by David Wethington
My Uncle Verlin grew up rough. He was the youngest of nine kids raised during the depression in abject poverty. Being the smallest, he was considered the baby of the family. His four older brothers always picked on him. But by the time he was a teenager, he was 6 feet tall and 180 pounds of solid muscle. He made up his mind that nobody would hurt him again.
He became tough. While he didn’t start a single fight, he didn’t back down from any. One night, four men attacked him in a bar. He dropped one on the spot, drove another out the back door, and sent the third into the juke box. They attacked him; he was just defending himself. The police took Verlin to jail, and the attackers went to the hospital.
On Christmas Eve 1957, one of Verlin’s brothers, Herbie, was married and had three girls under the age of 6. That day, Herbie loaded the car with Christmas presents and picked his wife up from work. On the way home, sitting at one of their stops, Herbie turned to his wife and died on the spot. He suffered a massive heart attack and was dead before he hit the ground. He was 27 years old.
5A dozen years and maybe two dozen fights later, Uncle Verlin learned that Herbie’s oldest daughter wanted to go to college. Her stepfather wouldn’t help pay her expenses, so Verlin invited her to explain what she wanted from her education. She told him what she wanted to study. “How much does it cost to go to this college?” Verlin asked. She told him what the first year’s expenses would be, and what money she had saved babysitting and doing odd jobs.
Verlin had never married and had no dependents. He said “You are my brother’s daughter. If I don’t give the money to you, the taxman will get it.” He wrote a check on the spot for the entire semester’s expenses — tuition, books, boarding, everything! Before every semester for the next four years, Verlin sent her another check.
In my senior year of college, I ran out of money. My student loans were maxed out and tuition was due. Uncle Verlin gave me the money I needed. A few months later I was working, and went to pay him what I borrowed. He said I didn’t have to, but I insisted.
He smiled and said “You know, I’ve loaned money to a lot of people and you’re the only one who has ever even attempted to pay me back.” Less than a week later, he was killed in a car crash.
I loved him dearly, and miss him so. Uncle Verlin was a tough, hard drinking, blue collar man who had a million faults. And this world could use a few more people with his heart of gold.
3 thoughts on “Tough on the Outside”
I was deeply and tearfully touched by the generosity of Spirit demonstrated by this man. Selflessness is a
quality woven from godlike threads that ever have their origin within the heart of man. As human beings, we are deeply moved when evidence of heroic virtues of the heart demonstrate themselves in the actions and beingness of our fellow man. They remind us of God and of the goodness that awaits each of us when we breathe deeply of the present moment and find gratitude at being alive. Life and love are intertwined, for a man ceases live when he ceases to love. For those who love, there is no death, and their courage in life invariably arises from a lack of fear of death. It is said by the wise that he who conquers the fear of death, as well conquers the fear of life. Where love is, immortality exists. We are each the hero of our own life and it is our responsibility to make the mundane sacred by ever recognizing that we are on holy ground.
What a wonderful man he was. Altho he had no children of is own, he was more than willing to help his nieces and nephews to accomplish their dreams thru providing money for college when the rest of the family wouldn’t. I have nothing but respect for him because he knew where he needed to put his money to do the most good. A good family man and there should be many more just like him. May he rest in peace.
That is one awesome uncle and the world needs more people like him. Beautiful story.