God needed a handyman in Heaven

Published 10:55 am Tuesday, June 27, 2017

It was in the mid-19th century where an unknown journalist with the Piqua Democrat (a newspaper in Piqua, Ohio) wrote the following:

“Don’t judge a book by its cover, see a man by his cloth, as there is often a good deal of solid worth and superior skill underneath a [???] jacket and yaller (sic) pants.”

The print from that newspaper is so small and faded over the centuries that it’s hard to guess what type of jacket the man is wearing, but the point the journalist is making is extremely clear.

One should not form an opinion of someone or something based purely on what is seen on the surface, because after taking a deeper look, the person or thing may be very different than what was expected.

We’re all guilty of judging people based solely upon their outward appearance. However, if one were to get to know the person and see what’s on the inside, ‘opening’ the person up, so to speak, then one may be pleasantly surprised to find that the person is very different to how they imagined.

Hence, “don’t judge a book by its cover” is commonly used as a warning that a person should not judge people or things simply by what they see on the outside.

A perfect example of that expression is Lee Swink. Lee is my wife’s brother-in-law. He was born and raised in Shelby, NC. He hailed from a fairly large family, one that could best be described as simple, rural, and poor. His father was a sharecropper.

Lee never had much in the way of a proper education, instead having to work in an effort to help support his family. But what he lacked in book sense, he more than made up for with common sense as well as his hands and brainpower to see a project, tackle it with gusto, and complete it as though he was a professional.

It didn’t matter if that project was mechanical, electrical, or dealt with new construction or repair, Lee’s hands were magic. Before retiring he had worked as a loom mechanic with J.P. Stevens in Roanoke Rapids and he could fix/repair/build brand new anything and everything.

I can remember when Deborah and I lived in Garner back in the early 1980’s and made a weekend trip to visit her sister (Ramona) and Lee. While there, the clutch broke on my Toyota. We made a trip to the local auto supply dealer, purchased the needed items, rolled the Toyota into Lee’s shop and a couple of hours later the car was like brand new.

A few years later, Lee and Ramona purchased a lot on Lake Gaston. Lee initially constructed a small and simple living quarters – one bedroom with a small kitchen and bathroom – for overnight stays while he and his sons moved in a used singlewide mobile home onto the property, built a huge deck on the front, and also completed a boat house down by the water’s edge. That old singlewide has since been replaced by a new doublewide….one with a larger front deck overlooking the lake….again using Lee’s blueprint and muscle.

Lee also was a master with a metal lathe, creating the barrels of homemade shotguns. He used those weapons, along with his steady hands and sharp eyes, to “smoke the field” at numerous turkey shoots. Lee would often come home with several turkeys, a country ham or two, bags of dog food, steaks, and cash from those events.

As mentioned earlier, there are no educational diplomas hanging on the wall inside his Roanoke Rapids home. However, he was an extremely intelligent man….able to share with his children and grandchildren that by applying themselves and working hard to achieve their goals, they could climb mountains. His offspring apparently listened as both his sons and all four of his grandchildren graduated from college. All now lead very successful lives. 

Lee Swink could be brazen at times, as well as very opinionated. However, the heart that beat inside this man was full of love. One could see his eyes light up whenever he was around his grandchildren and other young family members.

This past Saturday, God needed a handyman in Heaven as He called Lee home. His near 80-year-old body had fought cancer as long as it could, but he’s now in a place where there’s no more pain.

The Pearly Gates opened when Lee arrived. He probably heard them squeak and reached into his tool bag to make repairs.

God bless you Lee Swink….you’ll be missed.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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