We are going down state today to “pay our respects,” as we say in Gibson County, to Jarvis Reed. I hope I paid enough respect to Jarvis in life that he knew how much I respected him.
Jarvis was not the first kid I met when we moved to the little hard-scrabble farm near Oakland City when I was ten years old. It was in March. School was going on, so the first day after Daddy and Uncle Johnny and I unloaded our furniture from Uncle Johnny’s lumber company truck, I walked the half mile down our dead-end gravel road to the “big” gravel road to get on Jimmy Bigham’s school bus. There were kids on the bus, but none from my class.
Jarvis was the first kid from my class that I met. I suppose Embree Green, the principal, escorted me through the halls to Mrs. May Mason’s classroom. [I was convinced that she was ancient, because she had also taught my father.] Jarvis was in the hallway outside the classroom. When he found out he had a new classmate, he acted like it was the greatest thing that had happened in the history of Oakland City. He grabbed me by the arm, dragged me into the classroom, took me all around the room, introduced me to every kid with, “We’ve got a new classmate! His name is John!” From that day on, that was my “gang.” I belonged.
In retirement, when she came to class reunions, Miss Grace Robb, who taught us Latin in high school and was our class sponsor, along with basketball coach Alva Cato, said in all her years of teaching, she had never seen a class that was as involved with one another emotionally as the class of ’55. That involvement with one another, care for and concern about one another, has gone on for 70 years of my life. I think a lot of that was due to Jarvis, what he did to meld us clear back in grade school, to be sure even the new kid was included.
In many ways, Jarvis was the quintessential jolly fat boy who wanted to be liked. A lot of jolly fat boys are either the class clown or the one everyone makes fun of. That was never true of Jarvis. Everybody liked Jarvis not because he was different or outstanding but because he wasn’t. He was just a nice guy.
Our class had reunions every five years. We often lived a long way off geographically, but we always tried to get there. Helen has often said, “If you ask me where I went to high school, I’ll probably say ‘Oakland City, class of ‘55’ because they have taken me in so completely at the reunions it feels like I have always belonged.”  At those reunions, Jarvis acted just like he had the first time I met him, that when I walked in, that was the best thing that ever happened.
I feel at home in this great big universe in large part because Jarvis Reed made me feel at home in one small town.
1] Helen [NMN] Karr was actually valedictorian of the Gary, IN Tolleston HS Class of 1956, a class about 3 times larger than our 62 graduates. She moved from Monon, IN to Gary when she was ten years old, the same age as I when we moved, but she never felt at home there.
Two problems with writing a blog for old people: an ever smaller # of available people, who can’t remember to click on the blog link.