The Gum Man
Fletcher "Dit" Wright was an unassuming, humble gentleman. Small in stature, his face was constantly plastered with a smile. He loved the Lord, loved serving in the community, owned his own successful business, and was the quintessential family man.
And he was also the biggest celebrity within the walls of the Altamesa Church of Christ in Fort Worth. While the grown ups called him "Dit," all of us kids simply referred to him as "The Gum Man."
Every Sunday morning when worship was over kids would flock in droves to see the Gum Man with arms outstretched ready to shake his hand. Because each child knew that when they shook hands the correct way, they got a prize. Big Red, Juicy Fruit, Doublemint, Fruit Stripe -- you name it, the Gum Man had it...and he always had plenty. I don't know that he ever calculated how much gum he distributed, but I'm sure the numbers would be staggering. He was always one of the last folks to leave the building because he wanted to be sure every child had a chance to shake his hand. The kids loved. Not just because he gave us gum...but because you could tell he loved us, too.
His love for people spilled over into the 'grown up' world as well. My grandfather and he spent countless hours serving in quiet ways around the church building - fixing the church vans (which, for some reason, were ALWAYS breaking down), working a variety of benevolent opportunities, and doing countless other things to fulfill the mission of Christ. He served as a deacon for as long as I could remember, and you could always rely on him being an integral part of anything going on at the building.
It was later in life that I learned that this quiet little man with the happy countenance was also a decorated war hero. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He was captured by the Japanese during the Battle of the Philippines, was a Prisoner Of War for almost four years, and a survivor of the Bataan Death March. He earned the coveted Bronze Star.
For all that he experienced in that time overseas, it would have been easy to be a cruel, angry, distant human being. But instead...he became The Gum Man.
So I hope at the funeral today someone places a stick of Big Red on his casket from me...