My wife and I have been going to a Country Music venue about an hour away from our home for twenty-five years.Â It was formerly a movie theater (1940sâ€“1950s) and was later converted into a place where local citizens could perform (1975).Â It was conceived by a local man that went by the moniker, â€œUncle Jimmy Wickhamâ€.Â His birth name was James Wickham Smith.Â He, along with a sister and two nieces, developed a plan, talked with the owner of the abandoned movie theater, aptly titled â€œDonks Theaterâ€ (after the owner), and signed a lease.Â They advertised it as â€œVirginiaâ€™s Little Ole Opryâ€ and set the ticket price at $8 for adults & $2 for children.Â Shows were scheduled every two weeks on Saturday night (8pmâ€“11pm) and the house band was named â€œShades of Countryâ€.Â The showâ€™s MC was â€œUncle Jimmyâ€ and it always started by his telling a few â€œHee Hawâ€ type jokes.Â That got the audience laughing and was a perfect transition into the show.Â
Uncle Jimmy passed away on March 21st, 2019 at the age of 81.Â A lot of hearts were saddened to hear of his passing, it wasnâ€™t expected.Â We really never get ready for death even when we know that it may be near.Â
There were a lot of people at his funeral and a lot of fine things were said about him.Â One of his nieces gave a 20-minute eulogy that was outstanding.Â As I sat there and listened to her, the thought crossed my mind that I should have my wife track her down when I pass on and get her to say some of those nice things about me.Â Some people just have a way of saying things that convey a simple truth.Â The simple truth in this case was about a man that many people loved and how his life was an inspiration for others to follow.Â His two children are living proof that he was a wise and decent man, and I see so much of him in each of them.Â
I think the one thing we all do is spend our entire life sketching an unalterable portrait of ourselves.Â Uncle Jimmy accomplished that job extremely well.
Â Several years ago (1994), he penned the following poem, entitled, â€œMy Soul is Heaven Boundâ€, and I think it is excellent:Â
â€œAs I look back in time to childhood days,
I remember sunshine, flowers and warm, smoky haze
across the fields and meadows.
This time was special to me.Â
As I lay on my back and watched the clouds float across the sky,
‘Twas then I wondered where my soul would be should I die.
Then, one day I met a man named Jesus Christ of Nazareth,
And since that time The Spirit of the Living God has lived in me,
And I know my soul is heaven bound.â€
After the graveside interment, we went back to his church to celebrate his life by eating a lot of excellent food.Â Most of the people there were family members and local friends of Uncle Jimmyâ€™s.Â My wife and I, living so far away, only knew a few of them, mostly the ones that performed onstage at â€œDonksâ€.Â We left the church that day with a cloud of sadness hanging restlessly over our heads, knowing that even though the â€œShow Must Go Onâ€, it wouldnâ€™t be quite the same without Uncle Jimmy.