If there was ever one good man, it was Gene Falk of Alta Vista.
An e-mail from an acquaintance jolted us in disbelief as it was a terrible report that our good friend had passed away just that morning.
We didn’t even know he was in the hospital. It had been a few weeks since we’d seen Gene, but we’d received our usual Christmas card, one of the first, as always.
Fortunately, we had sent a return one shortly after. Hopefully Gene received it before being hospitalized just a few days ago, according to his best-friend, partner, “second-son” Jim Furney.
Upon coming to our senses from the alarming shock of what we consider his “sudden death,” a call to Jim revealed Gene had been hospitalized a few days, after local doctors and family insisted he be moved to Topeka for treatment of more serious ailment.
Evidently conditions worsened, after Jim had visited him just the day before. Nurses were caring for Gene mid-morning, adjusting his bed, when he gently passed away.
It is a terrible loss to all who knew Gene, none more, most likely, than Jim Furney. Close compadres for nearly four decades and side-by-side workers almost every day for ten years, together they carefully analyzed every project to perfection.
If there was anything that needed done, Gene could likely do it. He was extremely talented with everything to be done mechanically. Any piece of steel could become a useful tool under his masterful hand.
His artistry spread beyond that skill to leather, and talents there possibly meant more to Gene personally than his diverse machinery abilities. Leather hides of various weights, colors and textures in his home were his pride to discuss as Gene displayed the wide array of projects made from them by his skilled hands.
There were billfolds, purses, belts, foot ware and we are quite proud of the leather BB wall hanging Gene made especially for us. It has been prominently displayed in the kitchen since he presented it to us while broadly grinning in the way for which he will be forever remembered.
Our first acquaintance with Gene was more than 35 years ago when he took over the welding shop, and we were his always-demanding customer. Whatever our need, his expertise showed through, but his generosity and kindness are what made him best-of-all.
When our driving horse ran away and tore up the single tree on the cart, Gene had it repaired in minutes, better than ever before, and we were going again the same day.
Some shop project was always underway, and a detailed explanation of it helped make his day go better and faster, so it seemed. Forever busy, Gene still had plenty of time to visit as he worked.
A special BB hanging welded from horse shoes was another pleasant surprise gift from Gene as he presented it with his broadest and most congenial grin.
Every year, when it was time for our horse field day, Gene had just the right prize already picked out and ready for us to give as an award for a young recipient.
As handy as he was in that business, life improved, so it seemed, when Gene “retired” and went-back-to-work operating bulldozers, like he’d had a fondness for since his teenage years and during his earlier life’s profession.
Gene worked right beside Jim Furney, and there was a team to be reckoned. When they pulled into the field, passionate comradery in their tasks at hand couldn’t even be matched with a welder or leather tools.
Talking about his experiences with horses, and the spurs that always hung on the dash of his pickup, were another fondness we found for Gene. His Mom’s live ponies and her horse paintings also rang his and our fancy a bit more.Seemed like Gene may have pushed the throttle on the dump truck a little heavy a couple of times as he hauled manure from the horse lots for us. Evidently, Gene didn’t want Jim to have any idle time operating the bulldozer and make our bill any higher.
While reflections of early romance brought sadness to Gene, Carol brought sparkle back to that side of his life. It had to be the perfect match as they’d walk the streets in precision harmony.
When Carol had to move into a care facility, Gene was unwavering in his continued dedication to her every need.
Misunderstandings sometimes put a friction in one’s faith, but Gene’s belief never faltered, despite changing location of worship. He was a regular Sunday church attendee whatever the drive and inconvenience might be.
A nice-but-worn, personally-made leather cover for his Bible was evidence of regular daily use as he’d open it to show us the latest passage of merit.
Perhaps, photographer should have been Gene’s profession, along with all the rest. During every parade, Gene was seated on the route camera-in-hand snapping pictures of all the participants.
Then, just a few days later in the mail, we’d receive a photograph or two that Gene had taken of us on our horse, and never with any written comment. Our notebooks have them all, even though we’re now most sorry that sometimes we failed to express appreciation for his kindness.
This fall was one of the last times we saw Gene as he was again camera-in-hand along the parade route with his smile and wave just as the shutter snapped.
Gene was unable to assist Jim much during the past year. Illness during the summer belabored into the fall, and though Gene’s pleasant optimism continued, time continued to take its toll, and finally his body wore out.
Gene Falk was one good man. We are proud to have been his friend. We already miss Gene Falk and will cherish his memory and influence forever.