Ronald Tilton Davis April 1, 1933-September 13, 2012
I feel compelled to put into words a story that won't mean too much to most of you, but to me, it is one of the most important stories as far as it's lasting effect on my life. To understand this story, I need to give a little bit of historical, cultural, and circumstantial background. I was born into an extremely close-knit family on a secluded island in the south in 1978. I am the third of six children, 4 girls and 2 boys, in that order. My father was the tenth of ten children. I was born into a world full of family. My Hancock grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were as much a part of my life as my own parents and siblings. Everyday involved interaction with my extended family. As I have grown and come to know the “real world,” I have realized how rare this situation really is, but I have also developed an immense amount of gratitude for parents who allowed these relationships and for the island that fostered such unity.
When I was young, my mom used to substitute teach on occasion to supplement the family income. When she had to leave her brood of little girls for those days, it became tradition for each of us to stay with a different aunt/grandparent so that no one person would bear the burden of four little toddlers. Emily would go to Sister's or Aunt Drexell's, Joella would go to grandma's (Joella was always her favorite), Leah would go to Aunt Thelma's or Sister's, and I would always go to Aunt June's.
Very quickly, my stays at the Davis household increased. There were several years where I went home from church with Aunt June and Uncle Ronald every Sunday. I'd ride the bus to their house several times a week and they never made a trip to town without me sitting on the arm rest of the Ford LTD right between them.
In a very real way, Aunt June and Uncle Ronald were my own personal set of grandparents. For most of my childhood, they had no grandchildren, so I truly felt like the apple of their eyes. It felt as normal to me to be laying on their living room floor watching baseball with Uncle Ronald as it did to be home with my own family. I have such vivid memories or riding around the island with Ronald. It was before the days of mandated seat belt use, so I just sat right next to Ronald up in the front seat. We'd listen to 95.1 WRNS. I remember listening to Alabama, Randy Travis, and Johnny Cash. We'd always stop at Billy's or Cab's and get a Bit O' Honey to share. Ronald never forgot to get Aunt June a 5th Avenue and a Dr. Pepper to take home to her.
I knew I could call him at any moment and he'd come get me. He came to my softball and basketball games and when I had my own kids, he came to their games. He was as devoted as any uncle or grandfather ever could be. On the days when I'd ride the bus to Aunt June's, I remember waiting at the door for Ronald to get home from Cherry Point. Aunt June would always have dinner ready right at 5:00. I'd sit on a little stool right between her and Ronald. I loved then, and still love, rice with gravy. Ronald despised rice. He always told me it was because they made him eat it in the Coast Guard, even when he didn't want it. Maybe he just told me that so I could have more for myself, but even until the last time I visited with him, he asked me if I wanted some rice.
I could go on for an hour recounting specific experiences with a dear uncle that played a huge role in shaping my life. But if there is anything I want to my children to remember, it's that Uncle Ronald knew how to love and, in his own way, he served those he loved. Sometimes that service was just in his offering Aunt June's service, but he really did love other people. I knew he loved me, Aunt June, Ant and Margo, Jennifer, Margaret, the Cleveland Indians, and the Democratic Party. I learned from him that the Democrat is the voice for the working man. I learned from him that Aunt June is the only good Hancock to come from the whole bunch! He and I watched a whole lot of Braves baseball on TBS, but I knew that his team was the Cleveland Indians. His granddaddy's name was Cleveland, so it only came naturally to love Cleveland.
The world where Uncle Ronald lived was so much simpler than the world my children will know, but I hope they learn from him that family is truly the only thing that matters. They knew him as the uncle with bubble gum who loved to watch them swing a bat, but I will make sure they know how dear he was to me. I wish they could have know the Ronald I knew, before diabetes, back trouble, and old age took a lot of his endearing qualities away, but that's the Ronald I choose to remember. I can see him now in his old yellow Ford, windows rolled down, country music on the radio, and Aunt June by his side.
Uncle Ronald returned home today. I picture a glorious reunion between him and Tilton and Marie. He was their only child and I know they are overjoyed to be with him again. I mourn for Aunt June. He has truly been her constant companion for nearly her whole life. We will miss him here, but the promise of eternity is a beautiful gift. So long for now, Uncle Ronald. We'll meet again. Love you the most. Aly