Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bradley MacNeil Smith

Brad with his Father in about 1974 getting his 
1964 Falcon ready for paint at Cherry Hill Lane.

The Saigon Fishwagon in North Carolina.
The Saigon Fishwagon in North Carolina
The 1964 Ford falcon at 17 Devon Drive
Bradley MacNeil Smith

  On August 17, 2014 my old friend Brad Smith passed away. It was just nine days short of his 56th birthday. Brad succumbed to the ravages of cancer but from all accounts he was his mischievous self to the very end. Brad was one of the most creative and intuitive people that you could ever meet. Brad could meet you once and mock your voice or mannerisms and he would if he thought you were obnoxious or annoying. Brad was also very kind hearted and would help you out if you needed help. Brad was a special person every way.

Brad and I met back in 1969 in the woods we used to call the Plaza. We were both looking for adventures on my outlaw motorcycle Betsy and his Rupp mini bike. We rode our motorcycles and disturbed all the neighbors in the process. There were others among us like Denny (Doc), Dave, Geoff (Zippy), George, Terry and who could forget Johnny Grigs. We rode our motorcycles through the woods, the police chased us when the neighbors got too annoyed and we partied in the woods with beer and other things that were popular at the time. All those things were such a long time ago.

When everyone else was graduating High School I had already taken my GED test and had enlisted in the US Navy. The last year of High School seemed like such a waste of time to me so I went and took the test and scored high enough in all the tests to be awarded the High School Diploma from the High School as it was their policy at the time in 1975. During this time Brad’s Father worked for General Electric and right around the time for Brad to graduate in the year 1976 his Father got the word that he would be transferred to North Carolina. Brad’s parents stayed long enough for him to graduate and then they picked up stakes and moved to Salisbury North Carolina. 

Brad decided to stay in the area for a while after his parents moved. I was overseas during this time on deployment with my ship the USS Caloosahatchee and I’m not certain of the exact date when Brad decided to move to North Carolina but when he did he moved things like the 1950 GMC panel truck he had acquired in stages. We called the truck “the Saigon Fish Wagon” because it had the name of company that had it before Brad bleeding through the faded red paint and it looked like something you would see on the side of the road in Vietnam that we would see on television every night when we were kids.
Brad finally got all his belongings moved down to Salisbury and he lived there with his parents. I did not know it at the time but his Mother was sick so Brad had gone down there to help out. I came back from my deployment in 1977 and I went to visit Brad or “Hack” as we called him. Brad disliked that name so I called him “don’t call me hack” because that’s what friends do. Anyway when I was finally able to get away from the ship I set out to have Thanksgiving dinner with Brad and his family in 1977.

 On the way there I got a speeding ticket on Virginia Route #58 for doing miles 98 per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone by a Virginia State Trooper. The Trooper caught up to me after about 20 miles of following me at speeds over 100 miles per hour. When he finally caught up to me I saw him get out his interceptor with a big ol’ cigar clenched between his teeth while he put his Smokey Bear hat on.  The trooper comes up to my car and says to me ”that little car sure do run” he’d been trying to catch me for over 20 miles. Well, it ended up I got a big fat ticket but since he saw my military ID and I told him I was going to be late for Thanksgiving dinner he let me go. I told the story to Brad and showed the ticket to him and he laughed and said something like “they got you this time didn’t they?” 

I went to Brad’s again a few more times when I was able to. I was stationed in Norfolk Virginia and it was about a four hour ride to Salisbury if I remember right. We drank in a few of the clubs they had there for drinking and made nuisances of ourselves as was always the case.  After I was discharged from active duty in January of 1980 it was hard to keep in contact with Brad. There were no cellphones and I was trying to establish myself back into civilian life. We stayed in contact and always maintained that same friendship we always had. Brad came to visit for a couple of weddings, a trip to New York State near Poughkeepsie to party at Kevin’s place. We got in trouble there for setting off a black powder cannon he brought. Every one of the old friends knew it was us right away. Trouble is as trouble does.

On Sunday February 16th at 11am Brad's wife JoAnna called me. I had no idea what the number was on my phone but I called back anyway. It was Brad's wife JoAnna and she told me Brad had passed away back in August. It all made sense to me now why he hadn’t returned my calls. I prayed for Brad every night and didn’t know he was already gone. I thank the Lord that JoAnna called to let me know of his passing. God Bless you JoAnna and God bless Brad for being my friend for all those years through thick and thin.