It’s once again that day of the year we collectively gather our thoughts and give thanks for all that we have received during the past year and I imagine there will be other columns and letters to the editor written that will appear on this website, as well as others across the country. All will share the writer’s unique perspective on the things they hold dear.
This is something I have done on occasion, never on an annual basis. However, this year I felt it in my heart that I needed to publicly give thanks for the many things in my life that I count as positives, and maybe a few that aren’t so positive.
To begin, I am thankful my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ thought enough of me to die on a cross for my salvation. This is, without a doubt, the most important positive in my life.
One of the things I am most thankful for is the blessing of friendship I shared with my late friend and colleague, Larry Fleming. As some will recall, Larry left this world on November 1st and I miss him on a daily basis.
Larry made work interesting and it was a pleasure to work with him. There will be more on that in an upcoming column. I am also extremely thankful his family: wife Donna, son Dusty and wife Liz and grandkids Austin and Madi, allowed me to be a part of their private goodbyes.
Isn’t it great we live in a country that offers us the freedoms we enjoy? I am thankful for the men and women of our military that ensure those freedoms. I was a part of that brother-and-sisterhood for over 20 years and I am thankful for that opportunity to have served.
When people are gracious enough to thank me for my Air Force service, I often reply, “No, thank you for being part of a nation for which it is worth serving,” for it really was a privilege.
Along those lines, let me add a sincere thank you to the good folks at the Chattanooga VA Clinic, especially those in the Dental Clinic. Doctors Sims and White and my good friend Karen are simply the best of the best in providing patient care.
Three years ago I moved to Ringgold when Gail and I were married. Let me say, I am thankful to live in this small town. The honor and respect it shows our deceased vets twice a year with an unparalleled display of personalized flags is truly heartwarming. Thank you.
I am thankful for the baked potato soup at Panera Bread.
I am one of those “older folks” blessed to still have my mom, Bobbie Sharp, still living. She raised my sister and me as a single parent almost my entire life. She’s going into her mid-eighties, but still going strong. I am thankful for her and for her courage and convictions.
At the risk of giving up a few ounces of testosterone, let me add a paragraph of thanks for the Hallmark Channel. There aren’t many places one can find good, clean movies these days, but those two channels rock in my world. The Pure Flix channel is another I am fond of.
Speaking of television, I am thankful that Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt, along with 99 percent of the original cast of “Mad About You” are back in new episodes on Spectrum. They still make me belly laugh and turn an introspective eye towards my own life.
One of the most important freedoms we enjoy is the freedom to worship as we please. I am so very thankful I am able to be a part of the family at Silverdale Baptist Church. Pastor Tony Walliser is the most authentic man to occupy a pulpit I have ever known. I am thankful on a daily basis for his love, friendship and courage to preach the Word.
I am, and will be, eternally thankful for the White Christmas coffee at Publix. We drink it the whole year round.
I am, what you would say, officially semi- retired through disability, though I am fortunate I get to continue my work-life with this website, The Chattanoogan.com. I am grateful to publisher and friend John Wilson for this opportunity and his pioneering efforts in this medium. In retirement we sometimes need direction and purpose to keep going, being the Assistant Sports Editor and a photographer does that for me.
Getting to work with good people is a benefit we should all be thankful for. For me, being part of a team of folks like Sports Editors Greg and Sara Davick, and writers James Beach, John Hunt, Kevin Llewallyn, Joseph Dycus, Parker Tuerff and photographer Michael Locke, along with news editor Jen Gienapp is definitely on the positive side of the ledger.
Before I retired from full-time work it was my distinct honor and privilege to work for the Chattanooga Police Department as its Information Center Manager. I got to know and work alongside Chattanooga’s finest. These men and women are heroes and I am so thankful for the friendships I made there. I am even more thankful for the way they protect us from the evil that lurks inside our towns and cities.
Many law enforcement officers from various agencies will not get to sit down with their families today, instead they will be on the job, protecting us while we enjoy time with loved ones. Join me in being thankful for them and say a prayer for their safety.
Pets, many times become an integral part of our family and by extension those who take care of their medical needs. This year I am giving thanks for Dr. Tyler Pilkington and Animal Clinic East for giving us many more years with our beloved cat, “Annie.”
I am thankful for Haagen-Dazs milk chocolate almond vanilla ice cream bars. Just saying.
It seems like, as I have matured (physically, not emotionally) I have somehow along the line, gained an army of medical professionals that do a bang-up job in taking care of me. My hat is off to Doctors Mark Sumida, Dianne Roland, Camille Sommer, Daniel Fisher, Jason Rehm, Stuart Ginther, Michael Roe, Anuj Chandra, Ravi Chander, Carol Gruver, Brett Gerwin, Cynthia Eby, David Friederich and my primary care person, Tiffany Hayes.
And you thought I was exaggerating when I said “army.”
In my “job” I am privileged to get to know and see many of our area’s prep athletes. I am thankful for the work ethic they show on a daily basis and I am extremely thankful for coaches and mentors like East Hamilton’s Steve Garland, Grant Reynolds and Hunter Gremore. As well as, CSAS’ Mark Dragoo, Walker Valley’s Drew Lyness, Bradley Central’s Jason Reuter, Soddy Daisy’s Jared Hensley and Ooltewah’s Brian Hitchcox.
There are so many, many more, but for very personal reasons these come to mind this year.
I am grateful that 45 years ago my first boss in journalism, Roy Exum, attempted to drill into me proper sentence structure.
Perhaps we all have a personal Hall of Fame. I am thankful mine has people in it like my family members, Chris, Joy, Emily, Anna and Caleb Petty. This is my wife Gail’s son and his family. They are in my personal hall due to their willingness and faithfulness to serve Jesus in a foreign country in rather austere conditions.
My own two sons, Jonathan and Ben, are also members. Jonathan for overcoming events and odds that have brought down many more than have survived and Ben for having served his country honorably in the U.S. Air Force. Both now have families and I’m so thankful for the four grandkids with which they have presented me, my shirt buttons are popping.
As I mentioned before, I was mostly raised in a single parent home. There were many who were a part of the village that helped raise me. I am much inclined this year to offer thanks for my Uncle Bill and Aunt Joyce Montgomery. They have been like a second set of parents to me and I know I would not have any of the success I have today without them.
I am thankful for Tootsie Roll Pop candy.
Do you have a teacher that stands out in your memories? Mine is Mrs. Thelma Thomas who so lovingly taught me in the fourth grade at East Lake Elementary. I am thankful she gave me a love for books and reading. Oh, the lifetime of adventures she opened up for me with “Tom Sawyer” and “Charlotte’s Web.”
Another person in my village, who came along much later in life, but is no less important, is my mom’s husband, Kenneth Sharp. I am thankful for the love and care he gives my mom and for the example he sets for all who know him. No finer Christian man exists.
I may go against today’s grain here a bit, but I am thankful for Facebook and its allowing me to find and catch up with dear friends from days gone by, especially those I served with like Darce “Rooms” Mebus, Michael Brady, Fred Huggs, Eddie Kennedy, Sue Grebenor, Greg Sargent, Kerry Beaghan, Rick Magley, Steve Quinn, Bill Reed, Dennis Gray and the three guys from the very beginning in basic, John “Father” Flanagan, Henry Pope and Dale Poliquin.
I am thankful for Philippians 4:13, which tells me, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Throughout my time running up and down the sidelines at various sporting, and other, events, I have been fortunate to meet some exceptional photographers who have become treasured friends. I am most thankful for my relationships with Robin Rudd, Angela Lewis Foster, Dan Henry, Andy Mitchell, Frank Mattia, Saul Young, Bill Shipley, Beverly Reid and Wade Payne.
Have I mentioned that I am thankful for the reclining seats at the Regal movie theater at Hamilton Place?
It is a sure thing that I am not going to pen this list of what I am thankful for without a huge nod towards my beautiful, wonderful wife, Gail. She is the wind beneath my wings and without a doubt, the most lovely and Godly woman I have ever known.
In many cases, it is our friends who get us through life. I am giving thanks this year for many friends, but especially for my young friend Izzy Ballard. Izzy is a nine-year old bundle of joy and maybe the biggest Tennessee fan I know. She always has hugs for everyone and makes me laugh at her, “mature for her age,” outlook on life.
We are living in interesting times. In all my years I have never seen our nation so negatively divided. However, I am thankful that we are still the land of the free and the home of the brave, that our economy is flourishing and that we still have our God-given rights under the Constitution. We should all be grateful for the right to our own opinions and use civility when discussing them around the table.
Otherwise, your Christmas lists may get shorter and shorter.
I am thankful for Honey-Baked Hams and cranberry salad.
I am grateful that next week I, along with others in my family, will be visiting my childhood friend Mickey Mouse at his place in Orlando. Thank you, Gary Jr. and Beth Petty, for making such wonderful arrangements.
Friends, I could go on and on with even more things for which I am giving thanks in 2019. I will, however, end with a note of thanks to you, our readers for inviting The Chattanoogan.com electronically in to your homes each and every day.
May you all enjoy this holiday and have the opportunity to spend it with those you love and hold dear.
Lastly, I am thankful for author Brad Thor and his Scot Harvath series of thrillers.
(Email Assistant Sports Editor Dennis Norwood at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter at @DennisENorwood)