W.Va. men leave behind lasting legacies

This may sound strange, but in the last few weeks I’ve had the privilege of experiencing two great funerals. The first was that of Dr. Robert Crooks, one of this community’s most loved men. The other was Gordon Youell, my wife’s uncle who lived in Rand, W.Va.

While these two men were very different, they had much in common, and the similarities reveal their greatness. Their impact on their families and neighbors leaves a legacy that will last far beyond their own names. A quote I heard at one of the funerals was “In our loss there is sadness, but there is no sorrow.” That’s because of the extraordinary heritage both men left.

I am familiar with that heritage through my knowledge and friendship of both of these men’s sons. Both sons bear the imprint of their fathers. They both know they were loved, and they both show a trained responsibility to be loving, caring men.

That heritage was also presented by all the neighbors that told story after story of how these men touched, changed and enriched the lives around them.

An important similarity to note is that each of these men grew up and lived all their lives in one community. It appears that influencing lives may require a lifetime. That’s probably the real cost of real influence.

Another similarity is these two men had the greatest influence on their families first. They understood the maximum effect a man has on his community begins with the effect he has on his own family. The fertile soil of a loving family is the best ground to cultivate a great community.

It doesn’t take a village to raise a child. It takes a family. And when the family raises a child well, that child will build a great village for their families, and their neighbors.

Dr. Crooks and Uncle Gordon loved their families abundantly; so well that there was an overflow of love. That overflow naturally spilled into everything, and everyone around them. And that is genuine community development.

You can see where I’m going with this. As we work toward building a vibrant downtown, we cannot forget to begin with our own personal commitment to our families, our neighbors, and our community.

A downtown is a neighborhood, and all good neighborhoods need men like Dr. Crooks and Uncle Gordon. We need men who live their lives in such a way that it permeates everything around them. And we can’t forget that it may take a lifetime for this kind of impact.

Imagine living your whole life, every day, in such a way that it inspires others around you to be better people. That sounds like a formula for a really vibrant community.

The Christmas season is a wonderful time to give the gift of commitment to your families and your neighbors. Change your neighborhood by how you love.

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Cecil Childress is general manager of the Blennerhassett Hotel and chairman of Downtown PKB.