Dear Editor: Maybe it’s coincidental timing, but we seem to be losing many of our community’s longest-standing pillars in 2009. With the recent passing of Jack Morgan, Lamar Hays and Otis Spillers, we are witnessing a generational passing of the torch. Through their business interests, public service and private charity, these men laid the foundation for much of what we know as Newton County today. The losses sadden us, but we have much to celebrate, considering all the lives these men touched.
Like many, I spent my youth and early adulthood searching for "the meaning of life." Through religious upbringing, my education and just my own journey, I pondered that age-old question of "why am I here?" At some point, though, I’d attended enough funerals, heard enough eulogies and read enough obituaries of men like Morgan, Hays and Spillers to see things a little differently. I realize now, our quest is not to find the meaning of life. It’s to find meaning in life. And, in that task, you’d be hard pressed to find better role models than these three gentlemen and countless other men and women of their generation who went before or are still gracing us with their presence.
On my desk is a small, faded plaque my dear wife gave me for my college graduation years ago. "Do not follow where the path may lead," it says. "Go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail." If you measure a person as I do, by the trail they leave, making a difference in the lives of others, then these three set a high bar for us who follow.
It’s easy to think of these men as "larger than life." But, that’s missing the crucial point; they lived large lives. It’s a capability we all possess. Our only limitations are those we place upon ourselves. After seven, eight, or nine decades of a life fully spent, who wouldn’t want to look back upon a personal story as expansive as the ones retold by the lifelong friends and associates of Jack Morgan, Lamar Hays or Otis Spillers? Their stories were built on simple choices, made time after time, to get involved, to act, to make a difference.
With my 50th birthday fast approaching, it’s a wonderful gift these gentlemen have given me. I still have something to want to be when I grow up.