I recently read that there are now a million words in the English language. I used to think that I did a fair job of arranging those words into meaningful commentary, especially when the subject was the glory that was Newton County in the idyllic 1960s.
I have never composed anything that approached the eloquence that Tony Harris displayed while delivering the eulogy at his brother's funeral Tuesday afternoon. Those words obviously came straight from the heart and the strength to deliver them could have come only from God.
Stanley Walker Harris, of Covington, was born on Dec. 3, 1946 - one of the very first Baby Boomers. He passed away on Feb. 23, last Saturday. He was only 61 years old, and as the preacher said at the funeral, "We are all stunned."
Stan Harris was one of my boyhood heroes - a member of the 1964 Newton Ram State Championship basketball squad, and not just a member of the squad, but a star. He was an All-State player who could shoot the lights out. He was also, as his coach Ronald Bradley told me Wednesday morning, a total team player. "Whatever the team needed, Stan would do."
You could apply that assessment to his entire life.
As I grew older and had the opportunity to know Stan Harris on a more personal level, I never found a reason to change the lofty opinion of him that I developed as a star-struck grade school kid watching him play on the greatest team ever assembled in this neck of the woods. He was every bit the man that he was the basketball player - and that's saying something.
And, I knew Stan on a number of levels, too. He and his wife Becky gave me the great honor of coaching their daughter Trudy - what a marvelous experience that was - and he even gave me a job once, at a time when I really needed a job.
Stan was always the same. Full of life and energy, always busy, always about a good time - that sly little smile never far from his lips and that special twinkle never far from his eye.
He stayed in shape and took good care of himself and treated everyone he encountered the way he wanted to be treated - and, yet, cancer claimed his physical life at the incredibly youthful age of 61.
We can't help but ask "Why?" Of course, there is no answer. I certainly don't know why Stan Harris died so young, but I know why he lived.
He lived to be an anchor of one of the greatest families ever to claim Covington as home. It is fashionable to talk about family values these days. The Walker Harris family has always been the very epitome of what the American family is supposed to be.
Mr. Walker, former Covington mayor, built a family business on his good name and honest values, and Stan helped keep the business going for almost 40 years, working alongside his father and other family members and eventually running the entire operation himself.
He lived to be a life-partner for Becky who, to me at least, always seemed more like Stan's bride than his wife. How wonderful it must be to remain in love with your spouse for four decades - and it was obvious that Stan and Becky did just that.
He lived to be a father to Trudy and Matt, and I know that he was great one. He lived to be a brother and a brother-in-law and uncle and grandfather and friend and a role model, a shining example, if you will, to many of us, of how life is intended to be lived. And make no mistake about it - Stan Harris died way before he should have, but he knew how to live; did he ever know how to live!
It was obvious that just about everyone who ever came in contact with him realized that, too. It was obvious from the sheer number of folks who came to the funeral home and church to pay their respects. It was obvious from the words of those who spoke at the funeral - Tony, Stan's niece, Laney, and his two pastors all gave tremendous insight into the character and personality of Stanley Harris - traits that will never be forgotten. And it was obvious from the comments of the people who spilled onto the sidewalk in front of the First Baptist Church after the very touching memorial service, which was a true celebration of Stan's life.
In his eulogy Tony Harris indicated that his brother truly loved Covington, and it was very obvious Tuesday afternoon that Covington loved him back.
We will all miss him, but so many lives will always be better for having known him. I know for a fact that mine is one.