Who’s gonna fill his shoes?


He was a member of The Greatest Generation. He also was one of Cleveland, Oklahoma’s greatest assets.

And his life was a lasting gift to our community.

On one of my trips over the years to leave flowers and flags at the war memorial at Feyodi Park, I stopped to take a photo of this bench. I went through my files last night to find it.

It’s not a beauty shot, just a simple shot of a park bench that commemorates the one who dreamed the memorial to life, looking like the hero he was in his sailor blues.

Slab after slab of granite at the park pays tribute to men and women from the Triangle area who have served in wars — from the Civil War to Afghanistan. Mr. Emile Bayouth worked tirelessly to ensure his predecessors, World War II comrades, and those who bravely served after him are honored properly with etched names on those walls.

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Cleveland-Area War Veterans Memorial

Mr. Bayouth cared so much about people, about history and passing it on to younger generations. He was an honest business owner — pretty much the classic small-town proprietor you read about in a book or see in a black-and-white sitcom — and he always had a smile and a hearty laugh.

If you talked to him for one second, you knew he stood with God.

I wasn’t close with him, but from the time I was a child, I saw him with intense appreciation. I respected him as a community leader. To a little girl, he was a kind and gentle man. But when I became an adult, I realized just how much he meant to the 74020.

Cleveland-Area War Veterans Memorial

Old Settler’s Day Parade creeps past Bayouth’s Department Store in the late 1950s

He was one of the many people who moved into town in the 1950s and took over where the founders started. And he did so with his strong work ethic — rooted in his proud Lebanese heritage — at the forefront. I consider that time period to be monumental to our city. The people who transplanted themselves in the Jordan Valley in the ’40s and ’50s were a special crop, and sadly, they are leaving us at a rapid pace and taking their stories and experiences with them.

Another light has dimmed, but we all are better that Emile Bayouth’s lamp shined on our Main Street for one day, much less the nearly 40 years he hung Levi’s in his window and fitted tuxedos for special moments and sold generation after generation their first pair of boots. In the many years of his life after retirement, Mr. Bayouth carefully, humbly, and probably unknowingly, crafted a wonderful legacy.

His family has lost its patriarch. Our city has lost its head cheerleader and a spirit that led it to some of its grandest of days. Emile Bayouth understood the need for a community to band together, to work together, to love each other and to teach children that small-town roots plant a foundation for every way of life. Now it’s up to every person who steps foot in Cleveland to continue his work.

May his sweet soul be one that continues to live along the banks of the Arkansas River and every space in between.

He was a man who was family to an entire town, no matter who you were or how much money was in your pocket. Emile Bayouth was a friend to all.

It’s hard to imagine anyone filling his shoes or standing that tall.

But to pay respects to his memory, and even if it takes 300 of us to make one Mr. Bayouth, we all should try.

** The life and heavenly homecoming of Emile Sol Bayouth will be celebrated on Monday, August 18, 2014 at 10:30 a.m. at the First Christian Church in Cleveland, Oklahoma.

 

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My “Oklahoma Legacies” series is dedicated to the people and places that cause the great 46th State to make my heart beat a little faster. Every person and place have a story — past and present. These are Oklahoma’s. Click here to see all the posts in my #OKlegacies series.

3 thoughts on “Who’s gonna fill his shoes?

  1. One of the greatest men I’ve ever known always made time to talk to you and ask about your family. Cleveland has lost one of its greatest treasures. Rest well my friend

  2. Dear sweet Brandy,
    An eloquent and beautiful tribute to a very special man. Emile Was such a kind man. He will be missed.

  3. Emile wasn’t just a great guy to share a town with, he was a great guy to be neighbors with. (And who wasn’t his neighbor?)
    When Sister Amy was in a coma for six weeks after The Wreck twenty five years ago, Emile stayed all night one night every week in the hospital with her.
    She tells a story about how when she was getting well, she begged Emile to take her home from the hospital with him. He’d go into the hallway and stand a few moments, then come back into her room and tell her he’d asked and they said he couldn’t take her. She’d beg some more and he’d go to the hall again.
    Many years later when Emile retired and was coming to the end of his time on this earth, Amy spent an afternoon a week with him. She learned from the best.
    Our Small Town World is fantastic because of men like him.
    Thanks for sharing.

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