Agnew Peacock was a rock of a man in his days of yore. The passing years, however, brought about a decline with his health that made him compatible with the notion that sometimes it is better to leave this sometimes discordant world than to remain with agony riding shotgun in your life.

Likely, there are many who will take in the following personal ruminations without knowing my neighbor and close friend who lost a battle with lymphoma and other complications a few days ago. Agnew died in a hospital, longing to be home.

You did not have to know my altruistic friend to appreciate his remarkable selflessness and modesty. Perhaps there is one in your circle of friends. One in your neighborhood. I wish for every neighborhood, for every street, every neighbor an Agnew Peacock.

In his youth, Agnew was one who seemed physically indestructible. He could build and fix with the best. Nobody could make do better than Agnew. He gloried in being able to work. It was as if God had said to him, “I have given you two hands. Let them never be idle.”

Those who knew my friend were keenly aware that never in his life, did he keep company with idleness. When the sun came up, Agnew joined Ol’ Sol for a long day of manual labor, glorying in earning his bread by the sweat of his brow. He went through life with a sobering half-grin, half-smile that emanated from the kindest and gentlest heart. He could not have brought himself to do bodily harm to another human being unless his family or his property were threatened. Had that ever come about, the perpetrator would have soon realized he had made a very foolish mistake.

My guess is that Agnew moved across the street from us at least 35 years ago. It wasn’t long before I began singing his praises as the “World’s Greatest Neighbor.” We were always pleased to host a party and include Agnew and Hilda. I would introduce him with the aforementioned sobriquet, which brought about a blushing moment for Agnew, but it really was true. We loved introducing our friends to the “World’s Greatest Neighbor.”

He was always pitching in. For shrimp cookouts, he would eyeball the boiling water in the cooker and pronounce it just right to dump a carton of frozen shrimp into the pot. Sometimes he would put the tip of a weathered finger into the water which brought a nod of approval.

He was always inspecting our house in a good neighborly way. “Your gutters need cleaning. I’ve got somebody who can do that for you. I will call him.” The next thing you know, I would come home from work and my wife would announce that Agnew’s friend had cleaned the gutters.” When a bill was not forthcoming, we would call the gutter cleaner and he would say, “Agnew took care of the bill.”

I would walk across the street and protest to my friend and he would say, “You can get the next one.” Further questioning would lead Agnew to say. “Well I didn’t pay for any football tickets last fall, so we are even.” Agnew had a friend who had excess firewood. When the first dip on the thermometer came about in October, I would come home and my side porch reflected a becoming state. A truck load of firewood was neatly stacked and ready for use.

About suppertime, there would be a knock on the door and there would be Agnew, grinning and handing over a small box of kindling wood. “Here,” he would smile, “you will need some of this.”

Agnew played for Athens High in the Fran Tarkenton era. He was older than Fran, and was a very good player. As you might expect, he played in the line, never seeking any tribute but forever bent on being a good teammate.

Following high school graduation, Agnew went to work with Georgia Power, which never had a more loyal and dedicated employee. In his down time, he bought and spruced up houses, which he would sell for a profit. No man ever was more enterprising. He would find a good house on an attractive street, give it a makeover, move in and live in it for a while. Hilda had very good taste and the house as they say, “looked lived-in.”

Before long, some prospective buyer would make an offer. Agnew would call the moving van and the “World’s Greatest Neighbor” would soon upgrade another neighborhood, turning a tidy profit in the process. There was pure joy in working. It brought about fulfillment for him.

Agnew had no vices. He abstained when it came to alcohol. He preferred a vegetable diet, but that does not guarantee greater longevity, but he left behind a legacy that could be envied by the Pope.

I don’t know if St. Peter needed a carpenter when Agnew Peacock showed up last week, but if heaven needs any “fixing-up,” the right man is now on the scene.

Loran Smith is a UGA announcer and a columnist for Mainstreet Newspapers.

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