By Joe Rector
Nellie West passed away Sunday, October 1, 2017. No, most folks won’t know who she was, but her family certainly will. The following day, Tom Petty, rock legend, died after suffering full cardiac arrest. Probably, millions knew of him. Which death is more devastating?
I keep hearing when persons of fame die that their passings are tragic. The sense of loss is supposedly greater because these individuals made impacts in the world on grander scales. The truth is that I just don’t buy that line.
Let me tell you about Nellie West. She lived a full life of 92 years. During that time, she married, had three children, and doted over a passel of grandchildren. She married Earl West but lost him to lung cancer in the 1970’s. She grieved for him but eventually returned to life and the adventures that it offered.
Nellie had a dry sense of humor. A cutting of her eyes and a slight smile belied her supposed serious tone when she told a story that folks believed to be gospel. For years, people thought of her as a quiet, demur woman, but after Earl passed, Nellie blossomed in many ways; she became a more talkative, outgoing person who allowed her full personality to shine.
This small woman, at times, had a huge temper. I’m not privy to all the details, but family members have related incidents where a fit of anger led to the throwing of a bowl across the kitchen and where a cooking mishap ended in her throwing a skillet out the back door.
What Nellie West offered folks most were kind words and sweet smiles. She asked me every time I saw her if I had written more pieces in Chicken Soup books. Then she’d follow that up by saying she picked up those books and sifted through the list of authors to find my name before buying them. I don’t know how much truth is in that, but she made me feel good. That’s the effect she had on all folks with whom she made contact.
Nellie passed on to her children the qualities of kindness, fairness, honesty, and empathy. Then they passed those same qualities to their children, who then passed them on to grandchildren. The actions of family members were noticed by people with whom they worked or socialized and impressed others so much that they adopted those qualities and passed them on “world without end.” So, I suppose that it’s safe to say that Nellie West touched or will touch the lives of thousands of people as they try to emulate her. In the end, this small woman in Cookeville, TN will have help to make the world a better place.
Tom Petty’s music will continue to touch his fans now and in the future. I have no idea what kind of person the man was in this world. While his musical talents will be his legacy, the impact of the way he interacted with others and the lessons that he passed along is in question. He became a rich man as he earned about $95 million from his music.
Nellie West didn’t earn a dime from her musical talents; she told me her singing was more like croaking. Neither did she make any money off the joy and love that she brought to so many people during her life. However, I’m here to declare that what she offered her fan club is much more valuable than any song that any person produces. I’m glad that Nellie lived so long and had so much impact on so many lives. I’m also glad that she now is reunited with those loved ones who went before her. No doubt, the good lord met her with a hug as he said, “Well done good and faithful servant.”