We have the power to pass along our knowledge to future generations. On the other hand, if a cat or any other creature sits on a hot stove, all he learns is that he will never sit on a hot stove again. That knowledge dies, along with him, right there on the spot. This came to mind soon after attending a memorial service for a wonderful gentleman back on March 29, 2007.
This gentleman, who in my mind shall forever be known as a gentleman’s gentleman, was Dr. Dean William Blackburn, and he lived 102 years and 19 days. He was a fellow Lion and members of our club were asked to serve as honorary pallbearers for his memorial service.
When I attended this service I had no idea that I was going to pay tribute to him by means of this column, but something printed in the funeral bulletin that he wrote when he was 98 years of age inspired me to share it with you. I will share what he wrote in just a bit, but first this brief snapshot of his life.
Dr. Dean, as we called him, was born March 6, 1905, in Harmony, Ark. He was an educator, having taught at the College of the Ozarks in Clarksville and later at the University of Central Arkansas here in Conway. He loved the soil. My most vivid memories of him are seeing him in his straw hat out in his garden working away as I passed by his house in my car.
What is so unusual about this is that he was well into his 90s when I first had any real contact with him. I joined our local Lions Club back in 1994 and Dr. Dean was already 89 years young by then.
When I thought about this, I did some research and found that Teddy Roosevelt was our president when Dr. Dean was born and his life would continue into the second term of George W. Bush, a total of 18 different presidents.
In retrospect, I did not know him long, and most of my contact was at our Lions Club meetings, but the one thing that stood out for me was that he was always soft-spoken and always so kind. In short, this man was a perfect gentleman. He was someone any of us would do well to pattern our lives after; he was truly a man we could learn from.
I mentioned earlier that there was something printed in the funeral bulletin that I wanted to share with you. It is titled “Lessons Learned in Life” and was written by Dr. Dean on Oct. 23, 2003, when he was 98 years of age.
As you read it, I believe you will agree that this is one of those things you will want to clip out and pass along to those you love.
“Eat a wide variety of food, but not too much. Exercise regularly. Get rest and sleep. Drink lots of water. Breathe clean air and do some deep breathing.
"Get instruction; education. Be fair with others. Take care of teeth — brush, floss, etc. Pay your way. Don’t throw rubbish on the street. Garden ... if you have a place and time for it. Do not smoke or drink. Be honest. Encourage private business. Conserve natural resources. Do not hold a grudge against anyone. Join a church. Aim to marry and have a family. Be patient but firm in parenting. Be active in government. Vote. Plan to own a home. Care for your home and grounds. Do not be a drug addict.
"Take care of senses — seeing, hearing, feeling, etc. Expect competition. Save for a rainy day. Survival of the fittest. Finally, bear all burdens of life with courage and be thankful for the opportunity.”
Well, there you have it, some lessons learned in life by Dean W. Blackburn, a life that spanned 102 years and 19 days. Dr. Dean did not seem to be a deeply religious man, but during his memorial service I came to realize what that verse in the Bible truly means, “Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only.”
He was a “doer.”
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, Ark. 72034. To support literacy, buy his book, “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.”)