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May 21, 1999

Chris Cockrum left us at what seems like a very youthful age. He was only 57, the same as my Dad was when he was taken in 1931. Iíve known Chris all his life. His Mom and Dad, Alvin and Dorothy, lived less than half a block down the street from our house. He was just a babe in arms when I went into the Army during World War II, but Iíve watched him every step of the way since then.

He and his younger brother Randy grew up on the driveway of their dadís popular Conoco service station at the southwest corner of the square. Alvin and Dorothy have been hard workers all their lives and they instilled that discipline into the boys and their sister, Candy. I still have this image of Randy and Chris hopping up on the running board when I pulled in for gasoline. It was a full-service stop in every respect. The boys briskly went about the tasks of cleaning the glass all around, checking the tire pressure, the oil level and the radiator. If they saw anything awry, they fixed it or called their dad out to the driveway to ask what they should do. Then they filled the tank with regular or ethyl, and in those days the cost was what we would now call laughably small. Chris continued that work ethic when he became owner of his own pharmacy here. Customers knew he was available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, if needed, to answer questions, fill orders, or provide assistance in any way possible.

Most of us have heard the story of Chrisí pride and joy, that gleaming 1958 Chevrolet Impala. It doesnít come out in the sunlight very often these days, but it shines like a rare and exotic jewel when it does. Alvin, his dad, bought his own first new car in 1939 and he kept it in mint condition for many years. Chris was 11 when he began working at the family gas station and he faithfully saved his earnings until placing an order for that black Impala in January 1958. Chris took possession of the car in March that year and he has kept it immaculate ever since. (A recent renovation cost more than the original purchase price.) He passed that anecdote on to his own son, Paul, who was inspired to emulate his Dad by purchasing his own TransAm in 1985. The personalized tag on Chrisí 41-year-old car is ď1-Owner.Ē

Chrisí penchant for hard work fit right in with his operation of a drug store the past three decades. I grew up in my Dadís drug store in the 1930s and I enjoyed kidding Chris about how easy he had it these days. We used to open the City Drug Store at 7:30 a.m. and close it at 11:30 p.m. every day, seven days a week, with only Christmas and Thanksgiving as holidays. Chris observed shorter hours, in keeping with the shopping habits of most Perryans, and he has been open on Saturday afternoons until one week ago. He and Earline decided to close at noon on Saturday in view of the diminished trade now occurring on that day. It was something they had talked about for some time, and last Saturday they decided to do it.

As sometimes happen, the timing was not good. Chris had only that one Saturday afternoon to enjoy as a day off before his untimely passing last Tuesday morning. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Cockrum family as they cope with this sudden and tragic loss.