Scott Wade was a singularity in nature. Once he popped from the mold, they threw it away because they knew there would never be another one like him. We’re all unique, the old saying goes, but Scott Wade was a wee bit more so.
Tragically, my longstanding, dear friend died last Sunday. He died unexpectedly, as his wife of 25 years, Melodee, found him departed on the floor beside his bed, an apparent heart attack victim. He was only 52, seven years my junior, deceased unexpectedly and in the prime of life.
I met Scott back when dinosaurs (and shoppers) still roamed downtown Christiansburg, where we both grew up. He was dating my baby sister Karen at the time. He made an immediate, and positive, impression.
Even in his teens, he was outspoken and informed. He had the most outrageous accent in all of Appalachia, and could make an art form of words like “employees” which from his mountain twang sounded like emmm-plaww-yeeezzz, stretching the second syllable to an elastic breaking point in a high-pitched, almost scratchy wail. He was unpretentious and uninhibited, gifted in mathematics, and could talk knowledgeably on a million subjects — and he never shut up!
And while strong in his convictions (and he did not suffer fools gladly), he could do so in a completely disarming way. He was the type of person who could tell you to go to hell and leave you looking forward to the trip.
But what really stood out was his hair.
To say it was “red” is to do a disservice to the word. His hair was a crimson explosion.
His hair was red before Shawn White ever threw his flying tomato off the half-pipe.
His hair made the strawberries in the produce department cower in unworthiness.
His hair made scarlet tanagers sulk in envy.
Karen had good taste in guys. I liked most of her boyfriends. But I liked Scott the most and we developed our own friendship. In 1981 when I was 27, I quit my job in Lynchburg to embark on my life’s greatest adventure, moving to Seattle, Wash. Scott was a mere babe of 20, and having some free time, he tagged along. He rode across the country with me in the U-Haul, my Volkswagen Rabbit towed behind.
Most of the trip has faded from my memory, held in place with mental sticky-notes and glued-together synapses, but I remember how taken my new Seattle friends were by the folksy, skinny kid with the flaming hair and the homespun accent. We climbed a mountain together in the Olympic National Park, something I did again in 1991 and 2001 (and am overdue now for my next decennial visit), and threw a Frisbee at the top. I remember dropping him at SeaTac for his flight home, feeling lonely and alone.
Exactly 10 years later, when I dragged my new wife Jane back to the New River Valley, Scott was still here and we renewed our friendship. Much to our wives’ consternation, Scott and I carried on lengthy conversations on a spinning whirlwind of topics that left me breathless and exhilarated. By this time, his much shorter hair had become a mature chestnut and he had put on a few pounds. But the youthful enthusiasm, contagious smile, and gift of gab were still there.
Scott and Karen didn’t marry. Instead, he married an uncommonly graceful, elegant, and articulate woman in Melodee. He is father to two beautiful children, Meaghan Elizabeth and Haden Bryce. He played golf and he bowled. His heart was made of pudding when it came to animals and he took them all in.
As far as I know, he worked his entire career keeping the family business of grocery and convenience stores alive, in an era when the chain stores came to dominate retailing. His prodigious intelligence and endless curiosity would have made him a success at anything he tried. But I know his family’s legacy was important to him. He never gave up maintaining a positive outlook through the craziness that seems inevitable in a family business and the competitive pressures. He was loyal to those who contributed to his life, including me, when he agreed to being one of the first retailers in the area to stock my books at his Deli Marts when I began my writing career.
I come from a line of long-lived people and my goal and expectation is to reach 100. It tears at my heartstrings to lose such a great friend at such an early age. And I pour out all the sympathy I can muster to Melodee, Meaghan, and Bryce. I’m not profound enough to produce words of wisdom commensurate with the situation, other than to suggest we all take care of ourselves, cherish each day, and never miss an opportunity to tell our spouse and children how much we love them.
To those who believe there is a heaven, you can bet your bottom dollar there’s a new kid in town who is about to give them an earful.
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Michael’s new novel, Providence, VA, is now available through his website at www.bikemike.name or at the Tech Bookstore and area Deli Marts.