Thursday, October 9, 2014
A Great American
I'd like for you to meet Mr. Eugene Milliken, ordinary man, extraordinary human being. We met Mr. Milliken a dozen or so years ago when we were looking to build a small shed on our property in Maine and our neighbors heartily recommended him for the job.
He made it clear at the outset that he liked things done the old-fashioned way. He hated plywood (OSB wasn't even on the radar) and if we wanted to use any in our project, we'd best find someone else for the job. That was no problem for us as we intended to leave the interior unfinished and I loved the thought of the wide plank floors and the tongue-and-groove decking for the roof.
He arrived on Day 1 with his younger helper, "Junior", in tow. By the way, Mr. Milliken was 82 years old when work started, Junior was 78. The pace wasn't the quickest; glaciers move faster. But along with some pretty impressive woodwork, we were serenaded and told stories and generally enrapt by a born charmer of the highest order. With a twinkle in his crystal blue eyes and an ever-ready smile, Eugene Milliken evinces the phrase "extraordinarily ordinary".
Like so many of his generation, Mr. Milliken hails from modest beginnings, he served his country on foreign soil, he wed and raised a family, he worked honestly with his hands, he embraces joy, he eschews sadness (though he has known his share) and he leaves a path brighter than how he found it. He is dignity and grace incarnate, yet would be the first to object to that notion. He is an everyman who distinguishes himself in the world one person, one day, one job, one smile-at-a-time.
When I ran into him yesterday at breakfast, it changed the course of my day. Well into his 90s now, his vision is failing. His brand new white Chrysler is evidence enough of that, poor thing. But the radiant beauty of a simple soul still shines bright in a ready smile and twinkling, impish, crystalline blue eyes.
Eugene Milliken, great American...