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Gentle reader, you no doubt are familiar with the hymn, “Will the Circle be Unbroken?” We, of course, know not the answer to that question about the future, but we do know that as to the present, the answer is definitely “no,” for we find that with each passing year our circle of friends and acquaintances is broken in more and more places.
For example, just in the past few weeks, several folks whose lives have touched ours in one way or another have died. To name a few, some of whom have no doubt also touched your lives are Joe Underwood, Charles Norman, Homer Hamby, Yvonne Utley Hill, and Sim O’Briant.
In addition, although we did not have any close connection with him, Jere Ballentine’s passing has touched us, because of his widow, our teacher and friend, Jane Jones Ballentine, who must cope with his absence after six decades of marriage.
Joe Underwood will always have a special place in our memory, just as he had a special place in our mind inasmuch as he was our very first client after we had begun the practice of law in Harriman in 1959, and we still numbered him at the head of our list of long-time clients when we closed our practice in Kingston in 2006.
Joe was a remarkable person in the estimation of many folks.
We recall some years back when we were talking with the late chancellor, Billy Joe White, and somehow, or another Joe’s name was mentioned.
Chancellor brightened up when he found out that we not only knew Joe, but had represented him for many years and considered him a friend.
Chancellor, while still in private practice, had been employed by Joe to take care of a matter in another county in which we did not practice, and he shared the high regard and affection in which we both held Joe.
The thought that we will never again have the pleasure of talking with Joe Underwood has definitely broken our Circle of friends and acquaintances. Our sympathy goes out to Trudy and the family.
Likewise, the death of Charles Norman has constricted our Circle.
Beginning with Charles’ daddy, the Norman family and all its branches, have always stood high in our regard, but like some other old-time families, there are fewer and fewer representatives of the Norman clan to claim as friends, and we miss them all, but Charlie particularly vacates a special place on the Circle.
Phyllis and the family are to be sympathized with in their loss.
We distinctly remember when Homer Hamby began his long association with Kinser Drugs in Kingston, joining our old friend Marvin Smith in running that longtime institution and upholding the traditions of the store established by Doc Kinser and his wife, Sue.
Homer was not only your pharmacist, but also freely admitted to be your friend, a privilege we, like countless others, were proud to claim.
Donna will have to utilize all her strength of character and her powerful faith to carry on, but we know she will do so.
Likewise, we are confident that Cameron and Vanessa will uphold their father’s honourable role and pattern in their pursuit of their shared profession.
Another honoured member of the Kingston business community whose passing not only lessens our Circle, but also that of innumerable other Kingstonians, is Sim O’Briant. Although we have known many personable and consistently pleasant people over the years, we cannot think of a single one who was more personable and consistently pleasant than was Sim O’Briant.
It was always a pleasure to encounter Sim, whether at his business, or at lunch, or the post office or just meeting on the street, and one never left his company without feeling just a little better than you had before the encounter.
It was an honour to know Sim, and he’ll be missed. Not only has his family suffered a great loss, but so has the community at large.
Another facet of old time Kingston has been dimmed.
Yvonne Utley Hill was a dear soul, whose life was marked by a strong desire to make the world a better place, especially for the poor and downtrodden.
Unfortunately, like all of us, she was burdened by her heritage, which, try as she might, she could not wholly overcome. But it is not whether we win or lose, but how we run the race that ultimately counts, and Yvonne ran the race with her whole heart.
Both her father, who was a brilliant man, a professor at the University of Chattanooga, and her mother who was a member of the Farmer family from Rockwood, shared the infirmity which they passed on to their daughter — who despite her most valiant efforts, could not surmount it.
But we honour her for those efforts, and the innate goodness with which she tried.
We trust that she is at long last at peace.
Finally, we felt the news of the death of Jere Ballentine with almost the same reaction as that of the above listed friends and acquaintances whom we had seen and dealt with regularly for so many years.
Although we had met Jere on occasions, it is because of the profound loss for his widow that we too feel loss.
Jere was married to Jane Jones Ballentine for sixty-one years. Jane is one of the old-line Jones family of Roane County, a member of what might be called the Swan Pond branch, being the daughter of Frank Jones, the niece of Ernest, et al.
She was one of the beloved faculty that taught at South Harriman High School, of sacred memory, including those of us of the class of 1953.
Jere was employed at TVA, ending as power plant manager, and he and Jane moved to Rhea County many, many years ago, but remained members of Swan Pond Methodist Church.
Although she has the memories of six decades to give solace, we sympathize deeply with Jane and her children in their loss.
So, whatever the answer may be as to the future heavenly chain that binds the Circle may be, in our case at least, many links have already been broken.
We can only hope to forge new links to provide the comfort and pleasure we have derived over the years from these ties that have recently been severed by the deaths of these whom we have known, loved, and respected.
May they all Rest in Peace.