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Ready, Willis and Able – Can't judge man by boots (Jan. 20, 2016 issue)

When I first saw him I thought he looked kind of gruff with his bushy eyebrows and handlebar moustache. He was wearing cowboy boots and a leather jacket and looked to me like he was nearly seven feet tall. I imagined him revving up a motorcycle and tearing out of our church parking lot in search of a livelier congregation. I could see him belonging to a church of “biker” Presbyterians. Not that our Presbyterian church isn’t known for having a congregation of lively folks who mind to stand their ground on certain issues. But most of us don’t have quite the motorcycle-rider look.
Not long after I spotted the motorcycle rider at Sunday services, I discovered that he and his wife both rode motorcycles. She made her way to my pew one Sunday and said she had heard I was a writer. That she wrote poetry. Could we get together? I said sure, and this is how my husband Leo and I came to know and have a wonderful friendship with Paul Teffeau, the man with the boots, and his wife Roberta after they moved to Horton’s Ridge Road in Erwin.
Unfortunately, the time came when Paul’s health began to decline, and he and Roberta decided to move to Denver, Colorado where they had close family. For the past year or so, it was evident that he didn’t have much time left. We were sad but not surprised to hear of his passing.
Recently, our church hosted a special celebration of Paul’s life. As I listened to friends and family share funny and touching stories about him, the one word I kept hearing used to describe the gruff-looking biker was KINDNESS. Our former minister, now retired, told about working on a Habitat for Humanity house with Paul and some other older men from our congregation. He recalled how they had worked all day and had stopped to rest a bit before saying goodbye to the family eager to move into their soon-to-be new home. The mother was standing in the kitchen. Our minister and the other men noticed that she had tears streaming down her face. They asked her what was wrong. She continued to weep as she told the men how grateful she was for their work. That without their time and efforts her family wouldn’t have the house. Our former minister related that he and the men from our church, including Paul, began to weep with the woman. It was a sacred experience of love and compassion and human kindness. “Paul was kind,” our minister said as he recounted the story.
Without a doubt, Paul left his mark on our hearts. And any time we are reminded of his sense of humor, I don’t know how we can resist smiling. As I write this, I can just hear Paul saying, “Well, Jan, I guess you just can’t judge a fellow by his boots.”