Edward Hale once said, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” I don’t know if Claud “Paw” Messer ever read that quote, but it sums up the thirty years of teaching that he poured into my life and what I watched him pour into those around him through his work ethic and his passion for serving others.
I first met Paw on Friday, October 6th, 1989. He was dropping his youngest daughter off at the theater in the plaza to watch a movie with a wire-framed teenage boy. That meeting would be the beginning of a thirty-year friendship. In that time, he became family, a mentor, and the first person I would call when I needed help or advice. He was both my father-in-law and my best friend. What’s remarkable, is that there are so many others in this community that could give you a very similar story about how he mentored them, how he treated them like family, and how he was the first call they made when they needed help as well.
Paw lived to serve others and led by example. He was the kind of person that would put himself in harm’s way before he would ask you to do the same. The traces of a life well-lived are all over this community. I could tell hundreds of stories about how he understood the power of putting others before himself. When I first met him, he was driving a truck delivering fuel oil. During the blizzard in 1993, I think he stayed on the road more than at home, digging his truck out for hours to see that he did everything he could to keep others warm. He never tired from getting up early to respond to help someone in need.
When you live a life where you model service to others on a daily basis, it’s hard for it not to be contagious. I like to think that had a significant impact on his oldest grandson’s decision to join the military and become a Marine. It is also why his youngest grandson will be sworn in as a law enforcement officer in the next few months. Very few of us have the opportunity to have such a positive influence in our lives.
He will be remembered as someone who did everything in his power to leave this world a little bit better than he found it. He discovered “the something” that he could do, and he did it every day. He put others before himself and served them with every ounce of energy he had. He was doing that thirty years ago when we met, and he was doing that in the final moments of his life on Friday morning. His unselfishness and his genuine compassion for others left its mark.
We were not prepared to say goodbye so suddenly. There were more lessons to learn. There were more “thank you’s” and more “I love you’s” that we missed saying. But we must carry on because that is what he would have wanted. Fortunately, there is still a light to guide us from the example he set for us.