Lonnie McKelvey is a freelance writer based in Fort Payne, Alabama, and is a regular contributor to Grandparents Day Magazine.
On March 01,2021, this world lost a great man. Not some famous or infamous world figure, not a big movie star, but my beloved Uncle, Rhodney V. Satterfield , passing away at age 95.
He grew up in southern poverty, in a time where if you had food, it was because you grew it. There were no free lunches or free anything back then. As part of a family of five kids, he wore what his mother sewed for him and worked hand in hand with his father to grow food and raise livestock.
For Christmas, they might receive an apple or an orange, or they might receive nothing. Such was the hardship of living during the early 1900’s in rural Alabama. His sister, my Mother, told me many of the hardships they went through and how much her brother meant to her.
He was many different things to many different people. In no exact order, he was a son, a brother, a soldier, a husband, a barber, a father, a mentor, a church leader, a role model, a grandfather, a great grandfather, a community leader, a respected man by so very many, and my Uncle.
This was a man that lived his life with a steadfastness and faith that few can match. He loved his family and raised them in church and with the belief that family stays together. I watched from a distance as he kept his family in church and just as importantly to me, his family close to each other.
While my family tree bent in the storms of life, breaking the limbs as they fell to the ground in pieces, his family tree bent, leaves blowing, limbs swaying but not breaking. His family was not immune to the troubles every other family goes through, yet he kept them close. Sunday after church all his kids were at his house for lunch. His extended influence on everyone he met is more than I can imagine.
Being close in age to his youngest daughter, and living close by for a few years, I was at his home often.
Even then I respected him immensely and this was decades before I knew anything about his service in the army in World War II.
A few years ago, I asked him to let me interview him about his service. He agreed and I am fortunate to have that interview recorded. The stories he told me were incredible. He was at so many places and battles that it amazed me. That he came home at all, is nothing short of a miracle.
I was ready to take him to a radio station for an interview and even to write a book about his service. I called a friend who hosted a radio show and interviewed interesting people every week. She was excited to have us on her show.
A few days before the scheduled radio show, I called him to check on him and remind him of the date of the show. He said that he had changed his mind and did not want to do the radio interview. He said he did not want to be called a hero. No fanfare or celebrity for him. All I could say was that I understood and that he was my hero anyway.
It is funny how real heroes never want to be called a hero. To them, the heroes are the ones who never came home.
He was human and I am sure he would be the first to say he was not perfect, but he was pretty darn near perfect to me.
You my friends, will be reading this on May 01,2021. This would have been his 96th birthday.
How can one wonderful man’s life be summed up in a few lines when he touched the lives of so many others? Although this is a poor attempt, it is from the depths of my heart. To all who knew him, he was a solid foundation, a loving father, a teacher, a role model, a strong member of the community. I am sure that in their hearts and minds, he still is.
To me, he was a role model, a mentor, an example of how a man is supposed to live, to raise a family, to keep a family close, to follow God. He was all that and more. He was my hero. He still is.