A classmate of my mother's, Charles Carris, passed away recently. I went to his funeral, and while I expected there would be a number of people there, I was not prepared for the standing-room only crowd.
As the time for the service drew nearer, people kept coming into the church. Extra chairs were set up in rows behind the pews. Then chairs were set up along the wall. Eventually most everyone was seated, except for a few fellows in the back who preferred to stand.
There weren't many tears, at least not for the family. Perhaps they had shed their tears in private; but I certainly had the impression that their faith is so strong, their belief in being together again so prevalent, that tears weren't necessary. This funeral service was a shining tribute to a man who was loved by so many people that a mere building couldn't hold them all. What a legacy he left.
Charlie, or Chuck, however you knew him, left his mark on the world and judging by the people who came to his wake and funeral, he left his mark on hundreds of people as well. When I read his obituary, I chuckled to myself. In it it said, "He graduated in the top ten of his class." It's an inside joke. There were only 10 in his graduating class of 1948, and they referred to themselves as "The Top Ten."
The Top Ten were an extraordinary group of people. I didn't know them all, but another of the stellar examples of giving and caring was Roger Testrake. Roger also passed away not too long ago, and he too was paid tribute in a fitting manner for his many good deeds.
Theirs was a generation who gave of their time and talents without being offered an incentive, or urged to do so by gaining school credit. They offered themselves because it was the right thing to do; it was ingrained in them, perhaps from growing up in the Great Depression; I don't know. All I know is I was a recipient of their drive to improve their community.
The Top Ten are dwindling fast. All three of the boys are gone, and only three or four of the girls remain. They were a tight-knit group, keeping in touch, more or less, over the 60-some years since they left high school. They cared about each other, even though they may not have seen any of their classmates in decades.
When it is my turn to meet my Maker, I want people to say things of me that were said about Charlie and Roger.
I want to be remembered because I was good and kind; industrious and always willing to lend a hand; gentle and friendly; loving and laughing my way through life.
What a stellar example this group gave us; an advanced course in humanity all wrapped up in individual lives. I want to leave a mark that will be remembered long after I'm gone, and I have a roadmap to follow, thanks to Charlie and the Class of '48.
Robyn Near is a Ripley resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org