Dennis Norwood: Thankful For The Memories

Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Dennis Norwood
Dennis Norwood

Here it is Thanksgiving 2020 and time to reflect on those things for which I am most thankful. With the year we’ve had it has sometimes been tough to even think about giving thanks, but on reflection I believe we will all find people and events we should thank the Lord above for bringing our way.

 

One thing I am grateful for this year are good memories that make me laugh. One such memory is the memory of Bob Hope’s visit to Lajes Field in December of 1983. Lajes is an Air Force base on the Portuguese island of Terceira in the North Atlantic. I was stationed there as a young NCO from 1983 to 1986.

 

Mr.

Hope always closed his shows with the song, “Thanks for the Memories.”

 

Mr. Hope had been in Lebanon entertaining our troops there on ships at sea. After their engagement there, Mr. Hope and his troupe were flying back to the states aboard a Marine Corps C-130. Now, Lajes is really just a big gas station for aircraft crossing the pond and as they neared the island, the aircraft commander called the base’s command post and requested a “K” (or fuel) divert to fill his tanks.

 

It became known that the mission was ferrying the famous entertainer and the command post advised our vice wing commander, Colonel Walter Butler of this fact. Ever the enterprising leader, the colonel got on the radio and requested that while on the ground the stars do a short show for the service members and their families stuck on “The Rock.”  The word soon came back, “No can do.”

 

Colonel Butler replied, “In that case I got no fuel, fly on.” No doubt a quick and intense conversation between the aircraft commander and Mr. Hope ensued, where it was explained that their C-130 aircraft had an insufficient glide path, without fuel, to make the eastern coastline of the United States.

 

We got our show that night, complete with Brooke Shields, Cathy Lee Crosby, Vic Damone, and Miss USA Julie Hayek.

 

Thanks for the memories, Bob.

 

For a video of that night, click here.

 

During this time of uncertainty and unrest, I am thankful for relationships and memories of those who have been important to me.

 

I am grateful each Veteran’s day, my friend and fellow vet, Althea Hunt, sends me a card to thank me for my service. It’s not about the thanks I get; it is the sweet and lasting relationship between comrades I appreciate. Truth be known, it was a privilege to serve our great nation. I’d gladly give 20 more years if I could.

 

I am thankful for my church family at Silverdale Baptist and for our senior pastor, Tony Walliser, as well as other ministers such as Matty Finlay, Travis Jones, David Thompson, Chuck Patrick, Randy Thomas, Eddie Wilson Chuck Tanner and Mark Habermas.  They are all wonderful, caring men of God.

 

I am thankful that on this day I will get to fill my plate with my wife’s delicious sweet potato casserole and my mom’s delectable dressing, as I quietly remember the times around the "children's" table at my grandparents' home. Seems like none of us kids ever wanted to graduate to the adult table.

 

This brings me to how grateful I am for my relationship with my mom. I am thankful that at age 84 she is still going strong and we can enjoy one another for one more Thanksgiving and, hopefully, for many more in the future.

 

Another memory I am thankful for is that of growing up in my grandparent’s household and each morning awakening to a breakfast not even Cracker Barrel could top, cooked by my Granddaddy Clark. I can still savor the smells and tastes of those meals.

 

Some may complain it’s too early, but I am thankful my wife loves to have our house decorated for Christmas, even as we sit down for our Thanksgiving dinner.

 

I am thankful for the teachers I have had. There was Mrs. Thomas at East Lake Elementary, who gave me my love of reading, Mr. Brooks, who made learning fun, and Miss Carter at Rossville High School. She turned what could have been a devastating mistake I made into a victory in my life. These are only three of many who helped shape my life.

 

I am thankful, that as a young sports writer, I had mentors like Ward Gossett and Sam Woolwine.

 

My “job” allows me to work with some truly gifted people. One of which is James Beach. “Beach” has the ability to weave a story in such a way you live the event as if you were there, running down the field with the football or lofting a shot at the buzzer. His features portray just the right tenor and through it all, his humbleness shines through. James was recently inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame –his first of many I am sure. I am thankful for his friendship.

 

I am also thankful for one of our editors, Jen Gienapp. Jen is a total pleasure to work with, always doing whatever it takes to get the job done.

 

Two others I am grateful for are our newest writers Joseph Dycus and Jackson Sparks. It is a genuine pleasure to watch the way they attack an assignment and see the progress they make with each new story.  It is my hope you grow to enjoy their work, as well.

 

Even with our troubles, I am thankful for my country. My prayer is that we work through our differences and truly become a united country, one nation under God, again.

 

I am thankful that each Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day the City of Ringgold puts on a display of flags honoring its deceased vets that is unrivaled.

 

I have a thankful heart that I was fortunate to grow up in a church like the old East lake Baptist on the corner of Dodds Avenue and 34th Street. I am thankful for pastors like L.B. Crantford, Ben Peacock and Dr. Elmer Piper. I am grateful for memories of men like Henry Hankins, Tas Grammar, Jack Bates, Lake Jones, Mike Hill, Colin Crosen, Bud Cooper and Vince Gagliano. Men who personified the meaning of what it means to be a Christian man.

 

I am thankful, also, for men like Leon Haley, who led the effort to bring Dixie Youth baseball to the East Lake Community. I have many great memories of ballgames at East Lake Rec Center.

 

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year I am recovering from back surgery. I am thankful for my surgeon, Dr. Prayesh Patel, and the entire surgical team at Erlanger Hospital.

 

On the subject of physicians, I am also thankful for my entire cadre of doctors: Doctors Khan, Sommer, Ginther, Gerwin, Puri, Eby and Fisher.  I am especially grateful for my old and dear friend, Dr. Marty Sheinberg, as well as other health care providers like Tiffany Hayes, my wonderful primary care provider, and Misty Gilliland, my N.P. at Galen Endocrinologists.

 

I am thankful that through the wonders of social media I can rekindle friendships with old friends whom I thought were lost, especially old military buddies like John Flanagan, Dale Poliquin and Henry Pope from my basic training flight and Darce Mebus, my roommate with  who I shared many a “Swamp Party.”

 

I am so very thankful for my four grandchildren and Gail’s three that have become “our” seven. I just wish they, and their parents, lived closer.

 

I am thankful for McKamey Animal Center and the wonderful job they do matching furry friends to their forever homes.

 

I am thankful for my friends Ron Littlefield and Manny Rico two really good administrators in Chattanooga’s history. On the county side I am thankful for my friend, Jim Coppinger, a really good county mayor. I am grateful for Rhonda Thurman and wish there were more like her on school boards across the country.

 

I am grateful I get to cover high school sports, especially cross country, where I recently got to see Baylor’s Mae Mae Powe win the first of what could easily be four state championships. I first saw Mae Mae compete as a young swimmer and soon became a fan. I am also grateful I got to witness first-hand McCallie’s Mike Wood stand on the podium with his state-champion Blue Tornado runners.

 

I give thanks today and everyday for our law enforcement officers, fire fighters and EMTs. For those sitting down to a turkey dinner at a fire hall, ambulance station or in a patrol car today, I offer a special prayer of thanksgiving.

 

The same goes for my military brothers and sisters. Wherever you may be, serving all around the world, I pray you are safe and warm and are soon on your way home to loved ones. You are the best of the best.

 

I have many good memories of old television shows like The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers and our local favorites Bob Brandy and Miss Marcia. I wish kids today had that same wholesome entertainment. Thank goodness for reruns of Gunsmoke, Andy Griffith and others.

 

I am also thankful for Saturday morning memories of Bugs Bunny, Foghorn Leghorn, the Roadrunner and Wiley Coyote. Who could forget Mighty Mouse and Underdog, along with Bullwinkle, Rocky, Boris and Natasha?

 

When I think of childhood evenings, I am thankful for fireflies, streetlights that told us it was time to come home and drinking little cups of kool-aid on our neighbor’s patio. And for friends like the Bowman brothers: Rodney, Charlie and Tim, as well as, the Plank twins – Elaine and Eileen and all the rest of the gang up on 15th Avenue.

 

I am thankful for memories of Mr. Roy McDonald, especially of one time when he called me to his office for skipping a college class to cover a baseball game in Calhoun, Georgia. Mr. Roy gave me some advice that day that has stayed with all these years.

 

I am thankful for the gift of prayer, not just in moments where I am in a panic or have a need, but for those moments, as well, when I just need a friend with whom to talk. “What A Friend We Have in Jesus” is not just a song.

 

It is with a grateful heart that I mention how much I treasure my friendship with John Hunt. His phone calls have lifted my spirits numerous times.

 

Last, but by no means least, I am so very, very thankful for my beautiful wife Gail. She is my best friend and no one has ever taken such good care of me. Sweetheart, please know I love you so much.

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you have a most blessed day.

 

(You can email Assistant Sports Editor Dennis Norwood at dennisnorwood56@gmail.com; follow him on Twitter at @noogasportsdude)

 

 

 

 

 

 


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