Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mr. Leeson

Many people knew him but by a different name: Jim, Jimmy T, James. Mr. Leeson is what I have called him since I was four. My family moved from Detroit to a beautiful valley southwest of Nashville in 1988. Mr. Leeson was one of our only neighbors at the time. He is the reason we probably never went back north, giving up on our five acre plot and the South altogether. Mr. Leeson lived across the creek and was happy to help us anytime. When my dad was away playing music, Mr. Leeson would come to our rescue to kill snakes near the house. He taught my little sister and I how to ride his horses Sister and Mr. Joe, which eventually lead to us caring for our own horses. He taught us how to use a stern voice with the dogs in order to teach them to "get on back!" or "STAY!". If we ever got snow, Mr. Leeson would pull us on sleds behind his rowdy truck in his fields. We missed him when he traveled to Europe, but always anticipated his return. Mr. Leeson never came back empty handed. I knew him as an uncle, approachable and loving yet very much someone to be feared. Whether drinking Coke Cola from glass bottles, or learning how to shoot those bottles, Mr. Leeson was in charge and we all obeyed him.

These are the most recent pics I have of the ole front porch.

girls and jim.jpg

As a child, my sister and I would help my mom sneak into his house on Christmas eve, knowing he was out at a fancy Nashville party. We would leave a small Christmas tree in his living room, decorated with bells and red ribbons. He was always so independent claiming to never need charity, but my mom knew how much it meant to him. Plus, it was never charity-we were his family, one of many I am sure.

For someone who never married or had children of his own, Mr. Leeson had a way of investing in people's lives. He cared about so many of us as if we were his children. You will see evidence of this here, where many people (including my brother Jesse) talk about their love for this man. I knew he was important, but didn't know until now how much he has shaped so many of us. I feel like a child who has just realized that her parents are actual people with a past and a passion. All my life, Mr. Leeson was the uncle next door. Of course I knew he did other things, but wasn't aware of how much he did until now.

Mr. Leeson died last Monday, just after Nashville got hit with a flood. Today was his 80th birthday. Right now, people from all walks of life (from country bumpkins like me to Nashville elite) are gathered at the Overlook celebrating his life. I so wish I could be there to hear the stories and see with my own eyes the numerous lives he has touched.

This is the Meeks clan (minus Joel who showed up minutes later) with Mr. Leeson celebrating Mother's Day two years ago at the Overlook. It's the most beautiful piece of property where He often held parties well into the night. Again, I wish I could be there tonight.

I still can't believe he is gone. I will miss his truck rumbling up our gravel driveway. He never came alone (unless he was going to town for something fancy) but always brought his dog, whichever one was living at the time. I will miss walking through his beautiful home with classical music blaring in every room. Abby and I used to be so scared going there alone to feed his animals while he was out of town...the music still blaring in his absence. I count myself blessed to have known him. Mr. Leeson helped our family and loved us in ways I will never forget. If I weren't pregnant, I would down a shot of whiskey in his honor tonight. I guess this post will have to do.

Other articles and stories honoring Mr. Jim Leeson can be found here:


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