My granddaddy was the only father that I ever had in my life and I have memories of fishing with him as young as 3 in our little 14 foot boat on Lake Okeechobee. Him telling me stories about dropping the latern overboard and hooked it weeks later and it still burning. I believed at 3. Him teaching me to cut grass when the 2nd bar of the lawn mower was taller than me, of him buying my first bike and teaching me to ride, of the stories he told and the buildings he shared that he worked on on Miami Beach like the 4 ambassadors, the first 40 story bldg in Miami.
My granddaddy was a man of honor and integrity and this time of year is the hardest for me as my grandmother's birthday was yesterday and she passed in 1990, and my grandfathers birthday is Nov 18th and he passed in 2000, their anniversary is Nov 28th and they were married 54 years when she passed.
She was rather sickly her later years and always a housewife, but he stood by her and loved her and he instilled this love for family and God in me.
I think back to the work ethic as being one of his greatest gifts. He and I both have one speed when we work and that is UNTIL THE JOB IS DONE. He was so proud of me because he always said he never finished school as a boy but he still learned life and math and he instilled that in me and I lived to never disappoint my granddaddy.
By second grade, I could do multiplication to the 12s and by 9 years old, I would just for the challenge go grocery shopping and run totals on the basket including sales tax and have the total by the time we checked out. It didn't matter if it was 5 items or a whole cart.
It has never stopped and I have a photographic memory for numbers and I am a human calculator even today. This was the greatest gift my grandfather was so proud of as he pushed me to be the first person in our family to finish college and he was there for every single award to celebrate with me.
I remember at 13, he was driving me to lawn jobs around town as before I was 16, I already had a successful business and helping my mom with money. And still managed to graduate with a 3.75 in 3 years of a Bachelor's degree.
I remember his selflessness as he would fish for the fun of it, and put the fish in his deep freezer, then twice per year would host the entire neighborhood for a free fish fry. These started just after he retired at 62 y/o and continued until his stroke at 76 years old. His fish fry was so legendary, the Sheriff, police, fire, mayor and anyone that's everyone showed up.
One of my fondest memories from when I was about 5 or 6 was we used to go fishing from Miami to Lake Okeechobee and always bring back fish. He would sell these fish to a wonderful gentleman named Mr Williams and his wife Addie Mae Williams. They would resell some and cook others for themselves. I remember, Mr Williams died very young and for 5 more years, whenever we went fishing, he always brought back fish for Addie Mae. He took care of her until he retired to Lake Okeechobee almost 7 years later. He said it was just his way of keeping her husbands memory alive.
I remember in 1987 at the ripe young age of 76, he was retired and enjoying his fishing every morning before daylight. I was working in Orlando I believe when I got the call. My grandfather had a severe stroke and was being rushed to Indian River Hospital as Okeechobee couldn't care for him. It was 45 minutes from Okeechobee and 110 miles from Orlando but I nearly beat the ambulance to Vero Beach. When I get there, I find out from my grandmother that in the Florida Heat in the middle of July, my grandfather was picking up trash for his neighbors in a trailer and hauling it to the dump just for gas money. The reason: the garbage haulers had TRIPLED the rates of their mobile home park and rather than force his neighbors to pay it from their fixed income, he told his neighbors to just pay him gas money and he would pick it up and haul it to the dump. Always helping others, at 76 years old, he had a heat stroke hauling trash just to help his neighbors save money.
I owe the world to my grandfather and I tell people everyday something he taught me and even yesterday, we had a woman say that she quit our office because she couldn't get enough help, but at Keller Williams the training is the one thing we do better, and more for FREE than any company out there today.
All you have to do is SHOW UP and learn anything and everything you need to succeed.
So when she said that, I challenged her by saying: My granddaddy said you can hand a man a fish and he will eat for a day, but you teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.
And if you want my help I will take time from my business and mentor you to become the agent you can become. I will TEACH you to fish just like my granddaddy taught me early in life.
Do you know what happened today at her appointment? She didn't show. So there you go. She wanted the world to keep handing her fish and I would not be doing her any favors if I did that.
Bottom line is your contest hits home especially at this time of year. I miss my granddaddy so much, but one thing is for sure, he lives on in me EVERYDAY and the tools and the gifts and the lessons and the love and the life we shared will never be forgotten.
This is in Honor of my granddaddy and the only father I ever knew HENRY BRANTLEY SMITH 11/18/1911 to 10/17/2000.
I will forever miss you and love you and carry your name PROUDLY!!! And I am ETERNALLY THANKFUL for everything we ever learned, shared, and did together. He is my true HERO.
And one shoutout to his LIFELONG FRIEND, MEL GREENFIELD. These 2 guys met on one of my grandfathers first jobs in Miami Beach working construction for Turgeon Construction and Mel was a concrete man while my grandfather a carpenter. They remained lifelong friends for nearly 55 years and Mel was one person that came to his funeral and I knew this man as my uncle as it was always my granddaddy, Uncle Mel, and myself fishing in that little 14 ft boat from the time I was 3 until I grew up.
Kevin BRANTLEY Tolbert