Earl Junior Lightfoot
December 16, 1927 – February 6, 2007
Earl Lightfoot (Dad) was a paradox and he was unassuming, none of us kids even knew that he had a middle name until I discovered it a while back doing some genealogy work on the family. And, no wonder, Earl Junior Lightfoot sure sounds a little awkward now when we all thought he was “NMI”, no middle initial, for all our life.
Dad came from humble beginnings. He was put in an orphanage along with one of his Brothers and two sisters. Everyone got adopted but him. From his stories, he just couldn’t stay in foster homes and in his early teens ended back on the sharecropper farm with his grandfather. That lasted until he told his grandfather he had picked his last pick of cotton.
He went into the Marine Corps at age 15, telling the drill instructor he was looking for a home. For the next three years, he met Gloria Marie White, married her and fought two fights, one as a boxer at Madison Square Garden, winning a golden gloves bout in the light feather weight division and then fighting in the Battle of Okinawa, the biggest battle in the Pacific Campaign.
He had an 8th grade education but could talk about Julius Caesar as easy as he could talk about George Bush or Hillary Clinton, with insight and political correctness. In these later years he enjoyed talking to Jamey about Ancient History and Berry about Politics, each trying to convert the other to his party. He could just as well talk about the Religions of the world or he could talk about college football. Even though this is Gator country he was a Seminole fan as well. Dad was an avid reader and self styled historian and sure enough when I looked at his enlistment papers into the Marine Corps at age 15 he listed English and History as his academic interests.
But, Dad had other interests. When talking to my pastor in his brief stay in the hospital in Tallahassee, he told him that he was a Marine first and then a salesman. Again, he was something of a paradox. He continued working as a salesman, starting off with milk trucks, then bread trucks and for many years Sistrunk’s Candy truck and then on to a territory manager at Eli Witt for almost 20 years, well into his seventies and he only came out as a Marine after all his grandsons enlisted in either the Marines, Navy or Coast Guard.
The boys and he spent many an hour on the back porch talking about his experiences in Okinawa, and his work in China receiving surrendering Japanese on the Great Wall of China on horseback. He was blessed that he got to enjoy all his grandchildren at a relatively young age. And his granddaughters, Codi and Jenna had that special relationship with Pop Pop.
We all knew Dad was a ladies man, first our Mother and then his daughters Linda Ann and Gloria Marie (they hate it when I use their middle names) and his daughter in laws Karen and Lucia and most especially his granddaughters Codi and Jenna.
Just like he instilled the love of fishing in Ernest and me, Dad was able to share his love of fishing and the St. Johns River with his grandsons as well. We don’t have time to share all the adventures. Like the day he was in the front of the boat casting when the trolling motor hit a log and sent him flying. Sean and I were with him that day and I thought Sean was going to laugh himself silly saying Pop Pop looked like a spider hanging onto the front of the boat.
And Dad was a family man, a carpenter, an electrician and all around handyman. He helped build Andy and Gloria’s house, after he remodeled his own home. I think he told them he was never going to screw another screw into drywall, sort of like he wasn’t going to pick any more cotton. And I don’t think he did.
Dad was a man of his word. Ask Ernest. When he said get a switch, he meant it, even if he had to run you down when you took off.
But above all else, Dad enjoyed life and family. When Mother ran Littlefoot’s Day Care, Dad spent every minute with the kids that he could. Everyone knew Mom as Nannie and Dad as Pop Pop. Most of these kids are grown now, but they continue to come by to see Pop Pop.
And yes Dad had some vices. He loved cards, especially Pinochle. When he wasn’t in a good poker game that might last a weekend, He would be playing Pinochle with his brother in laws, Uncle Jack and Uncle Darvin. When Mom’s Brother, my Uncle Ronald came down from New York on his 30 day vacation nearly every year, even Mom’s sister, my Auth Jean would get in the game. Aunt Jean could hold her own with the boys. And now, after his card playing days, none of us could get him off his electronic solitaire.
And with his new generation of kids, his 10 great grandchildren, he was another great hit. They were the quickest to put a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. It was obvious they are all smitten by him, not unlike his grandchildren and his four children, of which are all here and present today.
We are here to celebrate his life. He lived it his way and if it was picking cotton or screwing in drywall, when he was done he was done. He is now done with his earthly life and he chose to go on home with the Lord and to be with Nannie, his one true Love.
Semper Fi Dad.