Reese was born on April 24, 1926 on the farm where he lived until July 15, 2008.
As a child, he learned farming, fishing, hunting and playing—things he DID ALWAYS. He was playing pitch by four and added pinochle, poker, spades, and bridge over the years.
When he was four, he took a tobacco stick and ran through a row of corn just to listen the stalks popping. His father asked him if he had done it and Reese said “No.” Pop picked him up, put his little feet in the footprints and explained that the whippin’ was for the lying not the dead corn. He may have been spanked a few other times.
As a teenager at the local high school,there were some shenanigans from time to time. There was that time he put a potato in a teacher’s exhaust pipe and the time he and his buddies put a teacher’s new car up on blocks. There was some talk of drying out sea nettles and putting them in girl’s bathing suits hanging on the line—but we don’t know if it really happened.
He served his country in the Army Air Corp, intending to be a pilot, and always loved to travel. He returned home when his brother, Gilbert, became ill with leukemia. He went back to working the farm and taking care of his parents.
Those who knew him as a talker, may not remember Reese, the doer. He plowed, tilled, planted, watered, combined, cut, bailed and hauled everything from tobacco to tomatoes. He shoveled manure (yes, at times without the shovel), dredged oysters, ran trot lines, and crabbed the creek shore. He drove trucks and fought fires, made pizza for the fire-department carnival, and set-off fireworks every year. He was willing to help his neighbors, sometimes before he helped himself. He plowed them out of the snow, took care of all the old folks, fixed houses and engines, and towed boats off the river.
All along was the constant of fishing—the ones he caught, the ones that got away, and the ones that were so big they took the fishing rod right out of his hand… Reese married Mom in 1949 and set about having a family—and Daddy tells a story. He said he asked Mom to have a boy and she did…and then a girl, and she did…and then he didn’t care, so she had a girl… and then he wanted another boy, so she did. Finally, he didn’t care what came out, and so out came the last girl. That’s his story about how well Mom listened and followed orders.
Then there’s Mom's story of how they met. She was playing tennis when two guys showed up to borrow some golf balls to play the local course. He told her they hit them all into the river when he came back --to ask her out. He said he’d been paying for those balls ever since. But this is really her story about never getting back her golf balls.
Reese worked hard and played hard for 82 years. He farmed, fished, and hunted. Some of his deer stories rivaled his fish tales. He drove thousands of kids on the school bus to their first day of school, and advised them to learn how to take teasing, since his would not be the only teasing they’d get. We have met people in restaurants in DC and Florida who rode my father’s bus. He volunteered in the Elks and Optimist Club and belonged to the Farm Bureau, Soil Conservation District, and Bus Contractor’s Association.
He drank like a fish and fished like a drunk and then found at 58 that he was high on life with the help of Bill W’s friends in AA one day at a time. He had the great pleasure of learning to have fun without any outside help. To the best of our memory, he never lied when it counted, never stole, but gave things away, and never intentionally hurt another living soul.
Daddy was good with kids because he knew all about being one. He kept a young and curious heart. Like a child, he could get along with anyone and take people the way they came. And the man knew the most about having fun of anyone I have ever met. He taught many of us how to lighten up and steer straight.
Reese left each of us a legacy that we can hold for the rest of our lives—
the love of family and friends,
the peace of hard work,
the joy of the River,
and a true and constant honor and respect
for having a helluva good time every day.
Those are the gifts from Reese to all of us:
Find the fun in the moment or make the fun if there’s none to be found.
Remember Reese and Enjoy.