Nine years ago today, I conducted the funeral service of George B. Prettyman, Jr well-known teacher, author and newspaper columnist of Zion, Maryland, who died at the age of 94. George came to Zion when he was five years old (when his father was appointed pastor of the Zion Methodist Church) and George stayed on in Zion for eighty-plus years. I was appointed pastor of Zion Methodist Church in 1968 and George took me under his wing and kept me there for nearly forty years. I remember George being hospitalized several times during my time at Zion. When I would visit him in the hospital the nurses thought I must be his son, because they saw some similarity in looks. George told them that if they looked closely they would know better, “I have the big ears,” he said, “and he has big feet.”
George helped me through a difficult graduate school thesis project back then. I received an A on the thesis and the professor said it ought to be published. The professor didn’t know that the thesis was written “by George” (which is how George signed off on each of his weekly “Rural Ramblin’s” newspaper columns for over fifty years).
George Prettyman helped a good many people write their life’s story through his teaching, writing, friendship, encouragement and counsel. I’m grateful to be just one of the many. Someday, I keep saying, I need to write down this story of George and me. But how could I do that without George around to help me? (The following message explains…)
“This is from Me-George to Me-Hal:
Now, the old English teacher comes out in me now and then and I am doing this, not to criticize you, but to help you with the only grammatical stumble I ever see you make. You use the word ‘for Cher and I.’ Delete Cher from that line—not from your life, however—and read the line. ‘Would you say ‘for I?’ That’s the test. ‘Me” is the object of the preposition ‘for’ in this case—not ‘I.’ I know you know this already. I am only trying to reinforce what you already know but have allowed to become ‘rusted.’ I hope you understand the ‘old teacher’ who is just trying to keep your grammar totally clean.” (Later, that same day) “I am sorry I have the audacity to correct your grammar. I who can’t type well nor spell worth a hoot! I am ashamed of me. I ask your forgiveness.”
Two large notebooks in my study contain forty-years of letters, emails, columns, and other stuff “by George.” Every once in a while I’ll pull one out and look through it. Each time I do that, as I did this morning, I miss George!