II.   Family Devastated


The morning started as a normal Wednesday morning.  People were scurrying about to get to work on time.  Businesses were opening up as they did every morning at 9:00 AM.


Walter was going to a banker’s meeting in Nashville that morning and Dessie was with him.  She had some shopping to do while he was in his meeting.


She wanted to go by the Lifeway Book Store to look at some items she wanted to buy as gifts for later in the year.  And there were always the retail shops for a new dress. 


Walter insisted on driving.  Dessie dutifully sat near him determined that she would keep him awake.  The kids were already talking about taking his keys away from him.


Sam arrived at the bank and had already opened the doors to the bank.  Most of the tellers that were on duty that morning had set up their windows.


Sherry, Steve’s secretary, heard the phone ringing and went to answer it.  It was Officer Melrose from the Nashville Police Department.


Officer Melrose was an accident investigator for the Nashville police force.  He told Sherry that there had been an accident.  He knew both Walter and Dessie and recognized them as the occupants in the car that had been hit.  Both had lost their life.


Sherry screamed when she heard the news and called for Sam to come quick.  Sam looking bewildered came immediately to her aid and took the phone.


He recognized the officer’s name and voice.  He went blank turning white with the news.  He sat back on one of the teller stools and dropped the phone.


Somehow on exit 205 off eastbound I-40, Walter got his car spun around in the wrong direction.  Some said that he might have been hit by a passing car, but the car was never found.


Others thought that he had a stroke or heart attack and hit the side rail causing him to spin around.  But no one could confirm that.


Still others thought it might be the slick highways as there had been a slight mist in the early morning hours.  The road was wet.


Hitting the brakes coming down the exit ramp could cause the car to slide sideways.  That would cause it to get into the guard rail and spin around.


Regardless of the reason for being turned in the wrong direction, Walter and Dessie were caught head-on by an 18 wheeler using the same exit.  The driver of the 18 wheeler had done everything he could to avoid them.


The exit was under partial construction and with barricades on one side; the difference in pavement levels and the space allotted; he could not adjust in time.  He plowed head-on into them pushing them backward for over 150 feet before he could stop.


The impact was such that the seat belts and air bags – which were deployed – were broken, and gave way.  Walter and Dessie were thrown against the windshield and both were killed instantly by the blunt force trauma of the impact.


Sherry immediately ran to the front door and closed it just as two customers were coming in.  She knew that this information did not need to be released until the bank was ready to publish a news release.


She informed those wanting to come in, “We are closing temporarily due to a death in the family.”  The incoming customers understood and turned away without asking for questions.


She then turned and announced to everyone that no one was to tell anyone what had happened.  The news had to come from the family first.  She asked Jeremy, one of the tellers, to make up a sign to put on the door.


Turning to Ophelia, another teller, she instructed her, “Call Mary at the florist and get a death wreath for the front door including a hanging attachment,”


She continued, “Tell her to make it the nicest one they have ever made.  Don’t tell her what has happened.” 


And she concluded, “Get something for the drive-thru area.  I don’t have any ideas for that.  Whatever you think might work or see if Mary might suggest something if necessary.”


Sam had not even heard what was going on in the bank.  He had retreated to his office to call Joan.


Joan ran to the phone when catching it on the second ring, “Joan, something terrible has happened.  Mom and Dad just got killed in a car accident in Nashville.”


Waiting a moment for Joan to let the message sink in.  “Joan, I can share details later,” he exclaimed, “we have got to move.”


Sam finished, “You call Sandra and I will call Steve.  I know where he is.  Tell everyone to go to Dad’s house and we will meet there as quickly as everyone can get there.”


Steve was going to play golf this morning with the CEO of the lumber mill.  He could reach him there.


Sam hung up the phone while hearing sobs coming from his wife.  He knew it would be hard on her, but she was a tough girl and would be able to handle it.”


“The question for him though,” he thought, “would he be able to handle it?”  Questions were swarming in his mind.


Sam dialed the number for the country club and asked, “Please get Steve to the phone immediately – it’s an emergency!”


James, also known as Jim, the golf pro, came on the line and said, “We are in luck, Sam, Steve just came through the door with Carl.  They were going to tee off in 15 minutes.  He is on his way over now.”


“Yo, Bro!  What’s up?” asked Steve as he took the phone from Jim.  He assumed, “It might be a teller who had called in sick or possibly a check that needed his signature to clear – who knows?”  He thought, “Sam’s good in a pinch, but in a punch, he takes it in the gut.”


“Steve,” started Sam, “Mom and Dad’s been killed in an accident in Nashville this morning.  Officer Melrose – you know him – he lives over on Leeway Dr – called in when he recognized Mom and Dad in the car.”


“It’s not official as the Coroner has not been there to make his call, but it is just a matter of time.”  He hesitated to let Steve react to the message.


To his amazement, Steve was calm.  “What is happening right now?” he asked.


Sam replied, “I have called Joan and asked her to call Sandra and for all of us to meet at Mom and Dad’s house as soon as possible.  We have got to get the family together before this gets out.”


He explained, “We closed the bank and have made signs for the door stating that there is a death in the family at the bank without saying who.  We have ordered a wreath for the front door and a banner for the drive-thru.”


Steve responded, “That’s a good idea.  Tell the staff not to give out any information until we release it.”


Steve stated, “I don’t like Sandra getting a phone call, but she will be able to handle it until we get together.  She will understand”


“What we have to do right now,” began Steve, “is to set some things in motion that will affect the bank officially.  There is a protocol we have to follow.”


He continued, “Dad took care of this some time back thinking that something like this could happen.  All we have to do is get Warner, our lawyer, on board and set it in motion.”


“Call Joan back,” Steve continued, “and be sure she does not tell anyone just yet.  There will be plenty of time for that.  I will call Warner, and inform him to meet us at the house as well.” 


He finished, “Sam, I have to warn you that you will have to work with me on this.  You might not like everything you hear, but it is what Dad wanted.”


He finished, “I am going to call Sandra and Warner.  I will pick up Sandra and get over to the Mom and Dad’s.  See you there.”  Steve hung up the phone and thanked Jim for calling him to the phone.


Steve had to keep up the front although he was emotionally disturbed over the loss of his Mom and Dad.  “This is going to be tough,” he sobbed silently.


His Dad had taught him more about the banking business than Belmont could have in a million years.  The education from Belmont was great; however, the foundation from his Dad was real.


Sam dialed Joan on the speed dial number and waited for her to pick up.  “What did he mean ‘until I release it’ and ‘I might not like what I hear’ and ‘I will have to work with him on this’ – what is going on?”


Sam’s thoughts were interrupted when Joan picked up the phone.  “Joan, do not tell anyone about what is going on until we have a chance to meet at Mom and Dad’s.  We will get all the details then.”


“It will probably be done as a release from the bank instead of family members releasing it anyway.  This is going to be a big thing for Tennessee and Lebanon as well,” Sam instructed.


Joan was still crying and trying to follow everything Sam was saying, “That’s OK; I have not talked to anyone but Sandra.  She is really upset.”


Sam responded, “Good, Steve is calling her right now and telling her the same thing.  He will pick her up and come to Mom and Dad’s.”


Sam continued, “Where is Junior this morning?  He should have been here by now?”


Joan asked, “Do you want me to call him?  Be better if you did.  You can handle him better than I can!”


“Sure, I will if he does not show up in the next few minutes,” stated Sam, “I will definitely make contact with him before I go to Mom and Dad’s – he needs to be there as well.  And you need to get over there.  Do you want me to pick you up?  I can be on my way as soon as I talk to Junior.”


“No, I can drive myself.  You go ahead and get over there,” answered Joan and she hung up the phone.


“Sam, someone is knocking on the door,” exclaimed Sherry, “I cannot see who it is because of the sign.  Should I go open the door?”


Sam answered, “No, I will do it.  I am looking for Junior and with the shades and the sign down, that might be him.  He is due any minute now.”


Sam opened the door to a smiling Junior, “What gives?  The door was locked and a sign about a death in the family.  Have I died and not been told about it?”


Sam motioned for Junior to come in and he closed the door behind him and locked it.  “Come into my office,” responded Sam.


They walked silently to Sam’s office and Sam waited for Junior to enter and he close the door behind him.  Sam began, “Mom and Dad were killed in a car accident in Nashville this morning.”


He continued, “We don’t have all the details just yet, but it is definitely confirmed that it is them.  Officer Melrose called and gave us the preliminary report.”


Junior’s demeanor immediately changed.  “Dad, is there anything I can do?  I did not know – I am so sorry for my joking around.  I had no idea.”


Junior plumped down in a chair and began to sob.  Sam went to him.  He grabbed him and pulled him up to him.  They stood grasping for each other and for answers.  Neither became evident.


Sam had rarely shown emotional support for Junior and although this effort was spontaneous, the years of not showing became obvious.  He did not know what to say to comfort Junior.


Finally Sam said, “The family is gathering over at Mom and Dad’s house and you will need to be there too.  I am leaving now and you can ride with me or bring your own car.”


Junior replied, “I will come in my own car.  Who knows what we will do next and it will be better if I have my own ride. Plus I will go get June and bring her with me.”


They both let Sherry know that they were going over to Walter and Dessie’s home if anyone needed them.  The family was gathering there for the next move.


“Tell the staff to go home and we will let them know when we can what happens next.  I know that for the next few days, we will be closed,” Sam informed Sherry; and he and Junior walked from his office.


Junior, remembering that June needed to know, shouted back to Sherry as he got to the door, “Call my wife and tell her what has happened and that I am coming to pick her up.  Tell her not tell anyone about it until I get there.”


Sherry muttered something not audible and walked to the phone to call June.

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