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Spires: Reminders of good times
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Spires: Reminders of good times

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A recent obituary caught my eye. I saw the name Kay Alday and checked it out to see if it was the wife of an old friend.

It turned out it was his wife. Her obituary stated that she was preceded in death by “the love of her life, her husband Walter.” I hadn’t thought about him in a long time until the other day when I saw his wife’s obituary.

I met Walter in the late 1970s, after I started Gadsden Wholesale, a small wholesale store I owned in Quincy.

We became instant friends. He would frequent my store nearly every week. He actually worked for the state of Florida’s agriculture department, but I knew him from his side business of running an ice cream truck.

He was one of those kinds of folks who always had something in the works to make an extra buck, much like myself, to be honest.

If he was in Quincy on his state job during the week, he would always drop by to see me, usually at lunch. Back in those days my store was very similar to “Floyd’s Barber Shop,” with a steady stream of customers and buddies dropping by for a visit.

There was an IGA store with a deli in it in the same shopping center. Our lunch would come from the deli and the long counter at the front of the store would be our table.

Walter was a large man and reminded me of John Wayne with his comfortable demeanor. He was a tough fellow as well.

He was a regional director for the department that oversaw gasoline measurements. Those folks that go around with their five-gallon cans checking to make sure you get what you pay for.

I don’t know if it is still a problem; however, at the time there was a considerable amount of fuel coming into Florida that slipped across the state line, untaxed. Walter was a cool character. He was used on numerous occasions to infiltrate the illegal gas transportation and bust the culprits. He was instrumental in several large cases back then.

His father had a grocery store in Tallahassee’s French Town when he was growing up and we had a lot of talks about his time as a child in that store. Being an Alday he was related to the family that was murdered back in 1973 in southwest Georgia. Even today, almost 60 years later, the six members of the Alday family who were murdered still brings back bad memories for Seminole County, Georgia.

One day Walter walked into my store with a proposition for me. He wanted to sell me his ice cream truck vending business.

After some discussion I bought his business and put my brother Eddie on the truck. It was a good deal for me, because I had a wholesale candy store and he hooked me up with Kinnett Dairy for the ice cream. It seems he had another idea he wanted to try.

The ice cream truck is another story for a later column.

I missed Walter for a couple of weeks and got concerned about him not dropping by, so I called his house (way before cell phones). I was told he was in the hospital, so I got his room number and called him.

He actually answered the phone and we talked for about 30 minutes. I found out he had leukemia and sadly he had been diagnosed months earlier. The truth is he was a good actor and hid the fact that he was sick from most everybody that knew him.

I would talk to him several more times after that until one day when his wife answered the phone. The chemo he was taking made him very sick. At some point he decided to stop taking the treatments. He passed away a week or so later.

It’s funny how his wife’s obituary brought back all those memories. He was a character in his own right and it is a shame that cancer took him out at such a young age. Knowing him, I’m sure he would have liked to have lived another 30 years and spent it with such a loving wife.

Byron Spires is a retired newspaper editor. He has written dozens of short stories and serials in the Havana Herald. He recently published “The Curious Life of Marci Bell” in a series of three books. You can email him at byronspires51@gmail.com.

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