You know that I’m a man of few words that keeps things close to the vest. My family and friends always tell me I need to open up more and I realize that I do. So with this letter, I’m breaking from my norm. But if ever a moment warranted my words, this is it. I’ve got to say goodbye to you my friend, my brother, my road dog, my ace.
Gerald, you have left me too soon. How I’m going to finish “the back half” that we often talked about without you is unfathomable. Looking back on the past 47 years, I realize there are only a few moments we haven’t spent together. Some of my earliest memories are of me, you, Edd, Rod, Tony, Marlon and the crew playing basketball, baseball, or football either in your front yard, Rod’s backyard or my grandparents’ backyard. Remember in the winters when it snowed and we’d have snowball fights, build forts and set up the obstacle course in the ditch in front of Mr. Dodd’s house?
Our lives were intertwined in so many ways. The memories are endless.
We were born the same year (1972), same month (November) two days apart (26 and 28). We were in the same classes together all through high school. We even had the same high school girlfriend (not at the same time). Upon graduation, we both attended Mississippi Valley State University on athletic scholarships (you baseball, me tennis) and were roommates. We shared the same major and minor and graduated college together. Freshman year we rented “House Party” and, along with Anthony, Murph, Lorenzo, Tramel and anyone else who visited our room, watched it every day for the next four years!
After college, we both started separate careers before somehow ending up in education, teaching and coaching in the Yazoo City School district. Both of us bleed the black and gold of the greatest NFL football franchise of all time, the 6-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. We are both Atlanta Braves fans. Remember the “Braves Big Boy Beer Bashes” we’d have every year during the playoffs? I’d challenge anyone in the world to try and beat us in our love and recall of every Sanford and Son episode ever. We could literally quote them word for word.
Remember when your dad took us to Indianapolis to watch Valley and Willie “Satellite” Totten and Jerry “World” Rice battle Grambling in the Circle City Classic at the RCA Dome in 1984? We had never seen that many people in one place at one time in our lives. How about the time we went to your aunt’s house in Wisconsin and hung out all night clubbing with then-NBA superstar Latrell Sprewell? From all the trips to your uncle Ferr’s house in Carthage to “Gangsta Walking” in the old gym, Community Center and Les Juan parties as 2 Short’s “The Ghetto” played. I could go on and on about what you meant to me and the bond that we shared, but I’d be writing forever. These countless memories will now have to sustain me as I move forward.
How I’m going to do that? I have no earthly idea.
It’s hard for me to envision moving on without you. It’s going to be tough. I just recently began to get the upper hand on a battle with depression, but this is just the type of thing that can throw that progress into reverse. But now when I get those feelings, I’m going to remember you and what you would say to me. I’m going to remember the strength you exhibited as you fought valiantly against the cancer that was tearing you down from the inside. I’ll think about our recent discussions on how we could reach our young athletes and students. How could we help them overcome circumstances very different from the way we grew up? We were both focused on mentoring and leading the next generation and I promise to continue our mission.
We started this journey together and while you have moved on prematurely, I’m glad I was there for you in every way I could be until your very last day.
It hurts to know that I’ll never answer the phone again and hear you say, “Wat’cha doing Sonny Boy?” But I can smile knowing it’s a question you’ll already know the answer to cause you’ll be watching over me until we see each other again.
Rest in Peace my brother. I Love You.