Gig Line: Mr. Jack and Ben, two special heroes
Published 6:42 am Monday, August 14, 2023
In recent days we have lost people we love dearly. “Life is short,” as they say, and while it is true, of course that we are blessed to have life – our life – and the lives of those around us who give us so much joy, there are no days promised to any of us as life from day to day is subject to change.
Two of our veteran citizens journeyed to Heaven very recently. They were both veterans of our United States Army; they were two gentlemen with kind hearts and who embodied goodness, a deep love for our Heavenly Father and for their families and friends.
Mr. John “Jack” Shea, of Southern Shores, I first came to know as “Mr. Jack” from a distance when he served as a Dare County Board of Commissioners member for three consecutive terms. But in the last seven years I came to know him personally when he served as the ex officio with the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council.
Mr. Jack was a sweet man who loved this country with all his heart; he was a veteran of the U.S. Army, having served in Germany during World War II and for 30 years he served as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard auxiliary obtaining the rank of flotilla commander. The Gallop Funeral Services, Inc. website obituary describes his professional accomplishments and attributes and as you read the description of his life, you come to realize how intelligent Mr. Jack truly was but this column is not to reiterate his obituary, it is to give you my personal impression of a wonderful man.
Mr. Jack was my friend. I remember when he first acquired his Dare County Veteran Discount Card (at the time it was referred to as the Dare County Veteran I.D. Card). He was proud to receive his card and he was also proud of our Veterans Advisory Council and the goals we had put in motion to acknowledge and honor our veterans. He was a soft-spoken gentleman but he “carried a big stick” as they say … and when he spoke. you listened. He had a tender heart for our veterans, no matter their age, the branch they served, no matter if they had been combat veterans or remained stateside during their entire military tenure – if they were veterans, they mattered and were at the top of his list.
Regardless of your IQ or stature in life, he was a man who cared about what you had to say; he was interested in people overall and especially when the conversation focused on the good of our veterans; his patriot spirit was evident; he loved America and he’d kindly let you know if things in today’s world disappointed him or seemed degrading to the foundation of our nation. He was someone I looked up to … that everyone looked up to.
Mr. Jack attended our monthly council meetings faithfully until such a time as physical limitations prohibited him from taking part. At that juncture, and as secretary, I would forward the meeting minutes to him so he could keep abreast of our veteran business and activities. And he blessed my heart when he told me years ago how much he enjoyed reading Gig Line. He said he looked forward to it each week and he thanked me often for writing it.
Our council members all missed him, so sometimes I would call his home in Southern Shores or wherever he was just to check on him … and when I’d call, he’d talk about something I had written about the week before. One time he asked me if I knew a veteran who might be going through a hard time who might need a suit of clothes to wear to a job interview. He also called Patty O’Sullivan (our veteran service officer) and asked her the same question.
In his typical approach to kindness, he wanted to help a veteran be able to put his best foot forward if he/she attempted to secure employment. Mr. Jack wanted to help people help themselves – especially our veterans, his brothers and sisters.
At our last Veterans Advisory Council meeting this past Tuesday, it meant a lot to me that when one of our members acknowledged his passing, our chairman Justin O’Sullivan asked if anyone would like to comment on having known Mr. Jack. Without hesitation everyone shared their fondness of this incredible man and veteran. They shared their respect for him saying they “were proud to sit beside him;” how they appreciated his service to Dare County as a three-term commissioner and compliments were abundant. It was a unified sadness that he would no longer be here, loving his family and friends and the Outer Banks, and further as a Christian, Mr. Jack’s love for his church and God’s great blessings was evident. He was an example of goodness and a blessing to all of us. Mr. Jack will live on in our hearts and we will no doubt think of him whenever we look up to Heaven where he now resides in glory.
Another great man and veteran of our U.S. Army was Daniel Benjamin “Ben” Midgett of Manns Harbor.
I had not seen Ben in a long time, but I was proud to have known him at all. I knew he was a Vietnam veteran and I remember when our Veterans Advisory Council was “born” in May of 2012 and my Billy reached out to Ben about seeking potential medical assistance through the V.A. At the time, Ben had ambulatory problems, finding it difficult to walk, which grew much worse over the last years.
Ben and his precious wife Linda are known by all to be two of the nicest, kindest, Lord loving-est people you could find anywhere. Ben, who had a passion for crabbing, shrimping and working on cars, eventually could not do the things he enjoyed so much because of his limited mobility, but anyone could tell you that even still, he always had a smile, a sense of humor and happiness when he was with the people he loved, including his childhood buddies in Manns Harbor and East Lake.
Having spoken often with Linda about how Ben was doing and reminding her that everyone loved them and were praying for them came as no surprise to Linda. She already knew it … she already “felt it” … she was immersed by the expressions of care, love and prayers that were being spoken by countless people on Ben’s behalf.
Though I knew Linda “back in the day” to be an easy going, gentle person, I came to realize through this recent situation with Ben’s health just how tough, strong and determined she was. No matter lack of sleep or medical follow ups in person or on the phone; or countless phone calls from caring friends and family, it was paramount that “her” Ben be as comfortable as possible. They were close – very close – and together they gave the situation to the Lord and bathed it in prayer. Linda stayed by his side and gave Ben her absolute best care possible at home and until the very end.
When I called her one day to check on how they were doing, I shared my experiences when “my” Billy was dying. And though my plan was to offer comfort to Linda, she ended up comforting me in turn sharing God’s word in prayer.
Ben Midgett was known to be “one of a kind,” a fine and good Christian man, devoted to his loving wife, their children Michelle and Dana, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren and to his community, too. Everybody who knew Ben loved him bar none.
Ben was not a braggart; it was only just prior to his passing that many came to realize that in addition to being a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran, he had also been awarded the Bronze Star on two separate occasions.
Literally every phone call to or from Linda during Ben’s intense illness, she radiated an undeniable faith in the Lord, a tenacity to give Ben comfort at every turn no matter how her heart was breaking seeing him worsen each day.
As a widow for seven years now, I am proud of Linda and how she exuded calmness in the face of that terrible storm in her life, yet lifting everyone else up who also felt Ben’s suffering. I can only imagine how proud Ben must have been knowing in his heart she would be alright, she would go on loving him and their children and his devoted sister Mary Alice until the day they will see each other again. He’s gotten his wings; God bless his heart!
And God bless our veterans everywhere across our county, state, nation and world. God bless the widows and widowers who are left here who grieve their loss.
Until next time, be healthy, safe and happy. If you’re a veteran, just know how much you are valued, appreciated and respected. If you have a V.A. related question, please call Patty O’Sullivan, V.S.O. cell: 252-473-7749; office: 252-475-5604 or email: patricia.o’firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for taking the time to read Gig Line and if you’d like to contact me, cell: (252) 202-2058, email: email@example.com and for access to previous Gig Line columns: giglineheroes.com. I care about you all so much! Remember God’s love for you is immeasurable and reaches far beyond comprehension and believe me also when I say, I love you too! Please pray for our active duty, reserve and our veterans wherever they may be. Stay tuned!