Growing up in the Ozarks, I was blessed with several fun and involved uncles. One of them was my uncle Johnny Gideon.
Johnny grew up in Forsyth, Missouri. His Dad, Robert, was a long-time judge in Taney County. His mother, Elma, lived many years in the Forsyth area, hosting countless Turkey Bowl football games in her pasture for the Gideon clan.
To me, Uncle Johnny was the fun uncle who always played basketball with us, football, hit us fungo's in baseball, played countless rounds of golf with us, and patented his infamous "hungo" pitch in wiffle ball.
Not too long before he got sick, I remember a family gathering at my brother Mike's home when Johnny and I battled two of my brothers in a game of washers. In this particular mobile game, a backboard above the washer hole had a small hook on it. Almost impossible to hang a washer on it, but worth 10 points, Johnny on his last throw with us down 9 points in fact hooked his washer. At 76 years of age, he danced around like a tee-ball homerun champ, giving out cobra fives to all within reach!
Johnny took us as kids to St. Louis Cardinal baseball games and Missouri Tiger football games. He took us mini golfing all over Springfield. He pretended to interview us after a particularly long homerun in wiffle ball. We always looked forward to visits from Uncle Johnny.
My Dad, in the picture with Johnny, loved visits from Johnny as well, and always laughed hard at Johhny's stories, even if it was the 100th time he told it! He could tell a story like nobody else.
Johnny got a kick out of my younger son Drew, who, when little, was pretty deadpan. Johnny had a running gag where he would look at Drew and say, "What's your name, Drew?" And Drew, without smiling, would say, "Drew." Johnny thought that was hilarious! At a holiday gathering, our other son introduced a relative to Johnny as "our funny Uncle." Drew immediately replied, "He's not always funny." Johnny heard it and rolled on the floor laughing.
Johnny, while loads of fun, was also an amazing husband to wife Aunt Carolyn, and a fantastic Dad to cousins Jeff and Carla. He was an active husband and Dad, and also a man of deep faith. He served for years in the church doing hundreds of hospital visits, home visits...whatever was needed. His faith was strong and deep and REAL. Talk is cheap. Johnny backed his faith up daily.
While a man of faith, Johnny did have a hobby of sneaking into ballgames. He was a master artist at it, rarely having to pay. My Dad joined him on a few of these adventures. He was a part of the chain gang for years for Missouri State University football games. My brothers would often get in games free and roam the sidelines behind Johnny.
Johnny passed away over six years ago. We all still miss him, but smile thinking he's up in Heaven now still needling my Mom concerning politics. Mom was a democrat and Johnny was a republican. Folks could learn a lot today from how my Mom and Johnny treated each other. Every Christmas each would buy the other a present good naturely poking fun at each other. I remember the year Mom opened her present and it was a portrait of Spiro Agnew! She laughed and laughed. That's the way it should be.
Love you, Uncle Johnny. Can't wait to see you again soon. I'd like another crack at your hungo pitch!