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Remembering Geoff Tennant

Remember When column

We heard of the sudden, unexpected passing of friend Geoff Tennant this morning at McDonald’s. Shock registered on all the gathered faces. All wondered how we can have Polk County without Geoffrey Tennant . . .

 He had made himself so much a part of everything that he was a cherished presence everywhere. Some people will doubtless come forward for us to close ranks around, but it will take several people to fill Geoff’s shoes properly. Maybe we should just retire them! 

One wintry night a visiting friend and I began to experience CO (carbon monoxide) poisoning.

My computer was then in the furnace room of my big house in Holly Hill. The furnace kept turning itself off, so the man who furnished it advised me to wire around the flame roll-out switch. I foolishly did this, and the furnace kept burning, but it was filling the room with CO.

Judy had been working with me, but had gone back upstairs. I was determined to get my column sent in to the Bulletin, and was happily working at that. I was having problems concentrating, even thinking that that might be the last thing I ever did, but I did not care.

I had learned in pilot training that one of the signs of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) was a feeling of euphoria and loss of mental capability. As soon as I hit “Send,”I went upstairs and found that friend Judy was also not feeling “right,” so we all went to St. Luke’s.

The ER people put us on 100% oxygen for two hours to break the bonds of the CO with the blood cells that normally carry oxygen. We spent the rest of the night at Days Inn!

I called the Fire Department next morning to report the CO incident, and Geoff soon arrived with no CO sniffer; he returned later with a brand new one. A furnace guy had come to put things right with the furnace. Geoff had advised against occupying the house until he had cleared it—and the furnace!

On one of the last calls Fran made to 911, both Geoff and EMT Marshall Lipscomb arrived promptly and both hooked me up to their EKG machines. They studied the tapes the machines were creating, and both informed me that my heart was working fine. They did not think I had an attack.

Fran told Marshall to take me to the ER anyway, so he did. They kept me for three days, but that’s another story . . . 

Geoff often rode one of the bicycling machines at PRO Physical Therapy. He would pull his towel across his face, so I called him “El Bandito.” I would ask him if he had got to Saluda yet, and he’d say “No, still working my way up Miller Mountain.”    

When I asked a lady who was on the same machine later, she replied “Oh, no. I’m going to Charleston!” Love to get a quick and apt response.

You will have to read his obit to learn of Geoff’s manifold contributions to life here in our fair county. I only write of first hand experiences with my subjects. As I so often reply, I am not a historian, or even a news reporter (though I could be), but rather just a “story teller.”

I lack the imagination to invent stories, so what you get is just the way I remember things. As Sgt. Friday used to say, “Just the facts, ma’am.” My “facts” are subject to correction by folks who remember stuff differently. I cheerfully run their corrections—along with their names. 

After all, I learned the essentials of newspapering from Mr. Seth Vining, Sr., himself. Among the gems he shared was to mention as many people as possible, and to spell their names right.

I must end with a heartfelt salute to a great American, friend Geoffrey Tennant. And add that at least, Alice now knows where he is!