We lost Kat’s younger brother, Everett Bear, on July 3rd to mesothelioma. He was the French-i-est of her family, bald before 60, dark and stocky, and when he allowed himself to unleash it, the owner of a mega-watt smile.
Everett followed an inverted career path. He worked little until middle age, but then he worked a lot. He was a welder who specialized in building pipelines. He was also a decent electrician, unlicensed, but he got the job done. He was a husband and father, once early, and once again late in life.
He welded in Maine with an old fellow who pitched eight years of Major League Baseball, Carlton Willey. Carl had a career ERA of 3.77 (pretty good), and had he come along 60 years later, Willey would have earned around $30,000,000 in his career. But timing is everything, and his lifetime baseball earnings were less than $100,000. “Bear, they didn’t pay us nothin’!” Willey told Everett lots of baseball stories, but since Ev had never been a fan, he remembered none of the names. Those stories probably involved my childhood heroes Warren Spahn, Joe Adcock, Eddie Mathews, and Hank Aaron, who were the stars of Willey’s team. But like Willey and Bear, those stories are gone forever.
Everett was happiest outdoors, and he loved hunting and fishing. He could have been a wonderful fishing guide, but he pursued it as an amateur. He took me and Kat fishing in the salt marshes below New Orleans a time or two, and we caught several red snappers and on today’s market, $100 worth of blue crabs. A crab got loose on my end of the boat, brandishing both claws to hold me at bay. Everett told me “Step on him lightly, grab him by the swimmer; then drop him in the hamper.” A crab’s swimmer is analogous to the human arm. It begins at a powerful shoulder, and in decreasing strength has an elbow, a wrist, a palm, and then instead of fingers a paddle. He should have told me “Grab him by the swimmer where it joins his shell.” I grabbed the paddle. The crab did a quick finger-stand, rotating his entire body using the muscles connecting its paddle to the hand, laid open my thumb with a claw and nearly cut through my thumbnail. This all took maybe a second. The crab flew up in the air, landed back in the boat, and somebody else caught him.
Everett’s youngest son went through an odd phase when he was seven or eight. Casey loved to chew on electrical cords. One morning Ev grabbed his cell on the way to work, and noticed that the charging cord had been chewed through completely. The battery was dead, and that phone won’t work until it’s recharged with another cable. Ev told his wife “When I get home tonight, I’m busting Casey’s piggy bank to get the $20 for a new charging cable.” “No! You can’t do that with his college fund!” (Remember, I told you he had a wicked sense of humor.) Old Everett told her, very calmly: “Any kid who likes to chew electrical cable has no business going to college.”
1952 – 2016
Gone to the Happy Hunting Ground