In 1988 as I walked into the WGOW broadcasting booth for my shift, an un-assuming, easy-going stranger greeted me like it was homecoming. He was the new ‘board-jockey’ at the station. He welcomed me into my old work place as if I had just come home from a long siege somewhere.
We hit it off right then and there. Soon, Gene Coleman and I would visit each other on our shifts to talk and share. Often Gene would bring his toddling son, Marvin Scott to work with him, as he was a single dad. Gene was at home anywhere, anytime. I liked Gene very much.
In the many years to come Gene Coleman founded the Carpenters Cowboy church. This is a relatively known, yet unassuming ministry that held Gene’s passion and life. I was part of that church periodically throughout the years. Sometimes actively, sometime passively. I knew Genes heart, but honestly never really quite got what he was trying to accomplish, until the day after my friend died. Sitting alone, it suddenly hit me like an epiphany. Gene’s ministry with the Carpenters Cowboy church was a ministry of love and sacrifice. It has dawned on me since, that Gene loved and ministered to people that simply had nothing to give back. They had no money, no worldly possessions, little to no food, or transportation. Gene gave everything he had for these people for the last two decades. He loved them unconditionally.
The last time I saw Gene, I felt a little bit superior in the fellowship of his church. That was only a few weeks ago. Now I feel quite inferior and ashamed of myself. Gene was a real deal – good man. His church is comprised of lovely people needing to be loved. Gene’s ministry was the same path Jesus walked.
We talked occasionally, and always just passed the conversation with general upbeat, energetic old DJ stuff. Once again, as with my dad, my son’s mother and a few others in my lifetime, I’ve lost a golden nugget in my life. One I should have spent a little more time with, listened to more patiently and had a little more understanding of who my friend, Gene Coleman was.
I miss his gentle spirit and kind words. I’m not alone.
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How perfect were the words penned by Pete Burnette on the life of our friend, Rev. Gene Coleman. It was an honor for me to be among the vast amount of friends that Gene had in the Chattanooga area.
I just had to respond to Mr. Burnette's comments, because the days before Gene's sudden death brought us a bit closer. You see, Gene and I also worked together at WGOW in the mid 1980's. After I left the broadcasting field and ended up the the funeral industry, we still stayed in touch. I always looked forward to hearing Gene officiate at a service...because he did it so well! He always said the right things. And, you always left his service feeling better. That's the way it's supposed to be.
Anyway, the day before his surgery a few weeks ago, he called and asked me to come to his hospital room to make sure his funeral service would be carried out in the manner that he wanted. Although a little reluctant to make that trip, Gene insisted that the doctors weren't sure if he would survive the surgery and so off to the hospital I go. With his children in the room, he went over the details and I assured Gene that everything would be done just as he wanted. I also assured him that his surgery would be fine and I would keep his file so that in years to come we could modify any of the arrangements. Well, the surgery did go fine.
On Monday night before his death, I received an email from Gene that says "...thanks for being there for me to personally meet my need. Not because of your professionalism, but because of who and what you are...not just as a funeral professional, but as my friend." He went on to finish the email with this line..."when my time comes, you will do what we agreed to and other than that, let us enjoy a terrific gift from God...our friendship." That was Gene Coleman. Always saying the right thing.
Gentle giant. Yes, Mr. Burnette, you nailed that one right on the head. RIP my friend. The pleasure of knowing you was all mine.