Lewis Hall died March 7, 2017 of heart failure. It was sudden, painless, and a smooth transition between life and death. The following are his words from five years ago.
Looking back over 90 years I can say without hesitation that I had a happy life including a happy childhood. This is in spite of the fact that the Great Depression in 1931 devastated the economy of Seminole, the oil boom town in Oklahoma where my family lived. I was ten years old. My father, who drove an oilfield truck, did not lose his job but his pay was cut from $150/month to $10-15/month. Surprisingly we did not feel poor. My mother who was a great role model in the tough times kept reminding my sister and me that there were many people worse off than us.
Tough times developed tough people. I developed self-reliance at an early age. Fortunately some far-sighted citizens started a public library in Seminole in 1931. This served as my window to the world and furnished me hours of pleasure and enlightenment as I discovered the world of books.
I developed a mental toughness and became used to physical hardship like other members of the Greatest Generation who were honed in the crucible of the Great Depression. My father left home at 16 and when I graduated he expected me to do the same. My first two years in college were especially tough since the only financial help I received was $25 from an uncle. It was hard carrying 18 semester hours and working 40 hours a week in a service station, the first year, for 16 cents/hour. At the start of my junior year World War II started and I was able to get a government loan and it was a little easier. Although it was a tough struggle, I never gave in. Winston Churchill in a war-time speech said: Never give in– Never, Never, Never, Never. This was my philosophy. Without the character-building experience of the Great Depression I am not sure I could have persevered.
An important reason I have had a happy life is that I was fortunate to have had the love and affection of two beautiful and wonderful women, Margaret for 30 years and Susan for 32 years and counting. No one could be more fortunate. A very rewarding experience that I shared with Margaret was watching our two sons, Mark and Brett, grow from helpless infants to strong independent young men. I will always treasure this experience.
My life was not without its tragic moments: the time Margaret and I found out that our daughter, Barbara Ann, suffered from Down Syndrome and was severely and profoundly retarded, the untimely death of my sister, Louise, at age 41 from multiple sclerosis, and the death of Margaret from cancer at age 56. I had come to grips with life at an early age and realized that death is a part of life. Regardless of how much you love someone no amount of grieving will bring them back. You have to carry on with your life. Robert Frost said it best: "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."
Satchel Paige the legendary black baseball player once said: "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you." I have tried to follow that philosophy. Since 1931 when I discovered the library I have always found something new to learn and something new to experience. At 90 I feel the same way. As Paul Simon said in 59th Street Bridge, "Life, I love you." I feel fortunate and very proud to have been born in this great country of ours. I don't share the current pessimistic view of our future. As a survivor of the "Times that tried men's souls" and a member of the Greatest Generation I see things differently. I still have an optimistic view of life in general and the future of our country. Like Robert Frost, I have some miles to go before I sleep.
No more talk, I am going to savor this moment! Carpe diem.