A eu­logy for three ex­traor­di­nary wise men

The Standard Journal - - POLICE & FIRE - YARBROUGH

Icalled them the Three Wise Men. They came not bear­ing gifts of gold, myrrh and frank­in­cense. They brought ser­vice, ded­i­ca­tion and in­tegrity. And as with all wise men, they lived their ex­am­ple.

No exotic names like Gas­par, Mel­chior and Balt­hazar. Theirs were or­di­nary names: John. Roy. Raymond. But they were any­thing but or­di­nary. Although they were never to meet, they shared a com­mon bond. They were mem­bers of the Great­est Gen­er­a­tion, strong fam­ily men, de­vout in their faith and highly suc­cess­ful in their par­tic­u­lar fields of en­deavor. They made this a bet­ter world by their pres­ence and made me a bet­ter per­son for hav­ing known them.

Some years ago, I wrote in this space about John Ja­cobs of Gainesvill­e, Roy Hod­nett of St. Si­mons Is­land and Dr. Raymond Cook of Val­dosta, re­fer­ring to them as the Three Wise Men. Thank God that they were around to read it and to know what they meant to me. To­day I come to honor their mem­ory.

John Ja­cobs passed away in 2011, a few days shy of his 89th birth­day. Roy Hod­nett died this past April at the age of 98. Two weeks ago, Dr. Raymond Cook died

three weeks be­fore he would have turned 100.

John Ja­cobs was a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man who turned a small ra­dio sta­tion in Gainesvill­e into a me­dia con­glom­er­ate. Not con­tent to bask in his busi­ness achieve­ments, Ja­cobs put much of his time, en­ergy and dol­lars back into mak­ing Gainesvill­e and Hall County a bet­ter place to live.

At the other end of the state, Roy Hod­nett op­er­ated a real es­tate empire on Ge­or­gia’s coast. In a highly com­pet­i­tive busi­ness driven by dol­lars and deals, his word was his bond. A con­tract with Roy Hod­nett could be as simple as a hand­shake.

Dr. Raymond Cook, as I have said many times, came along at a piv­otal time in my life. An English pro­fes­sor at Ge­or­gia State, he mo­ti­vated me to stay in col­lege by his in­spi­ra­tional teach­ing. I would not be do­ing what I am to­day had it not been for Dr. Cook.

What made these men so spe­cial to me? In the first place, they taught me that suc­cess and kind­ness are not in­com­pat­i­ble. All rose to the top of their pro­fes­sions while treat­ing peo­ple with re­spect. To a man, they were eter­nal op­ti­mists and seemed to bring out the best in peo­ple, a trait I am still try­ing to master.

All were ex­tremely hum­ble when they had ev­ery right not to be. I had known John Ja­cobs for many years and was aware of his mil­i­tary ser­vice in World War II, but only when I was asked to em­cee a trib­ute to him in Gainesvill­e did I learn he had earned two Sil­ver Stars for hero­ism in bat­tle.

Roy Hod­nett was in­volved in some of the heav­i­est fight­ing in the war and was se­ri­ously wounded in the Bat­tle of the Bulge. He spent 14 months in the hospital and re­turned home with a Sil­ver Star, a Bronze Star, the Pur­ple Heart, a gimpy leg and a love for his fel­low man that even a war could not kill.

Dr. Cook was a dis­tin­guished ed­u­ca­tor, au­thor and my beloved pro­fes­sor. He was also the smartest per­son I ever knew. How smart was he? He owned a 1939 Rolls Royce that had once been the prop­erty of Col. Ja­cob Schick, the Cana­dian ra­zor mag­nate. In re­do­ing the wiring in the au­to­mo­bile, he dis­cov­ered that what the manual said did not work. He im­pro­vised, found a solution and in­formed Rolls Royce that their manual was in­cor­rect. The company checked it out, agreed and rewrote the manual. That is how smart he was.

All three men were active right up to the end of their dis­tin­guished lives and re­mained my role mod­els. John Ja­cobs in­stilled in me the im­por­tance of good ci­ti­zen­ship. Roy Hod­nett taught me to treat peo­ple as I would like to be treated. Dr. Raymond Cook made me a man and, try as I might, I could never thank him enough.

I will for­ever be grate­ful that I met and knew and learned from these Three Wise Men. I am also glad I had the good sense to con­vey my love and re­spect for them in a col­umn while they were here to en­joy it. Now they are gone. I will miss them, but I will never for­get them and what they meant to me. God bless them. God bless their mem­ory.

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at [email protected] dick­yarbrough.com; at P.O. Box 725373, At­lanta GA 31139; or on Face­book at www.

face­book.com/dick­yarb.

Yarbrough

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