Hell of a Guy

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!


Today is the day we celebrate fathers.  Mine passed away on November 27, 1997, and it goes without saying, I miss him.  One summer day when he and I were sitting alone at a family picnic he told me a poignant story I cannot retell without choking up. 

From 1924 to 1967 my dad was a payroll clerk with the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company.  Every Friday the guys working in his department would go out in the field and “payoff” the workmen in cash at their jobsites; this was the time before his company began to issue paychecks. 

Each week his department would determine exactly the total amount of cash needed for that week’s payroll.  The cash was ordered from the bank, oddly enough in $2 bills and coins, and then each of the worker’s pay was counted out and placed in an envelope with the worker’s name and four-digit payroll number marked on it.  Once the envelopes were filled, they knew they were correct if there wasn’t any money left on the table.

One Thursday evening as they completed the payroll process they found they were short by one $2 bill.  This meant one envelope had to have an extra bill in it, and they would have to open each envelope and recount the money in order to find it.  All the men in his department would have to work overtime, and this did not make his boss very happy.  A situation like this had happened a couple of weeks prior to this one, and it was my dad who had miscounted the money and caused the envelopes to be rechecked.

My dad discovered the missing $2 bill in an envelope he had filled.  He knew he would be in serious trouble with his boss over this, and he was afraid for his job.  He had five children and a wife at home. When no one was looking he put the $2 bill in his pocket.  As he spoke I noticed his eyes had moistened, and I could hear the embarrassment in his voice.

At this point he said to me, “We wrote on one of the bands that was wrapped around a stack of $2 bills that it was $2 short.”  He went on to say, “I probably caused someone at the bank to lose their job.”  He told me he put the bill in the collection plate at his church that Sunday, and he had never shared the story with anyone, even my mother, causing me to wonder why he was telling me.

It was at this point he said to me with a very concerned look on his face, “Do you think this will keep me from going to Heaven?”

He told me this story a mere months before he died, this is the kind of man my dad was.  One who had been retired for 26 years, still worrying about an incident concerning a lousy $2 bill that happened over 40 years ago.

Russell Anstine White was a simple man of simple tastes.  He had a seventh grade education and a tireless work ethic, and a heart as big as Jupiter.  He was a giver and loved people, and he loved helping others.  He was a devoted husband and father, and if two bucks kept this man out of Heaven, the rest of us do not stand a snowball’s chance in hell of getting anywhere close to it.

And that is all I have to say about that…

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