By Juanita Gambrell Floyd
Sadly, I found myself sitting in the sanctuary of All Saints Episcopal Church during the homegoing service of Fred Bush, Jr. Erin Banks said, “The measure of a man is in the lives he’s touched”. I certainly realize that my life is not the only one that Mr. Bush touched in his lifetime. Other articles have been written about him; however, I simply have to share my personal memories of his kind heart and generosity toward people – especially me.
The Rev. Paul Stephens stated, “Fred’s personal Mission Statement was to live with integrity, courage, love, compassion, and forgiveness; and to finish the course with dignity and grace. In order to do so, he would show by words and deeds love and respect for his family; renew, cultivate and maintain meaningful friendships and treat all persons with dignity and respect; make a meaningful gift to his church and other charities …”
In an earlier article honoring Mrs. Bush, I stated, “Working towards my final hours for an accounting degree at the University of Mississippi, I was commuting to summer school every day and, therefore, could not get a much-needed full-time summer job. As a result, I worked… as a domestic employee – which included the Bushes. My mother always told me that as long as a job is honorable, there is no need to be ashamed of it. So, I was happy to help Mrs. Bush in her house…”
I really became more personally acquainted with Mr. Bush that same summer when I secured his services as an attorney to assist my mother with some legal issues regarding our land. He and his staff worked countless hours on two cases involving land disputes and never charged my mother a dime.
Years later, our professional relationship began when he and his wife came to CREATE to establish the Byrne-Field Scholarship Endowment in honor of her parents and to open an advised fund. Through the advised fund, numerous charities benefitted from their generous giving.
Mr. Bush and I talked personally on a weekly basis for many years regarding charitable giving and about life in general. He often suggested books I should read and always offered his help if I should need legal assistance. In the latter years, I even talked to his caregivers, Lisa and James, many times. When President Obama was elected, Mr. Bush called me the very next day and said, “You need to go to the Inauguration.” He had already mapped out a plan and a way for me to attend. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I didn’t get a chance to go.
For the past three years, since I have been writing monthly articles, he consistently called on the Mondays after my columns to offer words of encouragement and support. In March, 2009, after I wrote an article about his late wife, Lisa called to get my mother’s address. Shortly thereafter, my mother received a beautiful two-page letter from him. It stated,
“Dear Mrs. Gambrell, I am sure that you are very proud of Juanita, as indeed you have every right to be… I remember well when she worked for us just before getting her degree in accounting… I think the job at CREATE was a most fortunate choice. It is a responsible job and puts her in contact with many responsible leaders in the community… I thought her column about your illness and about Katie Ruth’s death reflected a keen sense of personal values and a remarkable ability to put those feelings in words. I am proud to have her for a friend …”
I share parts of this letter not for personal glory, but to show how he, then age 92, demonstrated dignity and respect to my mother who was 84 at the time. She was so proud to receive a letter from the noted attorney. He took time to write to acknowledge and compliment her works as a mother.
On Christmas Eve, 2010, I received a UPS package at my home. The note read, “Please enjoy this smoked turkey with your children during the Christmas holidays. Your friend, Fred.”
When my co-worker informed me that he had died, I sat at my desk and cried. I cried because this gentle giant of a man had affected my life in a profound way both personally and professionally. I shall always be thankful for the difference he made in our family’s life. He lived and practiced his personal mission statement. H. Jackson Brown, Jr. said, “Live so that when your children/or people think of fairness, caring, compassion and integrity, they think of you.”
When you die – what will your children or people think about you? Will they think – fair and just, caring, compassionate, integrity, loving, dignity, friend, etc.? You be the judge.
Juanita Gambrell Floyd is vice president for Finance and Administration at CREATE Foundation. Contact her at email@example.com.