Eric Grant Hyde (February 25, 1920 – August 30, 2007)

This morning my dad called and told me that his dad passed away in his sleep last night.  “Popeye,” as we seven grandkids and seven great-grandkids affectionately called him, was 87 years old.

Popeye was born in Mississippi in 1920 and met my grandmother, “Nana,” when he was barely more than a kid.  When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, Popeye did two things in response: he enlisted in the Navy and asked Nana to marry him.  He didn’t make it very far in the Navy because his hearing ability didn’t meet their standards; fortunately, his second endeavor was more successful, and they were married that same month.

Popeye worked for the Hurt Grocery Company in Paragould, Arkansas, all of his adult life.  He only retired because he had to after his pickup was hit by a train in December 1986.  Not only did he miraculously survive that accident (though he was severely injured), but he went on to live longer than any other Hyde in recent memory.

A lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan, Popeye watched every Cards game on TV that he possibly could.  When he and Nana raised my dad and his two brothers (my uncles Hugh and Randy), they created lasting family memories by occasionally making the trek to St. Louis to watch the Cardinals play at old Busch Stadium.  To this day, my dad has a special fondness for the Cardinals.  And Popeye continued watching the Cards on TV until he was no longer physically able to.  (In fact, it’s kind of a family joke that he was able to hear the Cardinals games on TV long after he was able to hear my grandmother calling him!)  One year my dad and brothers and I got Popeye a Cardinals jersey with the name “Popeye” on the back, which he still had when he died.

One of the most admirable things about my Popeye was his faith.  He had a Bible given to him at Christmas in 1964 (a year, by the way, in which the Cardinals upset the Yankees in the World Series), and he read three chapters a day in that Bible as long as he was still able to see well enough to read.  I don’t know how far back my spiritual heritage goes, but I know it goes at least as far back as Popeye.

The last time I saw Popeye was about three months ago.  We visited him at the nursing home in Little Rock where he had to move several months before.  As we left, I kissed him on top of the head and told him that I love him.  In a rare moment of clarity, he responded, “I love you, too.  Very, very, very, very much!”

We love you, Popeye, and we’ll miss you greatly.  Thank you for being the steady and faithful man that you were, and leaving behind the legacy that you did.

Published in: on August 30, 2007 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  

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