Mack, Gene and Shorty… Pause … Just saying those three names makes me think this is just how a Grammy-winning country song – real country music not today’s country rock stuff – would begin.
Sadly, this is not a country song. This is a tribute to three men who recently passed away in my hometown. No, they were not famous, nor were they infamous as far as I knew, but folks knew who they were.
But isn’t that always the case in a small town in the south like Cochran, Georgia?
Riley Mack Grantham, Jr., was born on the second day of November in 1937 in Cochran. He was the father of four, grandfather of five and great-grandfather of six. He had worked most of his life – first at the old Vogue Theater in downtown Cochran, then he had a newspaper route for the Macon Telegraph & News and then he was an inventory item management specialist at the Robins Air Force Base for 33 years. A farmer and an outdoorsman, Mr. Mack had a few side businesses, a food mart, a game room and The Ice House, and Graham’s Garbage Service, and had several rental properties.
Edward E. “Gene” Towns, was born in Telfair County three days before Christmas in 1936, but had lived in Cochran most of his life. A U.S. Army veteran, and a 1954 graduate of Dodge County High School, Mr. Gene owned Towns Insurance Agency, served as Mayor of Cochran and was a former City Councilman. An avid golfer and hunter, he was an active member of his church – Empire Pentecostal Holiness Church. He and his wife of 60 years, Annie Laura, loved several nephews, nieces, great nephews and great nieces as their own.
Howard “Shorty” Little was a life long resident of Bleckley County – he was born September 2, 1927. A U.S. Air Force veteran of the Korean War, and owner of Little Plumbing, Mr. Shorty was a former Cochran Police Officer and a deputy with the Bleckley County Sheriff’s Department. He was a member of Limestone Baptist Church. The father of two boys and one step-daughter, Mr. Shorty also had four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, all of whom he adored.
Mr. Mack was 81. Mr. Gene was 82 and Mr. Shorty had turned 92 recently.
Two of the men I knew personally, the third I knew through professional reasons. Several weeks before he died, I had a conversation with Mr. Shorty that stuck in my heart. It was around his birthday – he told me that turning 92 didn’t bother him. “Age is just something there. It doesn’t mean you’re wiser or better than anyone else. What makes a difference is in how you live your life straight up and down.”
Each of these men had a distinctive characteristic about him that will make his absence in the community felt. From Mr. Mack’s unique way of fixing things to Mr. Gene’s willingness to help anyone – his generosity was something he gave away but he also made sure you earned it to Mr. Shorty’s ‘shoot straight’ honesty and his laughing eyes, all three of them made an impact in the lives they touched.
And most of the time, they weren’t trying to do that. They were just being themselves.
Wouldn’t this world be a better place if we all would just be straight up and down ourselves?
Rest in peace, gentlemen, it was a pleasure knowing you!