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Richie and Me: The Last Chapter



Richie was built to be an attorney. From our earliest days together, he said he was going to law school and come back to Greenville to practice with his dad.

We occasionally visited Mr. Paul’s office, more often than not to get a $10 bill. Richie was a good student and like most of us did his best in the classes he liked.

In law school, he was appointed to chair a symposium including judges from all over the United States to participate.

Dave Whetstone was asked to help Richie. Unfortunately, Mr. Paul died before Richie graduated but he walked right in and picked up the practice after graduation.

Attorney friends in Birmingham have said, “Richie Hartley is the best attorney in Alabama because he can and has handled every kind of case, individual or corporate, civil or criminal”.

As so often happens, college years cause friends to diverge. My dad was an agent for Liberty National Life Insurance Company and was awarded company common stock in his retirement plan.

He led me to buy the stock at an early age. It was something to talk about on our many hunting and fishing trips.

Dads often have an impact on their sons’ career track. At Alabama, Economics and Finance courses were my favorite.

With the desire to be the best investment manager possible, I pursued an MBA and later the coveted Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA) designation.

Like Richie and his varied clients, I’ve managed assets for all sizes of individual and institutional accounts.

At our Fiftieth High School Class Reunion, we learned of quite a few classmates who had died since the 40th.

It was also when Richie told me he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Prostate cancer occurs in 200,000 men per year and roughly 20,000 die from it.

It is the leading cause of death among men with cancer. I had prostate cancer in 2002, had surgery and thankfully have been cancer-free since. I was sure Richie would be just as fortunate.

After the reunion, sensing a little urgency we began to visit more often at lunch or dinner. Marion always joined us, Janice occasionally.

They are a lot alike. They listened to our old stories probably more than once and still laughed.

We never failed to tell them how fortunate we were to have found them on the University of Alabama campus.  God was surely watching over us.

On a pretty Friday in January, 2020, I drove to Greenville to have lunch and spend the afternoon with Richie. Never did I think it would be such a fateful visit. We had the club’s outstanding hamburger steak and of course, Hartley fries.

We caught up on our families first, Marion, their three boys and families; Janice, our three girls and families.

After lunch, Richie insisted on driving me around Greenville past our old haunts and new developments.  Greenville has certainly been “on the grow”.

As we rode, we laughed about not losing any fingers when we fired our rockets at Johnny Perdue singing to his girlfriend in the K4ISW room.

We wondered if Mr. Taylor’s peach trees were still there and felt bad about the poor farmer’s watermelons.

We hoped Mrs. Walburn, in her heavenly home now, knew we were not involved in the Port Washington incident. We also wondered if any teenaged boys had since 1963 collected $2 per week to take their girlfriends to the beach.

As the hours passed, I realized guests would soon be arriving at the farm. Richie and Marion were expecting visitors soon.

As we parted in front of their home, I said, “Richie, we have been talking about writing stories about our fun growing up years. We better get with it”.

Richie said, “You do it but don’t tell them everything” as he skipped up the steps in those ever-present weejuns.

I haven’t Richie, I haven’t!  A week later, my best long-term friend was gone.  Looking back, our last afternoon together was surreal, spending the full afternoon with a friend of 63 years, a last afternoon forever.  Miss you, Richie!


1 Comment

  1. John d Whetstone on May 16, 2021 at 7:18 pm

    this was a beautiful story of true Agape. thanks my friend

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