Today I have a funeral for my neighbor, Wallace Creed.
I was only 7 when my family moved from Sunset Drive near the hospital out to White Plains. I thought of Wallace as an old guy back then, but now that I think about it, he was younger than I am now.
My dad traveled frequently for work in those days, so there wasn’t much chance to mingle and get to know each other. But over the years, friendships formed.
Once when Dad and I were stuck trying to fix my car, Wallace’s son Dewayne jumped in to help. Literally. He climbed on top of the engine to reach the problem on the back side.
The road we live on is a dead end and of little priority to the local government when winter weather hits. If it snows on Monday night, a truck might come by on Friday to see how bad the roads are.
Wallace had a farm tractor, so he attached a snow blade to the front of it. He would go up and down our street, doing the county’s job and making sure folks like me could still get to work.
When the county announced that every street would have a name, even dead-end roads like ours, it was an obvious matter to name it after Wallace. Of course I bet after filling out tons of government forms over the years, my neighbor probably wished his address was something simple like Oak Street instead of the lengthy Wallace Creed Road.
More than a decade ago, Wallace was diagnosed with cancer. He and his family battled through that trying time, and once he was declared clean, Wallace said he wanted to celebrate.
With his birthday approaching, he decided to throw a neighborhood party on the grounds around his house.
It was a sight to behold how many people showed up to celebrate the life of a friend, relative or loved one. I joked that Walmart must be empty with all the folks that showed up.
Wallace was one of seven kids, so he had plenty of siblings, nieces and nephews to go with his own four children and 13 grandkids. Including cousins and in-laws, Wallace seemed to be related to practically everyone in a five-mile radius — except for me and my family. Still we were welcomed with open arms.
In fact, the birthday party was such a hit, not only did he decide to do it again every year, but another big event was held each year for the Fourth of July.
The nature of my job means I sometimes work on holidays, so I missed a few of those parties, but I attended a good share. They were full of food, laughter and attempts at karaoke (with varying degrees of success). Wallace himself took up the microphone and sang a few songs — and did a fine job.
Wallace spent 28 years working for the N.C. Department of Corrections, so he obviously had some toughness to him or he wouldn’t have survived. But when surrounded by family and friends, the joy and kindness showed through.
There is an old saying: You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
That’s certainly not true in our community. We all knew what a positive influence our friend was, and that makes his passing all the harder.
Our little street was busy with traffic in recent days with folks dropping in to wish him well. I’ve been busy with work and a broken-down car; I kept meaning to stop in, but I never made it.
Today, the family will receive friends at noon at Little Mountain Baptist Church. Then the service will follow at 2 p.m.
Wallace gave plenty to his community, even though he was never a wealthy man. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Moody Funeral Service to help pay funeral expenses.
Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.