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Ode to a friend lost too soon

Editorial by Chad Hobbs

 On November 14, I found myself singing the Mamas and the Papas, ‘California Dreaming.’ I had learned this song back in elementary school for a music program our school performed, themed around 50s and 60s songs. I loathed music class back then, but as I prepared to go to the funeral home a few Saturdays ago, it only seemed fitting to be singing “All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey,” on that dreary, November morning.

 Jimmy Dial wasn’t just the owner of the Flaherty Bar, but he was in many ways a pillar of the community. He wasn’t just a dear friend of mine, but he was a friend of the community and anyone he came in contact with. In many ways, he was a shining example of the kind of man the world needs more of right now.

 He left this world just days prior to his birthday, taken way too soon at the tender age of 54.

 Jimmy and his wife, Cheryl, owned Flaherty Video for a large portion of my son’s early life. Before Redbox and streaming services pushed brick and mortar video rental stores into extinction, this was where you went to get a movie. With the rental of a video, children could pick out a free movie from their kids’ corner. Their large selection of Scooby Doo cartoons left Cole constantly requesting me to rent a movie just so he could pick a free one out. He still mentions the “Scooby Doo” store every time we drive by its former building.

 As far as the Flaherty Bar, this inconspicuous, long white building in Flaherty may go unnoticed by some, but this was ground zero for many of Jimmy’s many efforts to help make the community a better place by helping those in need.

 Anyone who knew Jimmy can attest to the fact that maybe no one has ever bled Kentucky blue and Republican red the way he did. Though he loved his Cats and talking politics, nothing outshined his love for helping those in need.

 Maybe no one noticed when he called me up and donated a screwed up order of sunflower seeds to the community ballpark, but it wasn’t just these small acts of kindness he blessed the community with. It was the thousands of dollars raised for cancer and other treatments that members of the community were undergoing by hosting cookouts and silent auctions in their name. It was calling on his army of Facebook friends to help someone move or provide help for some other need an individual had. It was the trailer load of toys he collected every year to be donated to Knights of Columbus, so less fortunate children would have a better Christmas. In fact, over $1,500 alone was raised for this year’s toy drive the day of his funeral.

  I will never forget the conversations we had in his parking lot during the lockdown while he was forced to shut down, except for selling package, for longer than any other business in Meade County other than Mr. Gatti’s buffet. He loved to laugh, play pranks and had no problem giving a little grief to someone who deserved it. Stopping by to see him after a stressful day was guaranteed to brighten my day for sure. His big ol’ smile was sure to lead to, “Brother Hobbs, tell us some news,” or “Brother Hobbs, I need you to explain something to me” which was liable to lead anywhere, often to my own detriment in the name of humor.

 My heart aches for his wife and family as they, like so many others who have lost loved ones this year, endure this holiday season without Jimmy. At the same time, I am so thankful to have known such a great guy as Jimmy Dial.

 He brought so many people together that would never have known each other, otherwise. He made us laugh, he gave us a hard time when we deserved it, but he never blinked an eye at an opportunity to take the shirt off his back to help those in need. That is the lesson he taught everyone that ever knew him. There is a time to be serious and brutally honest, but humor and giving selflessly are what is most important in the end. Live, laugh, love.

 This was all too apparent at the beginning of his funeral service. As family and friends sniffled and fought back tears, the silence was broken by ‘Frosty the Snowman,’ blaring across the funeral home’s sound system. Even in death, he made us laugh one last time. In that moment, he made sure humor had won the day.