have known him as I did and for the cherished memories I have to hold onto.