Yesterday I got the saddest call I’ve ever received. My friend Marie had a catch in her throat as she asked “Have you heard?”
I’d heard that same catch two years ago when she called to tell us our friend Gary had died. I knew what was coming was going to be bad so I braced myself for the saddest news I’ve heard since I lost my mother..
Robert Harrell, an indescribable man and a friend to everyone he ever met, died Monday after a car accident in our hometown of West Point, Mississippi. There was some question if he had suffered some sort of medical episode which caused the wreck.. I don’t know the details and this is not an obituary, just a few thoughts on a remarkable man who had a positive impact on so many lives.
Robert and Caroline in front of one of his many attractions at Robert’s World.
I’ve written about Robert many times and he has a whole chapter in my book “Love Laughter and Losing my Keys.” He was an inspiration and a role model on how to live a life full of vitality and unbridled joy. In fact, I never saw him without a huge grin on his face and he possessed that endearing quality that made everyone he met feel like the most important person on earth.
Robert was brilliant – seriously, I think of him as West Point’s Leonardo da Vinci because he had a curiosity about everything – he had many interests and pursued them tirelessly never considering that anything was impossible.
He was to be our guide when we walk the Appalachian Trail because he’s done it – reminds me to stop putting off our dreams before its too late. Our dream of walking the trail no longer holds such promise of a first-rate adventure without Robert along to keep us entertained.
My favorite memory was one sultry July afternoon when Robert drove Daddy and me in his golf cart out into the woods surrounding his house to show off what I’ve begun thinking of as “Robert’s World”. He kept up a running dialog of fascinating tidbits of trivia – explaining the length of a furlong and what the abbreviation “cc” means on a prescription bottle – important stuff like that.
The legendary Robert Harrell was giving us a tour of what amounts to an amusement park. At least it was an amusement to Harrell, its owner and developer, who built a small community in the woods surrounding his Old Waverly Road home.
As long as I can remember I’ve been the recipient and distributor of “Robert Harrell stories,” some so far-etched I couldn’t believe they were true. If you had the good fortune to grow up in Clay County Mississippi it was practically a requirement to carry in your head a couple of Robert Harrell stories to pull whenever a conversation hit a lull.
My thoughts and prayers are with his wife of a gazillion years, Caroline, and all their children. I remember when they were teenagers and Robert would come to the First Presbyterian Church with Caroline. I would jockey for a seat behind them so I could observe and dream of the day I would find my own Robert. Unfortunately it hasn’t happened yet because there is no other Robert.
So long old friend. You may be gone but your memory will live on in the hearts and minds of all who were lucky enough to know you. Save us a seat up there.