Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Power and Poignancy of a Simple Hello

In the community of Bryan-College Station, a place I love to call my very own Mayberry, there's a special significance about living here as your new home, and meeting people who have lived here all their lives. You'll spend about 30 years before you're no longer a newcomer (only because you have not met everyone yet), but after a while you start to recognize folks as you drive along Texas Avenue or Villa Maria, and you wave as you drive by, and you smile, and even roll down the car window and talk at red lights. It's a special place.

Everyone has opinions of their hometowns and neighborhoods, but my bias and fondness has developed over four decades of "growing up here," so if longevity is a criterion for validating my firmly held opinion, then I'll continue.

Opening today's edition of "The Eagle" online, my first thought was to check the obituaries. I saw the lovely photo of Mrs. Lou Presnal there and I just had to stop and stare. Could it be? I just saw her....and with that, my mind raced back to the last time I saw her. It was the same evening that I last saw Joe Hanover and it was at Bryan's Longhorn Tavern Steakhouse.

Now, please know that I did not know Mrs. Presnal personally at all, but for years I'd seen her when I attended an occasional early service at church. She and her husband, a beloved veterinarian, would enjoy the early service as many others did. I was generally a late service person, as was Joe, so you know how it goes. But she had an unmistakable gracious countenance about her. She was always dressed so neatly, everything in place, but in a way that was authentic. It was just who she was.

What was so poignant about the evening of March 31, 2017, was that I had a chance to witness a most special exchange of friendly words between two people who clearly had no idea that they would wind up greeting each other in Heaven (if you'll allow me my faith construct) just eight short weeks later. It was surreal.

This is how the evening went. I'd arrived early and was visiting with Joe Hanover's "42 Group" from Dallas that evening, and I went to the front door of Longhorn Tavern to greet Joe and Michelle. I spotted Lou and Sonny Presnal at the booth in Longhorn that had been a favorite of Netta and John Simek's all these years. I smiled when I saw them there, even if they didn't know me from Adam's off ox.

As Joe and Michelle made their way into the Longhorn, all the servers greeted "Mr. Hanover" by name and welcomed him. Seven beaming employees knew him well and loved him. When the business was owned and operated by Rita Whitley, Joe loved to tell the story about how she told him to "Park anywhere you want" and he did as she instructed.

These days, the second generation is running the business and doing a fine job of keeping crowds happy and fed without a lot of waiting. As Joe was greeted, he passed by the Presnal's table but there were many people behind him headed to the party room. I was the one closest to Mrs. Presnal at that point when she said, "Is that Joe Hanover? I must tell him hello! I'd heard he'd been in the hospital and I'm so glad he's here tonight!" She immediately excused herself from her dinner and went to shake his hand warmly, and she was joined by her husband as the three exchanged such beautiful pleasantries, old friends, church members together, likely the veterans of more than a few committees together. As she made her way back to her table, I couldn't help myself. I just had to say something to her. I don't recall introducing myself by name but what I said was, "Mrs. Presnal, you don't know me but I've seen you at a distance for years in church and I just have to say that you are one of the most classic beauties I've ever seen. You remind me somewhat of Princess Grace." And I said, "I just had to tell you that, and I'll let you get back to your evening." She was so modest and thanked me and I said, "You've always had a special countenance about you."

The joy on her face seeing Joe there that night was something hard to quantify. It was a supreme sense of joy I sensed about her, at seeing an old friend after a long time not having been in the same place at the same time. The only word I can offer is "magic." There was a sense of magic in the air. In a day and time when we all get so caught up in busy-ness, to be able to truly rejoice at the good fortune of our friends, like regained health, really left an impression on me.

I promptly forgot about that exchange until this morning, when I opened the paper and saw Mrs. Lou Presnal's obituary tribute. And then my mind flashed back to the fact that it was March 31, 2017 when I last saw Joe and I last saw Mrs. Presnal. What I did see was two old friends greeting each other with grace and dignity and such great regard and respect for one another in a fashion that it was exceptional to watch. Both so happy to see each other doing well. Neither one of them had a clue what the next eight weeks would bring. I had no way of knowing what the health statuses were, truly, of either party. Yet, rather than worrying about health, they were busy living life to the fullest.

Eight short weeks. To the day. We do not know what tomorrow brings. We cannot know. But I always want to remember their smiles when two longtime friends had the chance to see one another in good times. Somehow it's a safe guess that some 56 short days later, the reunion was even better the second time around.

It's a warm and friendly reminder that we need to make time for the things we want to do and the people we truly want to be with. And, as I sit in reflection today, eight weeks ago I think I saw the magic in a genuine "Hello, old friend" and how good it feels to have friends whom we are always delighted to see. Another life lesson in Panavision and Technicolor, courtesy of General Joe Hanover. God bless Joe, God bless Mrs. Presnal, and God bless our dear Mayberry, where people take the time to know you.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Musician, Blues Guitarist and “Rock Star” Gregg Allman Dead at Age 69

The inevitable passing of Gregg Allman on May 27th was coming; we all knew it. From tour cancellations to invasive music gossip, Gregg Allman’s body was shutting down, even when his heart for the music that kept him alive kept going. The impact of his life and career spanned one of the broadest ranges of people from all walks of life.

Photo credit:

As young man born in Nashville but growing up in Daytona Beach together with his brother Duane, as legend went, both were all-A students who also played football. Bright futures ahead of them, right? Maybe they’d go on to be doctors or lawyers, or—if they were very lucky—they’d grow up to be world-class musicians, beloved across five decades.

Music historians know all the details about Gregg’s and Duane’s life growing up, they know every song on every album and the inspiration behind so many of the songs. Many will undoubtedly be impacted by Gregg’s death as they fervently search for words to say what he and his music meant in their worlds. They are the experts, most qualified to speak to Gregg’s career and work. On the audience side of the music, however, southern rock is surely as popular as it remains today, in large measure on the shoulders of their earliest work. Any music lover who grew up in the 60s and 70s surely has at least three (or more) Allman Brothers’ albums in their collections.

It’s too simplistic to say that, in his lifetime, Duane was a first-call studio guitarist and touring great before a motorcycle accident would take his life. Gregg, the one left behind, grew to became a standout singer, organist, guitarist, and songwriter of rock classics. Neither of the brothers would choose a smooth path to fame.

Early successes in minor bands taught them the joys and benefits of touring (groupies, drugs, and unparalleled excess). A CNN report today quoted Gregg as saying, “My generation were heavy drug users,” Gregg Allman told the Daily Telegraph in 2011. “We didn’t know no different, we didn’t know no other way.” In an early interview, Gregg's plan, having lost his father at age 2, he and Duane were raised by their mother Geraldine ("Mama A"), was to graduate high school, play in bands for a few years to get it out of his system, and probably go to medical school to become a doctor. If he'd have put his mind to it, he could have been a great doctor.

The Allmans started their careers the exact same way as anyone else—playing in high school bands, and all the early versions of what would ultimately become The Allman Brothers Band. With each different band experience, they’d pick up musicians who’d ultimately join them for the rest of their music lives, three of whom were Butch Trucks, Dickey Betts, and Berry Oakley. Sadly, Oakley didn’t much outlive Duane, which takes us back to the life and living of The Allman Brothers Band.

Their 1969 self-titled debut album didn’t take the country by storm but it did increase their touring stock in the south. On “The Allman Brothers Album,” two of the best-known songs were “It’s Not My Cross to Bear” and “Whipping Post” and was classified as Blues and Southern rock.

“Idlewild South” (1970) contained three of my favorites of theirs: instrumentals “Revival,” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and “Midnight Rider.”

Gregg wrote the song with help on lyrics from roadie Robert Kim Payne. Gregg’s voice didn’t help put “Midnight Rider” over the top anywhere for years, but others had greater success with the song and it was covered or recorded by everyone from Joe Cocker to Michael McDonald to Hank Williams, Jr. to Alison Krauss. Today it’s known as “The Allman Brothers Band’s most covered song.”

Historians recall that between 1971-1972, the “Eat a Peach” time frame, Duane, Berry Oakley and roadies Robert Payne and Red Dog Campbell entered rehab simultaneously for heroin addictions. And then on October 29, 1971, Duane died in Macon, Georgia in a motorcycle accident. Bandmate Oakley would die a year later, November 11, 1972, in a motorcycle accident, “three blocks from where Duane had his fatal accident.” The band members are “buried directly beside each other at Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, Georgia.”

Their 1971 live album, “At Fillmore East,” featured “Statesboro Blues,” “Hot ‘Lanta” and “Stormy Monday” and the album would ultimately be inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame in 1999. Two primary musical forces wouldn’t live to enjoy a career or the fame that would follow them the next four decades.

Skipping ahead to 1974, the music of the Allman Brothers flourished on the strength of the writing and playing of guitarist Dickey Betts and Gregg Allman. Betts often is identified as the glue that kept Gregg, and the band, moving forward after sustaining two losses.

In an entirely strange tangent straight out of Hollywood, newly named Billboard icon, Cher, divorced Sonny Bono and began dating Gregg. Meantime, Cher’s personal assistant and lifetime best friend, Paulette Eghiazarian began dating Dickey Betts. The story in a May 1977 People Magazine issue provides interesting backstory, if not the trials and tribulations of the Cher-Gregg-Paulette-Dickey tandem. Lots of screaming, yelling, men behaving badly, and southern rock going on.

If memory serves, at the time Cher became mesmerized by the intelligence and strong silent type that Gregg presented, I used to wonder what in the world she saw in Gregg. He mumbled, he shuffled, and he only seemed to show signs of life when on stage. Otherwise he was brooding. Guess she set her criteria as being “as far away from Sonny as you could get.” Mission accomplished.

Cher used to tell the story on numerous talk shows that on their first date, Gregg came over and thought he was “in for the evening” and proceeded to remove his cowboy boots to become more comfortable. Cher being Cher, never at the loss for words, she proceeded to cuss Gregg out, insisted he put his boots on and get out of her house. He did.

Ultimately, he proceeded to “court her” properly, to Cher’s satisfaction, if not amusement. Cher married “Southern gentleman” Gregg about three weeks after her divorce from was finalized and Paulette married Dickey. Betts’ compositions did carry the band forward, particularly on the strength of “Southbound,” “Ramblin’ Man” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” essentially the core of the 1976 “Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas” album.

Cher and Gregg photo from Pinterest; Dickey and Paulette photo from JVB Photography, Pinterest

Both strong women were credited for bringing the southern wild men out of a self-destructive path and into some kind of calm, for however long it lasted. Before they broke up for the final time, Cher gave birth to a child with Gregg, Elijah Blue, who began touring with Gregg almost as soon as he was old enough to do so. Elijah is one of Gregg’s five children he leaves behind.

Elijah Allman image from Heavy.

Son Devon Allman founded the band Honeytribe; he’s co-leader of the Royal Southern Brotherhood band as well as a solo artist.

Robert Randolph and Devon Allman; Photo Credit: Getty Images

Daughters Delilah Island Kurtom and Layla Brooklyn Allman survive him, as does eldest son, Michael Sean Allman, who is virtually his image remade.

Of his five children, “four are professional musicians (Delilah is not).” Gregg was also survived by his wife, Shannon.

All the love, the romances, the marriages, and the throes of “normal daily life” weren’t sufficient to keep Gregg away from the music business or the temptations of the weariness that comes from perpetual road tours.

Gregg Allmann Photo credit: Getty image

Ultimately, drug abuse and attempts at rehab put his body through a lot of torture, but the music kept him going. Although Gregg’s appearance at the end of his life showed a shell of the once robust man who loved making music, the point was you just couldn’t keep him off the road; he attributed the band’s success to the faithfulness of the fans.

In all, The Allman Brothers band featured 19 members; they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995; “Rolling Stone ranked them 52nd on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time in 2004,” and they received seven gold and four platinum albums out of their 18 releases—live and studio recordings. The band made household names of Jaimoe Johanson, Butch Trucks (later Derek Trucks), Chuck Leavell, in addition to Duane, Gregg, and Dickey and others who true fans can name without thinking. The number of living legends we’ve lost, as those of us who “grew up together” with the household names of rock and blues know well, has just increased by one today.

The song for the final ride home tonight, if I get to pick just one, is from 1973: “Will the Circle be Unbroken”

and the matching version from 2014, as Gregg was surrounded by a “few friends.”

Rest in peace, at last, Gregg, and thanks for all your music.

Photo from Allman Brothers Twitter page

A Salute to William T. Moore, Patriot and Friend - Memorial Day Weekend 1999

It was during Memorial Day weekend in 1999 when the Brazos Valley said farewell to a legendary man. Yes, he was famed in the Texas Senate, or on the campus of Texas A&M and across the lives of many influential people. But the most important role he played was as leader of his family. Senator William T. "Bill" Moore would surely qualify as most worthy among "your most unforgettable character" listing. Not exactly sure where the past 18 years have flown, but today I'm thinking of his beloved widow, the beautiful Babe (or "Mer" to her family) and sending her love.

When "Senator" passed away, the late publisher Bubba Moore (The Press, TV Facts) knew that I had something to say, and most graciously, offered me the space to say it. Bubba's kindness and great sense of community spirit has continued to be on my mind the past month, and so I share this memory that was published for TV Facts' "Flag Day" edition, 1999. Where does the time go? Where indeed...

As you see the cover, the man best known as the "Bull of the Brazos" has such a warm smile. But, oh he could get things done in what Molly Ivins used to call "The Lege." This list would include seeing that women were admitted to Texas A&M University, together with Gen. James Earl Rudder, two men to whom we all owe a sincere debt of gratitude. And one must note the late Bob Cherry, longtime secretary to the Texas A&M Board of Regents, who was one of Senator's closest admirers and greatest friends.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Reflections upon the life of Joe G. Hanover, Jr., Brigadier General, AUS Retired, Texas Aggie ‘40

The last time I saw my friend Joe, aka Joe Grady Hanover, Jr., Texas Aggie Class of ’40, Brigadier General, AUS Ret’d., was Friday, March 31. He’d only been 99 years old for six weeks, and his health at that age wasn’t going all that well.

Photo credit: TAMU AFS Network

Actually, he’d been in the hospital until he made them release him on March 30th. He told doctors his “42” group (actually the group was shared with him by his favorite sister, Sarah) was coming in from Dallas over the weekend, and he had entertaining to do. They’d planned this meeting for weeks. Imagine how well you’d do up against that argument, so there was Joe and his beloved caregiver, Michelle Caldwell, her sister, Patsy, his 42 group, and me (as a one-time invitee), in the party room of the Longhorn Tavern Steakhouse on Friday night.

As before any meal with Joe, he asked the group to grow quiet prior to the food being served so we could offer thanks. There are exactly three men in this town who I believe say grace as if they were in true conversation with the Heavenly father in “real-time,” and Joe is one of them. Joe never failed to offer thanks, fully and completely for all the blessings he saw in the world and around the table he was gathered. So many people have known Joe “all of their lives,” if they were born in Wheelock, raised in Hearne, were early friends with Joe at Texas A&M, served with him in the military or met him because he walked into their business offices on a whim one day to introduce himself and compliment the CEO on his landscaping outside his building.

Natural beauty and nature’s beauty were important to Joe. As District Engineer for the Texas Highway Department, in his ultimate position with the organization he joined immediately after graduating from Texas A&M, Joe took great pride in planning ahead for traffic that wasn’t even there yet. He had the engineer’s gift of seeing things in two and three dimensions before they were needed, while most of us are grateful to observe our closest natural environs that surround us.

It was on March 24 this year when Joe was again celebrated in The Eagle and on KBTX-3 for the 50th anniversary of the opening of the underpass of University Drive at Wellborn Road, a feat that took 10 years and the sum of $1,000,000. As Kelan Lyons’ story notes, it was “the first time two roads had been vertically separated in Brazos County.”

Watch the KBTX video of the ceremony and see that two generals, Hanover and James Earl Rudder, were on that dais that day. Both gave a lifetime of service to Texas A&M, the state of Texas, and in military service to their country. Both are heroes to many, yet for different reasons. Age 98 had been much better for him, actually. Yet, it was only a few weeks ago that he was driving himself to First United Methodist Church on Sunday mornings.

Forever faithful to his church, Joe might not feel at 100% but if he was in town, he was in his Men’s Bible Class, likely the eldest member of his contingent, and then at 11 a.m. worship service in the sanctuary, surrounded by his family, Ragna Tolson, Tim, Holly, and Kate Scott, Pat and Mike (Holly’s mom and her husband), and family Lynn and John McKemie.

Up in the choir would be his favorites, Rev. David Henry, FUMC Music Minister and Choir Director, and of course Bill and Susan Birdwell, singing in the choir. Suzanne Smith would also be part of that family of worshipers. When Joe’s sister Sarah visited, she was right there in the pews with him, and when Bill’s sister Betty or daughter Bonnie and her family were in town, there they were with Joe in charge. After church, Joe would head out to a meal with his “lunch bunch” as he called them. They’d wind up at Buppy’s (often), Jose’s, C&J Barbeque, and wherever they were was where the fellowship was.

During the week, Joe had a schedule that was as far away from “retired” as you could possibly get. That was the secret of his youth—staying busy. First, you have to know that Michelle Caldwell, his adoptive daughter, was in charge of air traffic control and the only one who knew where Joe was, always. She had his cell phone forwarded to her phone so if he wasn’t at home, and if he didn’t answer his cell, she’d know about it. That was just one act of love for the man she adoringly called “Papa H.”

If you didn’t know she was family, or even when you did, Joe always beamed with pride as he told the story of love, about how Michelle’s mother, Patsy, took such loving care of his wife Lucille, particularly in the end of her life as Lucille’s battle with Parkinson’s grew long. I recall the first time I met Joe (and Lucille) was as a member of the FUMC Church Choir (remember they let anyone in). We had gone Christmas caroling to visit various church members in the hospital, in nursing and retirement homes, and David always made a special trip by Joe and Lucille’s as the evening wrap-up.

You’d hear Joe tell about how Patsy was taking wonderful care of Lucille, and years later, you’d hear how Michelle was taking wonderful care of him. He counted days, weeks and years and kept meticulous records of how he spent every day of his life. He had the journals to prove it. When the odometer turned “27” on the number of years Michelle had been with Joe, he just beamed. Her children also called him “Papa H.”

Just as sure as God is good, God had blessed Joe with a second daughter, and grandchildren as well. Joe and Lucille lost their daughter to cancer at a far-too-early age, and she and her husband had not had children at that point. In the past many years, Michelle would drive Joe to Dallas, and she’d spent the weekend with one of her daughters there, and then they’d drive back together. The bond of love they share was always so precious to see, as the example of a father-daughter relationship created that transcended age, race, and the definition of family as an entry on a genealogy tree.

There wasn’t a thing Joe needed that Michelle didn’t find a way to make happen. She knew his doctors’ appointments, knew his schedule, knew that his dear friend Johnny Bond would be by on which days to pick him up for lunch, or when she and Joe would go out to the American Legion Hall for coffee on Thursday mornings. He was a busy man. He’d been out at the farm in Wheelock, he’d be busy building picture frames (his own creation) to gift to friends with enlargements he’d had made and he’d be up at the church doing whatever was needed that he could, when he could.

Joe, Lucille, and Jocille Hanover were always an integral part of the church leadership at FUMC Bryan. In the “old days,” (60s, 70s, 80s) of the prime growth of the church, Joe and other local businessmen whose names are well known in the community were, literally, the pillars of the church. It was a day and time, friends, where there didn’t have to be slick campaigns designed to trick people out of “love gifts” for this, that, or the other for the church. One of the pillars would stand up and say, “there’s a need,” and after church, the business leaders would gather and get out their checkbooks and solve the problem with no fanfare, no fuss. Done and done.

In the 1990s as I was becoming part of that church, I walked into a church controversy where there was an opportunity to build a new parsonage for the senior pastor. Not everyone was united, riding aboard that train, but that didn’t bother Joe. Not only did he contribute finances, the retired civil engineer was over at the construction site, almost daily, supervising so much, including the laying of brick pavers in the back yard. Whatever he did, Joe was “all in.”

And now, as to how our worlds interacted that changed my life forever. It was two occasions in a Part A and a Part B way, separated by a decade. Out of respect for those with different opinions and hard feelings still lingering in the airstream…let me just say that he agreed with me on a matter of church business that was of a great concern to many in the church. Although he didn’t know me well, he listened as I made my case and was all in, ready to travel with me, meeting two others of us, in a meeting where he put his full power as a multidecade member of the church behind my statement of facts. He’d judged me through others’ and his seal of approval made it possible to be heard.

In life, you don’t always get the results you seek, whether you’re as right as rain, and do everything for the right reasons or not, because in the end when there are two sides, there can be residual resentment. That’s always the price you pay for standing up against a swelling tide of opinion who can drown you out by sheer volume, and yet they’re wrong (as I, and others, saw it). Joe didn’t care what others thought of him when he stood up, and I added that to my life lessons as well. I never forgot how he stood up for me…and I promised myself that one day should he need me (though that prospect was laughable and far-reaching), I’d be there for him.

The phone call from Michelle came in 2015, just as I’d finally carved out a week of ‘vacation’ to finish a project that was important to me. This is to say I’d already booked that time with something I’d been really waiting and wanting to do. My plans changed with that call and it would impact me and my schedule for the next 14 months.

Michelle said, “Hello Dawn, how are you?” I replied, “Doing great; how are you and how’s Joe?” “He’s fine,” she said, “and he has a question for you.” “Okay, put him on.” He said, “Dawn Lee, I have two cassette tapes here and they need transcribing. Do you know anyone who can transcribe them for me?” I said, “no, I’m sorry, Joe, I don’t.” The question was simple, right? So was the answer. I didn’t. Anyone who did that who I knew had retired from that work and the last time I’d done that was 1995 and that was a one-shot project that netted me about $.25/hour at the end. Never again!

Here’s the part you’ll laugh at. You’d have to know Joe. When he had something on his mind, and plenty of time to give it thought, there was no such thing as giving up. So, he continued. “It’s really important to me.” He had me at that sentence. I listened with a newly opened mind. “You see, in 1985, an A&M History Professor named Terry Anderson interviewed me and transcribed the interview. It was part of a project that had been funded by the Association of Former Students to interview Aggie graduates who’d gone on to achieve the rank of General or Admiral in military service to their country.”

“Hmm,” I said thoughtfully. “Well I was just sitting here in May (2015) and I got to thinking, it’s been 30 years since that interview and I’ve done a lot of interesting things in that time. I thought I might like to have that written down somewhere, too. So, I called up Dr. Anderson out of the blue and asked if he wouldn’t like to come by and maybe interview me again, and he said that yes, he’d like to do that.” Story continues. “I have here a written transcript of the interview in 1985 and these two cassette tapes and I’d like to have them transcribed. Michelle said you were the only person she could think of who would know exactly what to do.” I was really stumped. I’d not even been thinking about the work I did in the early 1990s with people who transcribed audio recordings and my mind wasn’t filling with solutions. I could only say to Joe, “Let me see what I can do.”

I checked with one friend and she’d retired, so no-go. Then I went online to see who might be available…the bad news was that the price for transcribing 120 minutes of audio recordings (not digital, so you’d need the latest in 1990s cassette transcribing machines) would feed a small city for a week. Oof. Now I was obsessed…how was I going to solve what had been his problem and was now my problem because Michelle told him I was the “only” person he knew who would know? Haha. Started trying to transcribe them myself. Three hours later, I had 250 words or, 5 minutes done. Doing the math, I didn’t have 180 hours.

I prayed. My friend, Carolyn, called and said she’d found her old machine and would come out of retirement to bail me out. Yes! So, it would take a few weeks, but I called Joe back with the good news and he didn’t seem as delighted as I was. He said, “I knew you’d find a way. Now all I need to do is get that printed out and then I have this other first part that’s printed and it’s bound. It’s a little old. Thirty years. And then maybe I can put them together down at (XYX store). They said they could put them together when the other is printed out.”

Hmm. I asked him what the print looked like, single-spaced or double-spaced so I could make sure the two parts were the same. He said, “Double-spaced, printed on one side of the page only.” “Hmm.” That started the avalanche of thought….1985. Printed out. That meant coil binding from back in the day. When I delivered the double-spaced new interview to Joe and Michelle, they were thrilled. I wasn’t.

For the first time, I saw the 1985 product that Joe had…a Xerox copy of a maroon aged (lightened by time) coverstock cover and a poor-quality Xerox copy inside, where you could tell it was a copy of a copy and it had vertical lines going down the Xeroxed pages. The 2015 copy was pristine, the font was different, and it was on a computer file. The 1985 model was from a “latest model” IBM Selectric. Typed by a departmental assistant no doubt. No computer file to merge or format. I asked Joe, “Is this your best copy?” He said, “Well, I’ve had a few copies made through the years, about 10, I think.” You know what’s coming next.

You’d have had the same reaction...I couldn’t just let General Joe have two completely different looking segments of the accounting of his life look like a train wreck. I said, “This won’t do.” That week of vacation quickly disappeared as I took Part 1 to my fave copy store, tried to have the pages imaged and scanned it, hoping to be able to do a fast reformat and font change, etc.

Apparently the latest in 2015 software is “allergic” to the IBM Selectric font from 1974. This meant retyping all of Part I. I turned on my favorite CDs and began typing. As I typed and read and typed and read, I was fascinated by the story of the man I knew from church, who I didn’t really know at all.

What began as a random good deed turned into a history lesson. I was touched by Joe’s life as a young man, his falling in love with his first-grade sweetheart and the number of times he had asked her to marry him before she’d say yes. The conditions surrounding said union would require him to complete his degree at Texas A&M and his having to have a job secured. He did both and Lucille, finally, said yes.

An amazing man of innovation, his approach to military service and problem-solving was impacted also by Lucille’s ability to follow protocol, manage discipline, and her business sense as she held a job as well. Joe kept faithful diaries of what he did every day of his life, and every day in military service, and he used to say, gently but proudly, that he doubted many other military men would have been able to produce the same records.

I believed that to be true. I remember that in the past decade, occasionally he’d call upon me to type a letter or two for him, because I was so quick at doing that, and naturally I was delighted to do whatever he needed. What pleased me was the story of his meeting the first U.S. Army’s first named African-American general and how proud he was to meet him. Joe said it was the first general he ever met, and he loved the opportunity to shake his hand and hold a conversation with him. Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. was Joe’s first military role model as general.

Over the years, Joe supported the work and mission of U.S.A.F. General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., who was commander of the World War II Tuskegee Airmen. I know because I typed the letters when he enclosed the checks. Their organization publication did a small writeup about Gen. Hanover as one of their supporters and told the story of how he’d met Gen. Davis, Sr.

No one outside Joe’s closest family and friends had a clue about the depths of regard and respect he had for people of all backgrounds. Especially today, when I’m daily being made aware of how that attitude is (still) not always universal, is it refreshing to know there was a 99-year-old man who didn’t distinguish how to regard and treat others based on any barrier or difference of any type. Joe Hanover was a man ahead of his time, all the time. Yet, he was very modest so you wouldn’t know, even if you sat in the same pews with him at church.

At the end of the week, I wasn’t done, so I sandwiched in the merging of documents and formatting into bits and pieces of the subsequent two weeks. Finally, I was thrilled and Joe said he would like to see a copy. I went to my fave copy store and my “team” where I do business weekly and asked their help in a making a new cover. My team did not disappoint. I asked Joe what he thought and he loved it. Michelle did, too. The next question was, “How many do you want to order?”

Cover photo courtesy of Martin Powers Publishing; Lucille Scasta Hanover and Gen. Clifford Simmang, share Joe's pinning/promotion to brigadier general.

At this point the fun began. Michelle and I started rolling our eyes and exchanging knowing looks when he said, “About 10 will do it.” And in unison we shook our heads, “No.” Puzzled, he said, “What?” We said, “That’s not enough.” And he replied, “Okay, maybe 15.” We weren’t having any of that. We got him up to 25 and that’s as far as he’d go. With respect but stifling giggles, we said, “Okay, that will work,” meanwhile casting knowing glances at each other that he’d be out of those 25 faster than he could blink.

We didn’t have to wait long. About a week later, my phone rang. “Well, it seems like you girls knew better than I did.” Thing was, we could only get him up to 25 at a time. I tried to explain, to no avail. Michelle tried. No go. All was well and he was past his first 50 copies that I’d delivered, and he mused, “I wonder what this book would look like if it was hardbound like a real book.”

Eleven months later, he had an answer. The intermediate 11 months were full and there were many conversations about “the book” and it took on a life of its own. The process was straightforward but I must single out my friend, Rhonda Brinkmann, who generously donated 12 hours of her time over two weekends to help me format the book. We had great fun watching two career editors working off of one computer with three screens. She’d work for a while, one way, and then I’d go in and try to learn from that, do my thing my way, and the discussions that ensued about how I work on three computer screens were nothing short of hilarious.

Joe, however, knew nothing about the depth of my lack of knowledge of the nuances of Word and/or Adobe. So, he missed out on hearing gems like, “I never knew Word could do that,” from me, or “Now, wait. What did you just do? Let’s undo that.” It was a learning experience for me, to be sure. I made sure Joe knew of Rhonda’s amazing contributions when the project was completed.

In the interim, Michelle would call some days and say they would like a third to help with the onion rings they planned to order at Cheddar’s, could I come? Then there were evenings when Joe would call and ask if I was thinking about Dairy Queen the way he was. Turns out, I was thinking about that very topic when he called. Joe even said prayers of thanks for all that we’d been blessed with before he ever sank into the ice cream cone with the little curl on the top.

After some careful research, checking, validating and uploading to print a sample copy, the spec copy was ready. When Joe saw the sample, his eyes lit up like it was Christmas. Of all the looks I’ve seen on Joe’s face during the past 20 years, that was the one to remember. It didn’t take two weeks for his first order to be delivered. When I brought them over, Michelle and I both had fun teasing him that he’d run out of his first order fast.

Once again, he stood firm in his position that 25 would be all he’d need. We smiled and shook our heads when he wasn’t looking, although he probably knew what we were doing and enjoyed the joke with us. My phone rang a week later. Seems he was planning a reorder. Oh, did Michelle and I have fun with that, gently of course. All three of us were laughing til tears came into our eyes.

Initially I set up the ordering process online for social media to help get the word out about his new book. Then a few weeks later, I turned operations headquarters over to Michelle and Joe and I knew he was having the time of his life sharing his book with his friends. He autographed each copy and personalized it carefully, using amazingly legible engineering font that showed he’d never forgotten his early Engineering Design Graphics (EDG) classes from back in the day at A&M. You can always spot an engineer by his or her printing. Architects have their own distinct style as well. It’s a “tell.”

I have my own copy of Joe’s book here that he personalized to me and for the life of me, right now, I can’t bear to walk over and get it from its special place on my publications table to open it. It’s just too soon to see it again. There’s plenty of time in weeks ahead.

The gift of time that we can give one another far exceeds the value of any other gift, monetary, property, or tangible treasure. Joe Hanover gifted me with many hours of his time, and it was an honor and privilege to be with Joe in our adventures along the way. My time spent with Joe and his adopted daughter, Michelle, are among the happiest days of my life in the past five years. God blessed me with their friendship and any small thing I did for Joe is nothing in comparison to the gift of time he shared with me.

In the grand scheme of things, I’m just one of his friends and a more recent one at that. Across the Brazos Valley, in Bryan, College Station, Hearne, Wheelock, and Dallas, there are those who have loved this amazing man with all their hearts, and have for all of their lives.

Joe also had a wonderful sense of humor. He loved dishing out the teasing and gave just as good as he got. One local businessman, who regarded Joe as a second dad, would have the best time when inviting Joe to accompany him on a brief trip here or there. Joe could talk to anyone of any age on just about any topic. He was well read, kept up with the daily news on television and was a regular encyclopedia of Aggie sports trivia. Until his final years, Joe attended Aggie football games, some basketball games, Aggie baseball games, and maroon and white were indeed his favorite colors, as they had been, all his life.

An entire church owes him an unremittable debt of gratitude for things seen and unseen that he did in their worlds. The FUMC Church Choir could always count on one of Joe’s annual fish fry parties as his way of saying, “thank you” to the choir for their music. Rev. David Henry could count on dynamic lunchtime discussions of history and church organ music, as Joe’s nephew is an accomplished church organist in his own right.

Many Methodist ministers who served FUMC Bryan know what a difference Joe made (behind the scenes) to see that annual significant funds were given, so that good things could happen in the life of the church. That was just classic Joe Hanover. Everyone talks so often about “a servant’s heart.” Joe’s daily life would be the poster for what that truly means.

Photo (left) taken by and shared on, March 2017, age 99 years, 1 month, taken at University Drive West, just past the Wellborn Road overpass.

The picture of Gen. Joe on the University Drive median shows him resplendent in his trademark Aggie baseball cap, khaki trousers, pressed short-sleeved shirt and suspenders.

You’d never have a clue he was 99 years old that day, or that eight weeks later he’d cross over to his Heavenly reward. Joe was the kind of soul you truly thought would live forever.

So, at the end of his life here on Earth, yes, it’s hard as anything to bid him farewell, but anyone who knew him well, and knew well his faith, knew that he was staying busy every day while waiting for the day when he could be reunited with his beloved wife, Lucille, and their beloved daughter, Jocille. He was with us 99 years and three months. You couldn’t ask for a better example of faith and you couldn’t ask for a better reason to let him go than to rejoin them.

As it is written in John 14:27:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Our hearts are not troubled tonight. Godspeed, Joe, and thank you for all your time here on Earth with all of us.

Joe G. Hanover, Jr.

February 10, 1918 – May 22, 2017