I hope this note finds you well.
We all have people in our lives that have made a major impact: a parent, a teacher, a coach or a next-door neighbor. I was lucky to have a whole raft of those influential people who surrounded me in the little town of Augusta, Arkansas as I grew up. One of those lights was my Grandfather, William Clinton McAlexander. We in the family knew him as Grandpa Will but most everyone in the town of Augusta knew him as Mr. Mac.
Grandpa was raised in the Cache River bottoms ten miles south of town. As a young man his father was kicked in the face by a mule and died instantly. His mother, a strong willed woman, demanded that all five of her living children not marry, stay home to take care of her and run the farm. Of the five children Will was the only one to disobey his mother.
Grandpa was a quiet man, small in stature, no more than 5’5’ in height and never weighted more than 110 pounds soaking weight. I remember seeing the movie Little Man Big Man and thinking how it reminded me of my grandfather. During the Depression he went to Oregon where he worked in the timber industry. For a while after WWII he and his young family lived in Charleston, Indiana. The first long distance trip I ever took was by train to Charleston to visit my Grandparents for Christmas.
He never made much money, worked at a variety of jobs and raised a family of eight children. He always had a large garden and was an avid bee keeper. He didn’t talk much but when he spoke everyone listened.
When most people were preparing to retire he became the janitor at the Elementary School in Augusta. For at least two generations of children in Augusta Mr. Mac was the little man who kept the school clean, was there when we got there in the morning and presided over daily counseling sessions in the janitors closet. At the end of the day, after all of us were gone he could be seen through the windows pushing his wide brooms up and down the halls.
He had some eccentricities such as the use of the telephone. When he was through talking he would hang up even if you were in the middle of a sentence. In truth it may have been because he couldn’t hear well. To his death he never believed that man ever set foot on the moon.
Well after his wife died, the four brothers and sisters who had stayed home moved to town and it became his lot to take care of them as they aged and died.
He worked at the elementary school until his late 80s and died at age 93.
He led all of us by example. I never heard him raise his voice; he was up well before dawn and worked until bedtime. He never complained or suggested that anything was amiss. Forty-one years ago I named my first son after him and when I did discovered that there were at least seven other members of the immediate generation who had done the same thing.
Have a nice journey.