Last Saturday (July 23, 2011) was the memorial service for Cleo Prescott, although he passed away in January at the age of 85. He was a volunteer firefighter in Vermontville, eventually serving as their fire chief for 20 years. He was a mail carrier, serving Vermontville's rural route one for many years. He sold tractors in the family business, he cooked in the Army during the Korean war and he was one half of C and P Ceramics.
Most importantly for me, he was another man who decided to step up to help me when my dad left.
Cleo and his wife Pat (who is also a cousin of Ema's) gave me my first job. I poured greenware in their ceramics shop the summer I was 14. I think they paid me five percent of the value from everything I helped pour. We always started by making sure the molds were clean, then strap the pieces together and use the gasoline pump Cleo repurposed for pour slip to fill the molds. We would set a timer for each mold so we knew when to pour the excess slip out of the mold and take the straps off.
One day we hopped into his old Jeep Cherokee that he used when he was still a mail carrier and went off to Sebewa Township. There was nothing to note about the trip, other than Cleo really didn't need to have me make the trip with him. I think I might have helped move a few new molds into his car, but it was certainly work he could have accomplished himself.
That is really how my relationship with Cleo was, he had me help him with work he could have done by himself. I have no big, flashy memories of incredible adventures with Cleo or sordid tales to share. To me, Cleo was a man of incredible constancy. We always listened to Tiger baseball games when they were on while we worked. He was always interested in what I had to say. He never yelled or scolded me.
He was consistent in my inconsistent, tumultuous existence.
Tears welled in my eyes when Cleo's memorial service was closed by the Eaton County (MI) dispatcher read his obituary over the emergency channel for every person listening that day to hear. He was humble, honest, kind, trustworthy and loyal. He served willingly served his country, his community and his family without complaint. He was a good friend to a young man who was angry at the world and I am eternally grateful for his kindness.