From time to time in life, you meet someone that at first might not strike you as a person you can identify with. Then, amazing things happen, and, through conversation, you realize this happenstance meeting must have been divine intervention.
Recently, I was privileged to speak to the fine folks at the Beaufort Lions Club. I am not a Lion, and I don’t live in the Town of Beaufort. I didn’t even think I knew anyone in a Lions Club, and I didn’t really understand what Lions were all about – other than providing vision screenings and glasses.
So, I’m at the meeting when this older, by which I mean “more experienced,” gentleman walked up and introduced himself to me. “The name is Artie Heape, young man,” he said. “I am 91 years old, and I am the oldest Lion in this room.”
This took me by surprise, and I responded, “Well Artie, if I may call you that, it is a pleasure to meet you.” Artie replied and looked away for a moment, with a hint of disdain, “If I didn’t want you to call me Artie, I wouldn’t have told you my name.”
Artie began to tell me his life story – his story of being born in Beaufort, growing up here and living his entire life in this community, except for the time when the U.S. government called him away for World War II.
Artie told me how he found his true love. He pulled up to a Sunday function, and she came outside and Artie told her right then and there, “Missy, I am going to marry you one day. You just wait and see.” Sure enough, they were married for more than 60 years.
She has been gone now 15 years, but you can still see that look of young love in his watery, worn eyes.
Artie told me stories of the Beaufort of years gone by and how it has changed. He talked about stores, shoe shops, filling stations and even the big hurricane back in the day when the water was up several city blocks.
Artie kept referring back to his bride, and how one day he would be with her again, holding her hand, and reminiscing about their life together in the Beaufort of their time.
Perhaps stopping and truly listening is becoming a lost art. I think it’s time to listen more often and remember what the Arties of our community have to say.
Those stories are being lost every day, I fear. Someone, somehow needs to record those stories so that our history through the perspective of others is not lost. I know of several people right here in Old Town Bluffton that have incredible biographies to share that would be far better than any Clancy novel we might choose to read.
And I am sure the recording of those stories could easily take place on a front porch with a glass of sweet tea. That is my Bluffton. Is it yours?
Michael E. Covert represents District 7 on Beaufort County Council. mcovert@ bcgov.net