We laid my Dad, William D. King, to rest in Athens’ Evergreen Memorial Park Wednesday, and it being national signing day much of my Bulldog-centric family naturally had one eye on ESPN while we got ready for the funeral at First Baptist Church.
Dad wouldn’t have minded in the least. I’ve written in the past about his devotion to the University of Georgia, and several favorite family stories of Pop involve the Dawgs. Such as how he came to stand on the sideline as a “high school prospect” when the 1942 national championship team met Alabama in Atlanta. And how he nervously ate his way through almost an entire bag of oranges as Georgia beat Auburn for the SEC title in 1959 — a tale that seemed to resonate with quite a few readers who’ve mentioned it to me over the years.
It was a burial befitting a lifelong Bulldog, and not just because of the beautiful plant bedecked with a red and black ribbon, sent by the UGA gymnastics program, on whose booster club board my brother Jon sits. We also left the Georgia “G” pin in its longtime spot in the lapel of the gray suit Pop was buried in, and at my brother Tim’s suggestion a red Georgia cap was placed by Pop’s side — in recognition of his trademark at the assisted living home that was his residence for the last three years of his life after my Mom died. Dad wore UGA’s colors proudly just about every day.
As I’m sure many of you know, it’s not easy losing a parent, even one who’s lived a full and useful life for 89 years. But Dad’s last week, spent at the wonderful St. Mary’s Hospice House in Athens surrounded by three generations of his loving family, was an incredibly uplifting experience. He knew we were there and that we loved him and were proud of him. And he told us how much he loved us. The room was full of family photos, and pinned up on the memory board by my niece Jennifer was one of Pop’s favorite red Georgia caps. We played his favorite music nonstop and at times he even tried to sing along as my daughter Olivia or my other nieces, Missy and Caroline, held his hand. He was comfortable and at peace.
As my son Bill, another of Dad’s namesakes, told the assembled mourners at First Baptist in eulogizing his beloved grandfather on Wednesday, “It was the ending he deserved. Amazing grace. How sweet the sound.”
What more can you ask for in leaving this life?
Now, for me, it’s back to writing about the Georgia Bulldogs that Pop loved so much.
Wednesday’s recruiting class perhaps didn’t rock the recruitniks’ world quite as hard as last year’s Dream Team, but it appeared to do a pretty good job of fitting the needs of the program — at least, before three misbehaving freshman got the boot Thursday.
Yeah, another offensive lineman or wide receiver would have been great, and depth might be a future issue in the secondary, but sometimes timing and momentum are what signing day buzz is all about. Had Keith Marshall, Todd Gurley and John Theus waited until the last minute to join Josh Harvey-Clemons in committing to UGA, we’d be talking about what a tremendous closer Mark Richt is, and the class Marshall has hopefully dubbed the “Ring Team” might well have been hailed along the lines of last year’s signees. As it is, ESPN still ranked it the nation’s fifth-best recruiting class.
As for this week’s dismissals from the team, I have to admit I’m more than a little disappointed that we won’t get to see whether Nick Marshall would have grown into the potential two-way star we thought he could be. But I’m proud that Richt has shown once again that, unlike some SEC coaches past and present, he acts decisively when players go too far in a way that could hurt the team. The punishment was swift and sure. The offending players are gone. Period.
I think my father, with his unwavering belief in always doing the right thing, no matter how inconvenient it is or how much it hurts, would approve.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg