My Black Tie
By Jack May In 1989 on this day, the 10th of April, I was in New York City. The occasion was the annual dinner for The Explorers Club of which I am a member. The dinner is a notable extravaganza at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. The event is famous for its exotic hors d'oeuvres and noted explorers.
Prior to leaving my home in Gainesville, Florida, I had dinner with my father, Earl Campbell May. Dad had been in poor health for several months and was obviously declining. The dinner was pleasant, but there was a sense of finality. When I departed, Father and I looked each other in the eye and shook hands very firmly. No word was spoken, nor was necessary.
Anticipating a funeral, a few days later in Manhattan, I went to Bergdorf Goodman men's shop and selected a new black tie. Returning to The Lotos Club where I was staying, the receptionist met me at the door. "Sir," he said, "you have received four phone calls from Florida." I did not need to see the notes to understand what had transpired.
That black tie was worthy of the occasion and remains very special.
Attached is the funeral notice for my father, Earl Campbell May, truly a great man.
Earl Campbell May died in the Spring, at the very time life was refreshing itself and beginning anew. This may seem a bit sad to his friends at first until we remember it couldn't have happened any other way. Poopa lived his entire life in the Spring! He was a refreshing man of continued new beginnings. There was no "better" time for him to precede us on one more expedition. Besides, all small and uncertain societies such as this one here today, send their best men ahead to poke around, pave the way, and let the others know we may not be such a sorry lot after all.
We do hope that the others—those yet to be encountered out there somewhere—don't expect the rest of us to measure up to our beloved emissary though. Poopa was the only one we had. Oh, we’ve got some fine and splendid folk still among us, people we love and can respect, but there are none better.
There’s an old saying that goes "You can't take it with you." Well, Poopa did it again. He took it with him. It would take a generation of historians to recount just what Poopa did, in fact, take with him.
He took a lifetime of intimate, under-the-leaves, knowledge of wild places. He knew, not only the antelopes of the veldt, but he knew what those little worms were that every few years got on his tomatoes. He took with him a knowledge of how to cut and weld great sheets of iron into a figure of astounding beauty and imagination. He also worked to create beauty more delicately, with watercolors and with the clean, precise words of his poems.
He was a quiet, natural leader of men, with a drawerful of military decorations. It was funny, in a way, how other strong, dynamic leaders took pleasure in Poopa’s approval. He was a man's man, and, although some would expand that phrasing, we, his friends, will just say he appreciated beauty where he found it.
Poopa also took with him a generosity that reveals the heart of a kind and caring man. He was not only generous at the community level, supporting this foundation and that, but personally with support for countless and nameless people who just needed help.
So, with Spring upon us, and a freshness in the air as newborn calves stand blinking at the morning light, let us keep in mind that renaissance implies rebirth and that Earl Campbell May, our beloved Poopa, was among the last of the Renaissance men.
EARTH Alive, awake we anguish for the dead, we wail and weep. But it is for ourselves that tears and tearing at the heart are done. We dcl not grieve because the earth reclaims its own. We weep because we're suddenly deprived of good companions, sound judgment, and familiar counsel.
FATHER FRIEND RACONTEUR HUSBAND BUSINESSMAN ARTIST CRAFTSMAN SPORTSMAN EAGLE SCOUT BAPTIST MAJOR COLONEL KENTUCKIAN GRANDFATHER SCHOLAR-RESEARCHER NATURALIST FISHERMAN HUNTER PHILANTHROPIST
"The real reward in life is not the goal or the destination, but the journey along the way!"