Fondly Remembering Mr. A.J. Arthur

beaverdamusa.com, mark grissom, chicago cubs(Note: As we were preparing to publish Mark’s blog, Mr. Arthur passed away. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. Here is the blog in its entirety.)

Unless a miracle takes place, I am about to lose a very good friend, Mr. A. J. Arthur.

To most of you that know Mr. Arthur, you remember him as the manager for a little over 50 years at Cooke’s Food Store in Cleveland, Tenn.

Some of you remember him, as a matter of fact….MANY of you remember him, from having his late wife, Ann Arthur, as your schoolteacher.

aj arthur, mark grissom, beaverdamusa.com

Mr. A.J. Arthur and me.

My journey with A. J. began a little over four years ago when I started attending First United Methodist Church.  I sat in the second from the last row with Mr. Jimmy Barger my very first Sunday.

I remember looking across the aisle at this very stately, handsome, well-dressed gentleman.  I could not place him, but his face looked very familiar to me.   (I find the older I get, I am not good at remembering names of individuals, but I seldom forget a face.)

After church that Sunday, Mr. Arthur came over and shook my hand and welcomed me to First United Methodist.  He knew exactly who I was from seeing me at the funeral home.  He told me what he had done for a living and I immediately remembered him.

He was the friendly face you saw when you went into Cooke’s Food Store to purchase your groceries.  Always friendly.  Always a big cut-up.  And always in a good mood.

Oh yes…one more thing….ALWAYS flirting with the pretty ladies!

Several Sundays went by and I continued to sit with Jimmy Barger and Don Wood at church.  And then one particular Sunday, A. J. decided that he and his friend, Bill Kibler would make the big move from their particular pew and walk across the aisle and sit with Jimmy, Don and myself.

That was when my journey with A. J. began!

As every Sunday passed, I got to know Mr. Arthur a little better.  I got to hear him tell stories of his days at Cooke’s Food Store.  I got to hear him tell of how many young men and women got their first job because of him.  Every time Robert Bradney came over to our pew to shake hands, as he walked away, A. J. looked at me and said, “I gave him his first job.”  And a big smile would light up his face.

I knew I was in the “The Club” when one Sunday, right after the closing hymn, A. J. and Bill Kibler invited me to go eat lunch with them.

WOW!  I had finally arrived!  I was a part of the A. J. and Bill “Men’s Club” and I was headed to Denny’s Restaurant!

I met the two of them for lunch and they kept me laughing the entire time.

I learned real quick that A. J. Arthur was “A Ladies Man!”

He flirted with every waitress in Denny’s that day.   It was pure joy to see these two elderly men have such a great time and they thought enough of me to allow me to be a part of their fun.

I had no choice that day of what I wanted to eat.  I was told that we would all three be having the “Seniors Breakfast Special”.  That consisted of two eggs, bacon or sausage and two pancakes.

Now, I am not supposed to eat the pancakes due to my diabetes, but you try telling that to these two, old stubborn men!  Nothing doing!!  I was going to eat those pancakes and they would make sure I had sugar free syrup to go on top!

Over the past couple years, A. J. Arthur and I have developed an incredible friendship.

We would talk on the phone two or three times a week.  We would go out to eat a couple times a month.  (Prime Rib at Outback was his favorite.)

We made a trip to Madisonville, Tennessee one day to a butcher’s shop to buy some fresh bacon, a whole country ham and one more thing.

A.J. wanted me to try something that I had never eaten in my entire life…. SOUSE MEAT!

First of all, the looks of souse meat are enough to make you want to throw up.  Sorry…it just does.

However,  Mr. Arthur told me I was going to try it and I knew better than to argue with him.  I would lose!

We stopped at a convenience store and picked up a couple packs of crackers.  We got back in the truck and opened up the pack of souse meat.

Mr. Arthur cut a small piece and put it on a cracker and handed it to me.  “Eat that”… he exclaimed!  So…I did.

I must admit it was not all that bad.

I asked A. J. what was in souse meat.

His answer that day was one that I shall never forget.

“Everything on a pig that they are not allowed to sell”!

Oh Great!  I immediately started thinking of how I would have food poisoning for the next three days from this piece of souse meat!

I did not get sick.  I ate more souse meat.  And A. J. Arthur and I had the time of our life that day.

I had the honor of giving him a ride to church on Sunday morning after his health failed enough to the point the doctors told him he should not drive.

I learned more about “life” in that 10-minute ride to church and the 10-minute ride back to his apartment at Garden Plaza than I could ever have imagined.

He has made it very clear to me exactly how he wants his funeral to go.  Who the preacher shall be…and whom he wants to sing.

He has told me more than once, “I do not want it to be sad, make sure they say something funny”.

Class, Funny, Christian, Polite, Kind, Loving, Peaceful, Dignified, Gentle, Warm, Giving, …and a servants heart.  Those are the words I would use to describe my friend, A. J. Arthur.

I go to visit A. J. a couple times a day at the nursing home.

I always rub the top of his head.  I always tell him I love him.

He always responds in a low, shallow voice…”I love you too, buddy”.

This morning, my friend looked up at me with his eyes half open and said….”Goodbye, Mark…I am ready to go”.

My New Years wish for those of you reading this blog…that you find your “A. J. Arthur” …and cherish every moment with them.

Dear Lord, give my friend A. J. comfort and peace, I pray.

About Mark Grissom

Mark was born on the north side of Chicago in 1964. Raised a Cubs fan by his dad, he never had a chance in life. He moved to Cleveland, Tennessee, in 1988. While he lives closer to Atlanta now, he will never be able to leave the religion of "Cubbie Nation." Baptized as a Cubs fan at the age of five, he has no choice but to live the remainder of his life here on earth in mediocrity at its best!

Comments

  1. Ginger Gobble says:

    I had the privilege of working with AJ at Cooke’s for several years. I was scared to death of the man! Everyone warned me that he would probably come off as hateful and for me to pay him no never mind. I grew to love the man and I wasn’t quiet sure how he felt about me until I quit to be home with my baby. He asked me on several occasions to change my mind and come back to work. Tony worked there before I did and he appreciated AJ and had much respect for him. AJ really thought the world of Tony. Tony was the one who taught me how to take AJ and really see the great man that he was. There will never be another like him! RIP AJ! You will be missed!

  2. David Smith says:

    Wow, Mark:
    You nailed it!
    What you didn’t know was at work, A.J. was strick, but fair. I know, he was my boss, my mentor, and my friend. I have known A.J. for 50 years.I either worked for him or with him most of that time! He was a smart business man, as well as a good family man.
    You will be missed “J”, but I know that you were ready to go!

  3. Hoyt Clark Sr. says:

    Mark thank you. I enjoyed the read. I have had those experiences in my life many times and they all still live in my heart. Thank you again for sharing. God Bless.

  4. Patty Hurley says:

    Such a wonderful tribute, Mark. Prayers for family and friends.

  5. Everybody needs someone in their lives like A.J. Arthur. I never knew the man, but he sounds like someone I would have liked very much. Great blog, Mark. Glad you’ve returned. Oh yes, I have a souse meat story in my life, as well … the first time I ever had that … stuff!

  6. Mary Duncan says:

    I met AJ about 2 years ago when he came to my facility after a fall. The minute I walked into his room and introduced myself we hit it off. He was stubborn and opioniated but he knew he met his match with me. I help him regain his strength but he was determined to get better. One of the hardest things I had to do was tell AJ he couldn’t drive anymore and Garden Plaza was a better fit instead of going back home. He only agreed to go to assisted living if I had lunch with him once a week. So I did to help him transition.We had the best time. Laughing, talking about his wife (who was often the topic of our conversations), careers, family and he never went a day without telling me how he couldn’t wait to see his wife again. AJ transitioned okay to his new life style. Often see him roaming the halls with his walker and “tilted neck” as he called it. I even caught him driving his car one day and we had a long talk about that resulted a few tears. His family would often call and say, ” he won’t listen to us can you get him to understand.” Bless his heart he even told our doctor that he would need to discuss a medicine change with me before he agreed to take it. Although being his “rock” as he called me was a full time job from him coming to the therapy gym looking for me daily or phone calls at night asking if we were having lunch the next day, I think AJ helped me more than I did him. He taught me what life was about from career, love, friendships and loyalty. When my boss informed me he was in hospital my heart dropped. I went to visit, but that was not my AJ. The next morning he was back at my facility and I brought him breakfast, biscuit and gravy. I spent over the course of my day 2 hours with him that day before he passed. I cried quietly most of the time but he said to me, “I love you but stop being selfish, let me go home with Billie…I’m going to die.” I told him I understood. The next day I received the news that AJ had gone home. I find joy in his reunion with his beautiful wife and being in a place where there is no sadness or pain. I am so happy to read that AJ touched so many people like he blessed me.

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