People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering. – St. Augustine, 354-430 AD
I have fond memories of my Grandfather Stites, but there were also some bad ones. I remember as a child of about 7 years of age, I got angry with my mother and decided that I was going to run away to my grandparents. You see, they only lived about a mile maybe a mile and a half as the bird flies from my childhood home. But for a seven year old, without parental guidance, it was a sure fire way to get a spanking. When I arrived at my grandparents, my grandfather Stites was waiting for me. He didn’t say a word. He picked me up placed me firmly across his lap and proceeded to teach me a lesson that I remember vividly to this day. My hind quarters were not finished being assaulted either. When he and my uncle (Joseph Stites) took me home my mother and my father both got a piece of me. That is a sure fire way to teach a child a lesson.
I was never bitter about that affair. I deserved it and my grandfather made very certain after he finished with the punishment to let me know how very much he loved me. Most of my memories of my grandfather are of him relaxing in the chair by the television. Now mind you, my grandfather was a very hard worker. Many of my employers over the years have commented that I received my grandfather’s and father’s strong work ethic.
The day the world stopped for me was February 28, 1991. It was a cold day and we had been living in Russellville, Kentucky. It was about 12:30 in the afternoon and the phone rang. I answered it and on the other end was a hysterical and sobbing female voice. I immediately hung the phone up. When it rang again shortly after, my mother answered it only to find that it was my aunt (Christine Stites) with the news that my grandfather had died. The Coroner placed his time of death at about 8:30 AM. My aunt (Amy Stites) had come in at noon for lunch and found him lying dead in the hallway. He had suffered a major heart attack and although he had felt no pain, that was little comfort to me.
The funeral was awkward as my parents had left the Catholic Church almost 3 years previously. Deep down I was still very much a Roman Catholic but was unable to do anything about it. I honestly do not remember much about the funeral. I do remember that Father Gerald Harcourt Baker preformed the Liturgy and delivered a very generic sermon (he had only known my grandfather for about a year). I do remember that as we prepared to leave the cemetery that cold March 1st day that our car, a 1981 Chevy Caprice Classic, would not start. It seems that the starter had chosen an appropriate place to die even if it was not the best of times to do so.
(Footnote: Father Gerald Harcourt Baker is no longer a priest. He was removed from the priesthood in October of 2018 because of his long term abuse of children. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Owensboro was aware of the abuse for years and did nothing to stop him. Senator Mitch McConnell was also aware and routinely spent time with Fr. Baker.)