The Catoosa County News
Late for his own funeral
Itry to avoid getting personal when writing a column. For one thing, why should I burden you with my problems? But as Ernest Hemingway (allegedly) defined writing, “You sit at a typewriter, open a vein and bleed.”
As I have just learned, when you lose a best friend of forty years it is hard to think about anything else. So I hope you will allow me to reflect on friendship and loss.
On the first day of February, I had my regular lunch with Garry Mac in Chattanooga. Every month or so, Garry would drive up from Florida to take care of some hometown business, and we would catch up on jokes, politics, and our shared love of radio. When he completed the long drive back to Florida that night, he texted about how much warmer it was there, and signed off, “Your friendship is a blessing.” Five days later, he died suddenly of an apparent heart attack.
Garry was two years older than me, and we first met as competitors on local radio stations. A few years later, we finally got to work together. I was a morning disc jockey, and he was the station’s news director. He soon hired the woman who would later become my wife, and that was the beginning of our long friendship.
He became the brother I never had. Both my parents had eight siblings, and my fondest childhood memories include watching their camaraderie and good-natured ribbing at family reunions. As Garry and I grew older, he became the guy I could kid around with. My music was his music, my friends were his friends, and our frames of reference were mirror images.
Sometime in the 1980s, we went to a Ray Stevens concert together. Neither of our wives were interested in attending, and that was fine with Garry and me. We knew that the highbrow humor of “The Streak,” “Gitarzan,” and “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival” would go right over their heads. At one point, Garry and I were laughing so loudly that an usher told us we were distracting others in the audience. It is quite possible that only Garry and I understood the true genius of Mr. Ray Stevens.
Eventually we both got out of radio. I went into television, and Garry worked in public relations and advertising. For several years, he was the communications director for US Rep. Marilyn Lloyd of Chattanooga. He did a terrific job, and when she retired, he toyed with the idea of running for Congress. I wish he had done that. He would been excellent. He would have held regular town meetings, and he would never turn down a debate. He would have endeared himself to all in Washington (both parties), and he would have utilized his gift of gab to get things done.
I could just see him cornering Marjorie, Nancy, Matt Gaetz, George Santos and AOC and inviting them all to a taco dinner. “Now listen y’all,” he would say. “Let’s stop this tweeting and grandstanding, and actually HELP people. Now here’s the deal….” By the next day, we would have some meaningful legislation.
(I should add here that he was an excellent writer, and he would often edit and proofread my columns. I sure could use him now.)
Garry had suffered two major heart attacks, one at the age of 31, and another in August 2020. The second one resulted in multiple bypass surgery, and we almost lost him. He somehow bounced back later that year, and was soon back to normal. But I think he sensed the end might be near. He would often tell me he wanted me to speak at his funeral, and to “be funny.” He insisted that my eulogy be interrupted by the hurried arrival of his casket. He was never on time, so this would validate numerous predictions that he would be “late for his own funeral.”
He got his wish, as you can see on YouTube. Google “Garry Mac Funeral Service.”
My friend’s passing has left a void, and a huge hole in my heart. But he also leaves a legacy of smiles and laughter, a goal to which we can all aspire.