This is a hometown post today.
I haven’t really been in the mood to rant about politics or oil spills or media malfeasance the past couple of days.
My dad gave me a call earlier this week to tell me that our longtime neighbor died suddenly. I don’t know if it is your own mortality that plays into the picture as you get older, or the idea that all the deaths of people you know begin to accumulate in your memory banks, each one making the next a little more poignant, a little more distressing, but it seems that way.
Dr. Harold Powell, or “Dr. P.” to me, or “Harold” to his contemporaries, was a pretty private person, so although I lived two houses away, I didn’t really know much about him until I got older. He was a speech pathologist. More than that, as I have discovered on Google this afternoon, he was the cornerstone of the graduate program in the speech pathology department at South Carolina State University, a department that didn’t exist until 1957.
On a day when you have the president of the United States, a pretty good speaker himself, delivering the commencement address at Hampton University, another HBCU, it seems fitting to spotlight a man who probably deserved many more accolades than he received over his long career serving African American students like my cousin, who was one of his students, as well as one of my college classmates, who found himself in that very same department after his graduation from our alma mater, or my many other high school classmates who have gone on to become speech pathologists.
For a small, tightly knit neighborhood like the one my parents live in, where practically all of the residents are well past the age of retirement, and have lived in the same houses for decades, this is real loss.
In a town where people routinely build storage sheds for their lawn tools and gardening supplies, Dr. P. constructed a very well built storage house for his books and papers – his own personal library of sorts. I won’t be at his funeral tomorrow, but I will be thinking of him, hoping that he has made it to his own personal library in the hereafter.
Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep,
He hath awaken'd from the dream of life;
From Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats by Percy Shelley