This is a sad story and a sad day and I will forever be asking… why?

Leroy Oakley, “June”, left this earth the kindest, most loyal, hardest working, happiest, most fun loving, smiling fisherman in the world.

I don’t know how to tell you how much this man meant to me and my family, but he knew. If you didn’t have the chance to meet him and know him I will tell u he was a hell of a man. And more than that, a simple man. He loved his family more than anything and the Oakleys are real family, to each other and me. 2day I pray for and mourn with them.

Leroy Jr. was the most polite and considerate person I ever met. “June” was happiest at home and with his family… or fishing.

Leroy’s smile was fabulously contagious and you could see through his face if he was ever bothered by something. He cared, he tried, and he worked.

No one in my life has been as loyal to me as Leroy Oakley. I know of no other that could be his equal. He made me a better person and I thank him and Leroy Sr and Miss Johnnie, for showing me how a good man behaves.

Saturday was a busy day at the Broken Spoke and it was lunch time when one of my servers came back in the kitchen and said, “Mr. jay, come quick, somebody on the deck said some man was having a heart attack!” I ran to the deck and hollered, “who is it?” and “where are they?” The customers on the deck said it is not here, the problem is across the street!

My heart pumped as they pointed to Leroy and Kay’s house. I ran as fast as I could, darting across the highway and ran into the back yard to find my friend Leroy laying on his back as one of my customers pumped CPR compressions on Leroy’s chest and Kay was crying. She had been to Walmart and on returning, she found her fiancé lying in the back yard. She screamed, “Help! Somebody get Jay” and screamed my name until someone sent word to me.

I am EMT trained and she knew it and I just knew I would be able to help – even if Leroy had had a heart attack or heat stroke –I was confident I could help but I was too late and she was too late because God had already called Leroy home.

As I crouched down beside Leroy, I was unable to open his airway and it was evident to me that my friend was dead. In deep regret, after checking for a pulse and not finding one and after trying to open his mouth without success, I walked over to get out of the way as the EMTs were arriving. As I squatted with my head down asking “God why?” I spotted a snake not more than 5 or 6 feet from my fallen friend.

“Hey, there’s a snake, get back”, I said and went to grab a yard rack leaning against a nearby tree and I came back and poked the snake with it and determined it was a deadly, dead copperhead.

I pointed this out to those in charge and asked if they had any anti-venom with them and they said no.

I went to Leroy’s feet and Kay said she thought she had seen some blood near his ankle so I picked up each leg to examine his ankles. His legs were stiff and lifeless and at that moment I knew without a doubt that he was gone from this earth and I was to late to help save my friend.

I hugged Kay for sometime and left to come back across the highway to tell my wife. She was in the front yard and asked what happened and I told her and we cried in each other’s arms.

See, Leroy was not just my neighbor; he was my “Rock”. That is what I called him, “the Rock”. I leaned on the rock all my days in Savannah. He was my number one man in Barker Landscaping and had been working with me for over 20 years. Every morning I’d sing, “He’s the rock that I lean on.. he’s my rock and I ain’t gonna throw him away, he’s my rock and I ain’t gonna throw him away.” And Leroy would laugh and I’d smile and off we went to landscape the world.

Leroy could turn more work than me easily and I’m stout. Well, he was stouter. It didn’t matter how big or hard or long the job was, he could finish it. I’d start it…. The Rock would finish it. And he loved to finish. He was fast and deliberate and would work on each project until I made him quit. He never asked off and he gave 100% every day in all he did.

Leroy loved to fish and hunt, but mostly fish. Many days he would work at double time pace, just so he could go to the river and fish. Our orange Igloo cooler would be filled with ice and water in the morning and then around noon, I’d buy us a case of beer and drop it in the cooler. Leroy’s eyes would light up cause the best part of our day was beer 30. After working hard, cold beer was standard issue and we would sit on the tailgate of the truck and reflect on our work at each day’s end and sometimes drink on into the night, laughing and talking and we loved each other.

I loved Leroy like family and he loved me. Our love was family deep and forever. He was the brother I never had and he was loyal to me and me to him. We went through both lean and fat times, but always together we made it through.

In the year 2000, I got busted for pot and I was so full of anger at those who set me up that I was determined to leave town. So by God’s grace and plan, a friend, Jay Cotter, called from Florida to check on me and he said, “what are you gonna do?” and I told him I wanted to leave town, explaining all the reasons why I felt the need to leave. He informed me his company was in need of a landscape foreman and that I should apply.

I was flown down to Florida and signed a contract to work for REW Landscaping out of Orlando. Part of my contract was that I got to bring Leroy with me and my dog Boo and they had to put me and Leroy and Boo up in at least a 2 bedroom apartment that allowed big pets. Leroy and I went and landscaped Florida and Boo did too.

I never thought I’d see a day come that there would be no Leroy, no Rock, no Jun,….no way.

He was 48, with a birthday just around the corner on July 3rd. I am 55 and lucky to be alive, and a better man from learning from Leroys color blind vision and sharing his brilliant smile.

But my friend was unlucky on this Saturday, as he took his scrap food to feed the fish in the creek behind his Pickwick house, he stepped to close or on a copperhead and was bitten. He knew he was allergic to wasp and bee stings, but did not realize this copperhead would set off this same reaction. Leroy apparently went to the back porch and got a yard rake and killed the snake. Before he could place his call for help, Leroy collapsed with his phone open and in hand.

If ever God put a better man on this earth I never met him and with Leroy’s untimely passing our earth has lost one of its best beings. I often told my wife and Leroy if I were to pick one person to get in a fox hole with and take on the world, it would be Leroy Oakley. He would flash that big smile and laugh and say, “Jay, that’d be alright with me.”

In 2008, I left to go to Costa Rica and Rob Bailey had asked me if Leroy could do some part time work for him and I said yes. Leroy was so loyal to me he would never work for others unless I said it was ok, so I encouraged him to think about working with them full time. My future in the states was too uncertain and my restaurant business was hit hard by the recession. I wanted Leroy to have a future of happiness and prosperity when I was gone. He got the full time job with the TAMS company and was very successful and valued and respected there. He was as happy as he had ever been and his glowing smile proved it ever time I saw him.

I have no doubt heaven is better off and the earth is lessened with Leroy’s death.

His smile is what I see every time I breath in and I wonder… why Leroy?…. and I cry.

Folks around Savannah called him as “Jun”, short for Junior, but to me he will always be “the Rock”….the rock that I lean on, he’s my rock and I ain’t gonna throw him away. He’s my Rock and I ain’t gonna throw him away….and I am just a ole chunk of coal, but I will be a diamond someday….Just like the Rock….Leory Oakley, Jr….a true Diamond

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