A tribute to Charlie T. O'Leary, a great man

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There are a lot of people in the world; 7.5 billion to be exact. Most of these 7.5 billion people are nice people who want nothing more than to live their life in peace and tranquility. Then there are the evil others. Evil people tend to make the news more frequently, because they are more inclined to behave in a way that draws negative attention. Bad news trumps good news.

On this Sunday morning good is triumphing over evil. Yesterday I attended the funeral of Charlie T. O'Leary. Outside of the Manchester/Dorset area I'd wager that you've never heard of this man. No, your news is dominated today by a paranoid, narcissist, egomaniac; Kim Jong-Un (you were thinking of our own president?). Today we've learned that Mr. Kim has developed a hydrogen bomb that could be placed on one of his many missiles that might blow up the world. Good for him. This creep couldn't carry Charlie O'Leary's water.

Charlie was a dirt guy. He owned a backhoe that he used to dig. He dug foundations for homes; water lines to supply the homes and septic systems for ... well, you know. "So, big deal," you say. What's so special about a guy who digs dirt? If you care about the survival of this planet then it's worth it for you to know about Charlie O'Leary.

I knew Charlie for as long as I can remember. He was part my life; a big part. In 1979 he built the road to my home, dug my foundation and installed my septic system; just like he had for many others. When discussing the price for this work he said, "I'll dig your cellar-hole for free." I said that I wasn't looking for a favor. He said, "Well, I am."

"What?"

"I just got a new backhoe; one on tracks that turns 360-degrees. I'd just as soon practice with it at your place where no one can see me."

In 1966 I was 15 years old. That same year Charlie had contracted spinal meningitis. He was very sick and was informed that he would have to remain in the hospital ... during deer season. Those who knew Charlie knew that he'd rather die in the woods. He checked himself out of the hospital to go deer hunting.

My dad told me to hunt with him and to "keep an eye on him." It was an honor to hunt with Charlie even if he was almost dead. We both weighed about 140 lbs, but he was yellower than I. We were not too far into the woods when Charlie, who knew I had been "assigned" to watch him and appeared not to be too thrilled with my mission, said, "Sit on this stump for 10 hours and don't move. I'm going just over there." I was suspicious, but learned to do what I was told from an adult; although 10 hours did seem harsh.

I hadn't been sitting on my stump 10 minutes when I heard just one shot. He called my name and I came running. Down at the bottom of the ravine laid an 8-point buck with a hole through his antler.

"We gotta get that deer up here." We looked at each other with apprehension of the task ahead. We descended the slippery bank and arrived at the deer. We each grabbed an antler and started to pull with all our might. We moved the deer about a foot when Charlie said, "Hope you're not expecting much help from me."

Charlie was kind and a help to all. With the unlit cigar butt forever in the corner of his mouth (I never did see him light a new one) he went on about his business of helping those who needed his extraordinary talents. He was a bigger help to me than I was to him even if we did, together, manage to get that deer out.

Bob Stannard is a regular Journal columnist who lives in Manchester.

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