Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Touched by an Angel

Last night I received the news that one of my classmates had died. He was our most famous classmate. You all probably know him better as the "Angel of Death." I first met John Dye back in Kindergarten. Back in those days, kindergartens were private and not everyone went to one, but we both attended Mrs. Murphree's Kindergarten, affectionately known as the Little Red Schoolhouse. The Kindergarten was really in an attachment to her home. We were tracked by ability level all the way through middle school. John and I were in what was the "high" track. Our group of about 30 classmates were pretty close to one another because we pretty much shared the same classes all the time. I remember activities on the playground as well as in the classroom with John. He was a fun person to be around and had the kind of personality that we all enjoyed being around. I remember working on class projects with him outside of class as well. On one occasion, we all had met at another classmate's house. (The classmate was David Stokes. David recently died as well.) We were supposed to come up with some sort of model to accompany a short story we had read in English class. I remember that it was a story about a flatboat because we left at some point to buy modeling clay to build the flatboat. Back then, you could get sheets of modeling clay as well as the play-doh like versions. We knew we could get the brown sheets, and they would look just like the log flatboat that we had envisioned because of the little ridges. However, that project was not so memorable because of the project itself which we did in a short time. It was that we had plenty of extra time to have fun. We took a break at one point, heading up Main Street. We were playing "Truth or Dare" as we walked up the street. This was John's idea, as I recall. There were five or six of us in the group. When it was John's turn, he took the dare. Someone dared him to go into Fred's Dollar Store and ask if Fred was there. Fred's was a chain that had been founded in the Memphis area by Fred Baddour. We all knew that it was unlikely that Fred would be there because we all realized it was a chain. John went in and asked the cashier while we were all out on the sidewalk giggling. He came back and said that Fred wasn't there today. We giggled some more. I think most of us took "Truths" after that because we were afraid of what the others might come up with if we took the dare.

John moved away but then came back during his high school years to live with his grandparents in a nearby town. He no longer went to school with us, but we were able to keep up with him and see him from time to time. By the time we had our 10th year reunion, John was a "star." He'd been in several movies and was portraying a medic on the television program Tour of Duty. By our 20th reunion, John was in the long-running show Touched by an Angel. It's sad that he won't make our 30th reunion later this year. The reunion dynamics are certain to be different without him there.

We'll miss you, John.

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