It was sad to learn that my mentor died, he was four years older than me. I had a stepfather and a stepbrother, but it was John, who taught me ropes and guided me through those stretches where I needed a guiding hand. He lived right across the street, so it wasn't like I had to go far to seek his advice. I was 17, and he was 21 and had just got out of the Air Force.
It was John who helped me learn how to drive because I just wasn't getting it when my stepfather was yelling into my ear. He wasn't Mr. Goody Two Shoes because he also bought me my first beer. He also filled me in on the stuff that I would never ask my parents.
I remember attending a dance at the Club Westerner with three of my friends who lived close by. I remember my sister dropping us with the understanding that we would find a ride home. It was getting late, so after failing to secure a ride, we decided that we had to walk home; not knowing what was in store for us. We all lived around the area of Shields Elementary, Dairy Treet and Dick's, which is about 3.5 miles from the Club Westerner on West Constitution. We made it to where PJ's Seafood stands today, when a police car pulled alongside of us and told us to get into the car. My not so bright friend thought they were giving us a ride home. For some strange reason, the cops didn't ask us our names, destination, or whereabouts; it was just a fast journey back to the Club Westerner. They pulled up to the front door and told to go inside where we greeted by more police officers who motioned us to where they were. On the floor was a guy who had been stabbed multiple times and was awaiting an ambulance. The guy was asked if we were the ones who stabbed him, and he said no. We were told to go home, but we all looked at one another as if to say, “that's what we were doing.” None of us wanted to call our parents because even though we were completely innocent; we grew up in households where you were presumed to be guilty until you were proven innocent beyond a shadow of a doubt. The owner of the club allowed me to call John, who got out of his bed to pick us up. My parents went to their grave not knowing the events of that night. That is a secret John took to his grave.
My stepfather was a WWII veteran, so his only advice to me when I enlisted was “keep your nose clean, do as they tell you and grow up.” It was John who told me want to expect and to keep telling myself “it's only eight weeks of basic training, and they can't kill you.” It was John's inspiration that kept me going when a drill Sergeant was cussing me out for stepping on his grass.
When I got out of the service; John's wife and children remained good friends for about five years, and then we drifted apart for no apparent reason. Every time we did meet, we reminisced about the old days and my clumsiness, but I never got around to thank him. You can bet when I go to pay my respect; that'll be the first thing that I will do. Good-bye old friend/mentor.