Remembering Joe, Frank, Hunter and Tony 

Published 12:16 pm Wednesday, July 26, 2023

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I was shocked to read of the passing of a cousin who was also a great friend. Joe Becknell was a son of my first cousin Sylvia Gaines Becknell, whom I met when we were about five years old. I was a city boy, new to the country, and Sylvia seemed to know everything, while I knew nothing of value!

Sylvia married about the time I went away to the Air Force and she began having some pretty wonderful children. Joe was one of her boys, who married Doris and fathered Lee and Kelly. I gave Lee some photos of the F-18 Super Hornet that I was working on at McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis. 

Joe visited my brother Bill when he was in the Navy at San Diego. Bill was amused by Joe’s response to nearly everything Bill said: “Shoot yeah, boy!” Kelly was a loadmaster during her brief stint in the Air Force; lotta responsibility for a young girl!

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I never visited them very much after I moved here; I guess it was because I could see them at any time! I also never went to Chicago from St. Louis, because I could go any time.

I have learned via email of the passing of my friend Major Frank Ortiz in Florida. Frank was an active volunteer with several organizations when he and Audrey lived here in Tryon. Frank and I were active in some of the same ones. I guess that is how we became friends . . .

I also received word of the passing of Dr. Tony Waldrop recently. I did not know Dr. Waldrop personally, but I knew and loved his father, Hunter. Dr. Waldrop was an overachieving track star when he was in High School here. He went on to fame when he broke four minutes in a mile run at an indoor meet at San Diego. That record held for many years. 

When he and wife Julee visited family in Columbus, they would run to the top of White Oak Mountain. Former track coach at Polk County High School and present mayor of Tryon, Alan Peoples, also did this regularly for years. As a boy, I found merely hiking to the top of Tryon Peak and back home to Lynn quite tiring!

Hunter gave me a large photo of Tony in track clothes for the Polk County Historical Museum in Columbus. Present staff deemed it too large for display, so you must ask to see it. As a former President of PCHA, I have had to ask to have some displays restored! Apparently the present staff does not know of, or appreciate, what former leaders of the Association accomplished.

Betty and Norme Frost kept PCHA alive for several years before she asked me to plan a fund raising tour of the County. When I appeared before them to give my report, Betty “appointed” me President. I did my bit to keep it going for some eight years. I hope my legacy will outlive me, but that appears doubtful.

In my Remember When columns, I am helping you remember my notable friends who come to the end of their time with us. I hope you will read of their accomplishments and awards of recognition in their obituaries; I just tell you what they meant to me personally. A friend once told me that “A man lives so long as someone remembers him.” Remember Joe, Frank, Hunter and Tony!