I grew up in the country near the small town of Fayetteville, Tennessee. Fayetteville is one of those typical southern towns with the square surrounded by locally-owned shops. I love that lifestyle. I think I might like living in a city, but I have always gravitated to the small towns. So it was natural for us to end up living in Monroe, Georgia, which is a small town that very much reminds me of Fayetteville.
I enjoy getting to know the locals in small towns, especially the business people. Sit down with some of those people for a coffee and you will be entertained with great stories and walk away with a great appreciation for the history of the area. Very often, I will drive into Monroe, take a walk from one end to the other (about six blocks or so) and chat with the people I know.
When we moved to Monroe, I needed a real estate lawyer, and I was referred to Bill Childers. Bill was a local attorney just off the square. He was unpretentious and worked with one secretary out of an old plain building. He spent his entire career of close to forty years in that building.
I have used Bill Childers perhaps a dozen times over the past six years and we became friends. I have never worked with an attorney that I believed in more or appreciated more. I was always amazed that he did so much for so little money. Paying him $400 or so for a real estate closing almost made me feel guilty because he did such extensive and thorough work.
I had noticed that Bill’s office seemed closed a lot lately but just assumed it was because real estate is so slow in the county. Today, when I passed, I saw his secretary’s car and decided to stop in. I found Carol Ann in the back and asked her how business was. She asked me if I knew they were out of business. When I asked if Bill had retired, she told me that he died. He found out he had colon cancer and died ten days later. She was working just to close out files and shut the business down.
I sat with Carol Ann for a while and talked about Bill and his career. She had worked with him for 20 years and she told me about how things have changed over the years. She even pulled out some carbon paper to show me how things used to work.
It is hard to express how days like today impact me. We need constant reminders of the brevity of life and the importance of focusing on the right things during the time we have. And I am also reminded that you do not have to be famous to be a hero. Bill was never known outside of the small town of Monroe but he had a great, influential life doing the very best he could for his clients. Thousands of us are thankful for his example.