Today I learned that R.T. stood for Roy Thaddeus. You see, the man officially known as R.T. McDaniel was my granddaddy's business partner and a giant of a man whom I don't think I fully comprehended wasn't a part of my own nuclear family until I started high school. I knew him as Pete. And today was his funeral. He would've been 89 years old on February 2nd.
Pete was married to Georgia for 64 years, and she survives him. The first time I heard Willie Nelson sing "Georgia," I remember feeling so amazed because I was sure it was written specifically for her. It was nice, but bittersweet, to see her face today and hug her neck. Especially since seeing her reminds me of my own grandparents who have been gone ten and six years now, themselves.
Pete was a bear of a man and I mean that literally. A toddler could look up for days and still not see the top of him. A high school footballer could stand next to him and still only come to his shoulders. The stories abounded today of his hands, the bear hugs he'd give that left you laughing, gasping for breath because each time you'd forget just what it felt like getting your neck hugged by him. Indeed, I do believe he was the one who coined "come 'ere and lemme hug yer neck," for our family. One of his hands easily covered the whole side of your head from shoulder to crown.
Those hands hugged a lot of necks and they built a lot of businesses and provided for one hell of a family.
Pete and Georgia had three daughters, seven grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren. And, like I said, most of my family functions growing up included them (and vice versa). I wonder if the days of people enjoying family businesses like that are long gone. I hope not.
As my dad said today when he spoke about Pete, he was most definitely part of "the Greatest Generation," having endured the Great Depression and World War II's Burma Road and making more than just a life in the hard-scrabble oil fields of West Texas.
I, however, just knew him as Pete. A man I loved and never saw without a smile on his face, save for the day we buried my granddad.
Pete - I'm glad to have known you...thank you for everything.
An obituary for Pete can be found here.