If ever you get the opportunity to be in the company of those who truly love family and nurture each and every member, pay close attention.
Lessons learned from them are insights you'll want to emulate. For each moment you "drink in" their specific and routine manner of dealing with the sweet and sour moments in life, it's unique wisdom.
St. Francisville, Illinois is the place Mr. William C. Padgett has called "home" for over 80 years. He and his wife Phyllis married there in 1952, and chose to raise seven children within that community. Known to most people as Bill, the many endeavors he tackled included establishing and oil producing and drilling company, serving as both an alderman and mayor, and helping create and serve on the township Fire Department as a fireman and trustee for over 40 years.
To many he cut a familiar figure when we saw either he or Phyllis at events and programs at St. Francisville Elementary School. I became a member of that staff right out of college, employed as a second grade teacher.
Initially unfamiliar with all the new families and faces, I learned that this tall, quiet man was the father of several children. At the time two of his youngsters, Rod and Amie were both in the upper grades of the school. Later I discovered that he and Phyllis were the grandparents of two siblings I had in my room: Gabe and Valarie. Indeed Rachel, his youngest child was also one of my second grade students.
I soon recognized that Bill Padgett was ready, willing and able to lend a hand if you needed help with a project. So was Phyllis and other members of their family. I vividly remember he and his son Tom running plows and shoveling sidewalks around St. Francisville Elementary whenever wintry weather blanketed town with ice and snow. If class was "in" they were on-the-job before dawn, during many frigid mornings.
When the St. Francisville parent group known as C.A.R.E. organized anything for school, the Padgetts volunteered to help. No task was too mundane...... were it baking treats, taking tickets, or cleaning up in the gym after a ball game. If there was a musical program or a Spelling Bee that was important, the Padgetts were in attendance. I know the example Bill set for his family is an essential ingredient in the personal goals they've all established for themselves.
There's no secret to the power of honest work, fair dealings with others, and pride in your community. He understood that it's possible to make a positive difference for others despite the challenges that often thwart the efforts of all of us, one time or another. Throughout the years and among his acquaintances, so many people would tell you they were were genuinely effected by or thankful for Bill's belief in them.....for his support. For many, an inspiring and tenacious spirit stands out as one of the Mr. Padgett's unmistakable gifts.
I recall one spring many years ago, a colleague at the school unexpectedly lost her husband. As a close-knit staff, everyone in our learning community wanted to show support for the widow. However the timing of her husband's visitation and funeral was right in the middle of the afternoon, on a school day. Apparently there was some discussion among the C.A.R.E. group members and they offered their assistance.
Of course there was no question, no hesitation. Bill and Phyllis were among the volunteers who agreed to step into classrooms, enabling any teacher wishing to leave the building for the visitation to do just that. It was a good faith gesture that speaks to me even these many years later.
Did you know the Padgett children surprised their parents with this "early" Christmas gift several years ago? I understand they both loved it and visitors to their home can see it displayed prominently on the front lawn. Indeed Bill along with his soul mate and bride Phyllis celebrated 62 years of marriage just this year, on Sunday July 6th.
His beloved family lost him just days ago on July 10th, which happened to be Bill's birthday. What I'll fondly remember about the man is that while he was dreaming, working, and organizing things, life offered its own "push-and pull." The circumstances surrounding his efforts on behalf of family, friends, and community didn't always turn out as Bill would have envisioned......yet the tall gentleman from St. Francisville didn't flinch.
He used each twist and turn that life granted him to grow, strengthen his character, and steadily move forward. Those of us witnessing individuals such as he are forever blessed by their spirit and unique example. Above all, Bill loved and nurtured each member of his family. I'll treasure that above all else when I remember him. Thank you Mr. Padgett.