Sunday, January 26, 2014
Garnett Benson Whitt, Jr. ... best obituary ever?
I didn't know Garnett Benson Whitt, Jr., but his obituary appeared in today's Roanoke Times and definitely caught my attention. It reads more like a short story than the usual by-the-book rundown of a person's life in 20 words or less with names of survivors. I have to tip my cap to Mr. Whitt and his interesting adventures, after you read this, you will know him a lot better than any other obituary you read today. RIP.
WHITT, Garnett Benson Jr.
September 8, 1939-January 23, 2014
Garnett (Buzzy) Whitt Jr., was a Chevrolet man who would not be caught wasting money on anything less than the best. He held true to his principles on everything from race cars to basset hounds, tractors to generators, bourbon to leftovers. Buzzy liked his food fresh and his cars fast. He would be friendly to most anyone, and didn't need to steal a joke from any TV talk show to make you laugh. His wit was as fast as his ride, which he would not mind being mentioned before any family because what you drive is who you are.
Buzzy might have had a hard time growing up under the shadow of his older sister Wanda's swift mind. Wanda went to business school and learned shorthand, jotting down recipes for their mom Roxie in writing so beautiful and terse it looks like hieroglyphics, keys to secrets not yet unlocked. Buzzy left school in 8th grade, most likely deciding he was better off with engines than spelling. His younger brother Randolph joined the National Guard.
Buzzy married Judy, and they had Lisa. For a while it was Roxie and Garnett, Buzzy, Judy and Lisa. Roxie helped out a lot in taking care of Lisa. They had a huge garden that could feed a neighborhood, growing everything from rhubarb to zinnias. The garden was a wonder of color and natural mystery. Then Wanda and Linzie had Shaunda, and then Rhonda. Wanda and Linzie, and of course Roxie and Garnett Senior, all have passed on. Lakin Barnes, Rhonda's son with her ex-husband Mark Barnes, is the closest Buzzy has to a grandchild. Lakin looks enough like Buzzy to have been his grandchild, and Buzzy was closer to Lakin than to any child, so there is that.
While other boys his age were trading marbles and baseball cards, Buzzy managed to trade up, and into possession of a monkey. Roxie wasn't very excited about the monkey which she relegated to the basement, where the coal was kept, alongside canned garden vegetables and all the makings for homemade soap. If anyone knows what happened to the monkey it would be Bill Macy, Buzzy's oldest friend. Bill is the only person who could manage to stay on speaking terms with Buzzy for seventy years. For that we remain ever grateful, since Buzzy got pickier and pickier about the company he kept.
As a young man, Buzzy lived the NASCAR lifestyle long before it was a brand, much less a TV channel. His two front teeth were slightly knocked back. That happened when he was drag racing near the country club golf course. After the car wrecked, he took off running from the police on foot, over the dark terrain of the course. With the police in pursuit Buzzy stepped on an iron rake that smacked those two teeth into a position where they would stay for most of the rest of his life. Buzzy was driven. He always worked several jobs. He was a fireman, a mechanic, a welder. He used the welding rig he built to thaw pipes in the winter. He built a garage in his backyard and did work for all sorts of men, young and old, souping up their cars with Chevrolet big block V8 engines. He put a 427 into more than one Chevrolet SuperSport. He put a 427 into a Porsche. He put a 427 into a Camaro. He was, apparently, the go-to guy if you wanted a 427 engine in your anything. Buzzy could make things fast. It was his gift, or one of them.
Fueled by a lifelong and well-documented need for speed, Buzzy died with at least two points on his license, those a result of one of his many late-night trips in his red Corvette. When he couldn't sleep, a frequent occurrence in those last years, he made midnight forays to Tennessee. He bragged about the trooper who pulled him but didn't give him a ticket -- Buzzy speculated the trooper only wanted to see inside the shiny red hotrod. It's more likely that the trooper didn't want to give a one-armed man a ticket for driving just a little bit fast in a car that begged for it, but it's also just as likely the trooper decided he liked Buzzy because, well, everyone did.
Since Buzzy had lost his right arm to a bush hog in 1997, he developed a habit of using his mouth for things most use their other hand to accomplish. That's hard-duty on teeth, and as he continued to use them as tools one of them finally gave up the fight and exited the scene.
By the time he passed Buzzy was a sad-looking soul, missing an arm and a front tooth, but he continued fervently with the work of Living, even against all odds. Buzzy drove himself to safety after he lost that arm, and then did it again after the fire that led to his death earlier this week. More than one friend has helped pull Buzzy from a dire situation. All are remembered in our prayers.
Buzzy was no stranger to tragedy. The family hopes you might forgive him the cuss that he became at the end. He was a victim of circumstance, but he would not want to be remembered as such.
It is fitting that Buzzy's drive helped him save himself, not once but many times. Independent, stubborn, willful, and determined, Buzzy Whitt wouldn't have it any other way except his. May his drive be an inspiration, and a marvel to celebrate.
The family warmly invites you to celebrate Buzzy's life. Visitation will be held at Stevens Funeral Home, 815 Randolph Avenue in Pulaski on Sunday, January 24, 2014 from 5 to 7 p.m. A service will be held at Stevens at 7 p.m. on Sunday evening. Burial will be Monday at 11 a.m. at Highland Memory Gardens in Dublin, beside his mother Roxie and his father Garnett.
In lieu of flowers the family respectfully requests that memorial contributions be directed to the Pulaski County Humane Society, P.O. Box 1046, Dublin, VA, 24084. Buzzy had some varied opinions about people, but he loved animals, and Chevrolet.
Arrangements by Stevens Funeral Home, Pulaski.