Remembering my special friend
By Kim Swindell Wood | October 8, 2018 6:10 am
In memoriam – S. Ed Wood
Donald S. Holman – Written on Oct, 20, 2015
I first met Ed in 2000. Newly moved back to Sparta, my brother Paul and I were busy remodeling a building on Bockman Way we intending to use for our office and residence. Tall, with a shock of white hair and blue eyes, Ed showed up, casually introduced himself, and chatted for a while. It was only on his second visit that I realized he had come with a purpose. He was recruiting for a new chairman for the White County Republican Party. Long story short, I accepted and thereby began a friendship with a man who came to mean so much to me. He was my friend.
There is so much to say about Ed and so little space in which to say it! His was the life of the mind – he was always thinking, planning dreaming – and doing! After a bull session, you would discover to your surprise all that verbiage had been put into action.
Ed was that rare person that sat down to dream and rose up to work. We’ve all dreamed big dreams; Ed put them into action.
Once he showed up at the office, announced my wife needed more light with which to sew, brought forth a stepladder, various tools, and within an hour had a light fixture mounted just above her sewing machine.
“Gotta go!” he’d say, and away he went. He was a master of “timing the visit,” always leaving you wanting just a little more.
Ed was that rare intellectual that could make a garden, wire a plug, replace a switch, fix a clock – and write a fine piece on any subject that caught his fancy. Last summer he researched Canola oil at length. Why? Just saw some growing and wondered.
He hated politics he told me but was mindful of Plato’s admonishment, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”
Ed wrote political commentary columns for two widely read online journals. Writing was one of the things Ed loved most, and he often shared his articles in the early hours of the morning in our email conversations.
In politics as in life, Ed believed in the people learning to care for themselves rather than to depend on the government. Jaded from watching years of political horse-trading, he, like many of us, held his nose and voted as best he could. Often disappointed, still he worked hard to help folks attain office, preferring hope over the voice of experience.
Generous to a fault, he often helped folks in the community. Many times, his one requirement was that there be no public knowledge of his involvement. He lived the old adage of making the world a better place simply by having lived and done what he could.
My memories of Ed revolve around political activities of all kinds, meetings and campaigns, victories and defeats, and more recently, quiet conversations. Whenever I was in Sparta, I always called him and stopped over for a visit. We both knew our time was short.
Shaking hands with Ed was like shaking hands with a catcher’s mitt – his big, knob-knuckled hand would just fold around mine.
“Donald! Or Do‘naalld-O!” he’d say, more an announcement than a greeting.
And for the next hour or so we’d just enjoy bantering back and forth, chewing over the latest political happenings, local news -whatever was on our minds. All too soon I’d need to leave – another of those warm handshakes, a direct look with a twinkle in his eyes, and away I’d go, pondering the conversation all the way home.
Ed was one of those born in the shadow of the Great Depression. His mother a school teacher, his father paralyzed from the waist down by a farm accident in a time when folks seldom lived through those kinds of events.
He remarked his early ambition was to get big enough to pick his father up from the floor when he fell from his wheel chair.
Raised by those genteel Southerners we only now read about, he told me his mother once said of an ugly girl, “She has a rather unfortunate face.”
Ed was a pilot, a college graduate, an engineer, and a salesman. Most of all, Ed was a motivator of mankind – a self-appointed improver of the human condition. He sought to enable folks to reach heights they never suspected themselves capable of. And, more often than not, he succeeded.
Molded in a crucible long ago broken, tempered by fires long extinguished, we’ll not see his kind again soon.
He remarked in just the last week or so before his death, “I’ve never done this before, and I am just trying to do this the best I know how.”
He didn’t fight death so much as he did uselessness – willing to die but not willing to lie down to accomplish it. If ever anyone skidded to a stop, worn out and weary, and tumbled in the grave, surely he did.
Surrounded by his family, sleeping peacefully in far-spaced breaths, finally he breathed no more.
I asked him what he would wish for his epitaph, and he said with characteristic understatement: “He was responsible.”
I leave you with one of his favorite poems, one he recommended to me to use for moments like this.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole topole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,*
How charged with punishments the scroll,*
I am the master of my fate:*
I am the captain of my soul.*
William Ernest Henley
(*Ed’s favorite lines)