It was 10 years ago that Kell Joseph and I coached our daughters’ Fillies softball team together at the Monroe County Rec Department.
We were neighbors and friends, but he was a better baseball/softball player than I was. I was glad he was teaching the girls. I was just there for morale — a cheerleader, urging our daughters to quit drawing in the dirt.
Kell was one of the first people we met when we moved to Forsyth in 2007. He lived on a high hill across the cul de sac. We were new to town, but Kell was pretty much Mr. Forsyth. He grew up here. He played football at Mary Persons. His whole family lived here. He hunted and fished here, and had a grading business during the busy mid-2000s. His family had the iconic Joseph’s store on the courthouse square.
Our girls became best buddies growing up in the cul de sac on Kyndall Lane. They often took turns, as little girls do, spending the night with one another. But the first few times Emily stayed with us, she couldn’t make it through the night.
“Mr. Will, I have a stomach ache,” she would say.
“Do you want to go home?” I’d ask.
“Yes sir,” she would say sheepishly, and we’d load her in the truck and take her up the hill. She was a daddy’s girl and I suspected she missed him.
The Josephs eventually moved a few miles away and I missed seeing Kell too. When the real estate recession hit, he gave up his full-time grading business and pursued his dream of opening a taxidermy shop, Boneheads, in Smarr. He was always hosting friends to shoot the bull while he worked.
On Saturday morning, another old Kyndall Lane neighbor, Jim Finch, told me what had happened. I am still in shock. Kell apparently suffered a massive heart attack at home early Saturday morning. He was gone. The news spread around this town like fire. Kell was a likable, laid-back guy who was easy to get along with. He was like an old, comfortable shoe.
The long line at visitation at Monroe County Memorial Chapel on Monday night was a testament to his personality and deep roots in Forsyth. It took some people 90 minutes to get through the line.
There was some talk that it had taken Monroe County EMS a long time, 30 minutes, to arrive to try to revive Kell. I asked my county commissioner, Eddie Rowland, about that. He said the county actually had three ambulances on duty on Saturday, which is more than usual. Two of the three ambulances were working a wreck on I-75. That’s because one of the drivers, Demarius Dean of Warner Robins, who was going 15 mph on the interstate and suspected of DUI, claimed he was the passenger in his 2003 GMC Denali. So two ambulances had to respond in case they found the “driver”. EMTs eventually figured out, since he was trapped in the driver’s seat, that he had to be the driver and was just trying to wiggle out of his DUI.
Anyway, Rowland said the first two units arrived at Kell’s home off Hwy. 83 five miles south of Forsyth 12 minutes after the call, and a county ambulance arrived in 14 minutes. That’s not a bad response time actually.
Sadly there was more tragedy to come in Monroe County on Saturday,. A 2-year-old girl on Wadley Road also passed away. See her obituary on page 6A.
As I get older, I get used to some things. The ease of childhood eventually gives way to the reality that life is hard. But one thing that’s hard to get used to is that life ends — for all. There’s a 100 percent chance that none of us are getting out of here alive. The Bible puts it this way in James 4:14: “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
And the Psalmist adds: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
The fact that I will die, and that all my friends and loved ones will die, is the most important fact of life. It makes me realize so many of the things I worry about are a waste of time and energy. Ball games, status, money, social media — the things that grab my attention — none of them matter when I consider that one day soon I will appear before Jesus Christ. At that time, the only thing that will matter will be whether I let Him in when He knocked on the door of my heart.