Individuals Who Died Too Young
By Jeff Salter
An unusual topic this week… and rather sad. We’re contemplating individuals who left us too soon. As I reflected on this, I realized I was thinking about three very different groups of people. One group featured individuals who were influential on the world stage, another focused on those who made important literary contributions… and a third was about family.
I’ll start with family
Possibly because my daughter has lately been working tirelessly on genealogy, my wife (when asked about this topic) thought of her grandfather, Halleck Williams (who lived right here in Possum Trot). Denise’s grandfather died some 22 months before she was born — on the very morning that I was born three states away. Her grandfather Williams was born poor and lived poor, but he had a rich life as husband, father, church deacon, and hardworking provider.
After Denise mentioned her grandfather, I naturally remembered my own, Willie M. Robinson of Alabama. He was born into the large family of a small town doctor and was the only one of four male siblings to move away. After serving in France during WW I, my grandfather came home and began working with the phone company, where he was promoted rapidly and still working when he died of a heart attack in his middle fifties in Atlanta. His death occurred about three months before I was born, when my mom had me in her sixth month of pregnancy.
Lots of the world leaders who made their mark have lived to ripe old ages, but one who was cut down in his prime was also one who made a big impact on me because of his youth, vigor, charm, and personality. I’m speaking, of course, of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who served less than three years of his presidential term — those fabled “thousand” days — before being assassinated on the streets of Dallas in November 1963. He was about 46. As a grownup, I might not have seen eye-to-eye with all of JFK’s politics and policies… and we’ve since learned he was definitely no angel in his personal life. But I think it’s a national tragedy that our country never got to benefit from some of the GOOD things he was trying to do. [One huge issue was that JFK wanted to get our troops out of Vietnam; had he lived, he likely would have avoided the majority of the deaths and disabling wounds of our soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen.]
To understand a bit more of the impact on me, here’s a blog from earlier this summer in which I refer to JFK:
I didn’t stop to count names, but certainly there were several important authors who died way too young. Edgar Allan Poe is one who had achieved a degree of fame, but had so many personal demons, that he died wretchedly at age 40.
But my heart really goes out to those creative individuals who were posthumously declared to be literary giants… but during their lifetimes gained little attention at all. One whose poems I really love is Emily Dickinson, who died at age 56 with less than a dozen of her 1800 poems published. Some of those few published were heavily edited by someone who thought he was doing her a favor (but actually butchered her lines). Others were published anonymously. In quality and quantity, most of her work was written during the Civil War years, 1861-65. For most of the latter half of her life, Dickinson was a melancholy recluse. I wish she could have lived to see how important her poetry became after it was finally revealed and read.
Is there anyone – for whatever reason – who YOU believe died too young?
[JLS # 349]