My father, Gene Hedrick, passed away suddenly early Sunday morning after suffering a heart attack while on a bus trip for the BHS band, just before boarding the bus to head home to Blacksburg. He absolutely loved this “retirement job” – he applied on whim 14 years ago after retiring from his Engineering career at the Radford Arsenal, mostly at the strong urging of my mom, Linda, who saw the help-wanted ad in the paper and thought he could use something to fill his extra time. He begrudgingly agreed, saying he’d “try it out for a year.”
Some might have thought this a pretty cruel sentence for a man entering his golden years: toting loud, messy children to and from school and field trips twice (or more) a day; sweeping bus floors and checking turn signal lights and lifting windows and collecting so. many. pencils. (all of which are still neatly stored in peanut containers, if any students are missing one!). But my dad was made for this, as if it was his calling.
I was his only biological child, but he loved all of those students over all those years as if they were his own family – altering routes for safer stops for families, rescheduling pretty important oncology appointments so he wouldn’t have to miss a route, patiently enduring antics from excited students, and cheering in the stands for countless teams, bands, and performances with genuine interest. When people asked me how long he would drive the bus, I laughed and said that I imagined probably until the day he died or until they forced him to quit. So if he could not be with us when that day came, it seems fitting that it would be while on a bus trip, serving the students and community he loved so much.
My dad went Home to be with the Lord almost exactly three months after my mom, Linda, died unexpectedly in July, but we know that his (and her!) joy is now complete. We joked that she most likely said in her dry way, “What are you doing here so soon?” and that he probably quietly shrugged and suggested they go get lunch (their favorite thing to do together) to talk it over. It compounds our grief to lose them so close together, and in the same manner. But for a couple like them – more one unit than two separate people – it almost makes sense.
Some of you may have known that this quiet, gentle man was a warrior. He had been battling Stage 4 cancer for just over two years, and while there had been a lot of very low lows in that journey, the past year had been good, and he was defying all odds and expectations. He had just received yet another GREAT report from his oncologist last week. In those two years, we cannot remember a single time he complained.
My dad had a servant’s heart that exceeded anyone I have ever known. He would quite literally do anything for anyone, never asking for repayment or having the least expectation of it. If “humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less,” then my dad embodied what it means to be humble. He was also a man who delighted in his family. He took hundreds of softballs to the shins as I was learning fastpitch, sat through piano recitals, drove to every single one of my sporting events growing up, and had hours (possibly days?!) of VHS footage of all of the above. When I wanted to start a lawn mowing business at age 13, he simply bought a trailer, another lawn mower, and worked alongside me for almost a decade, giving me way more of the profit than I deserved… I’m not sure I ever earned enough to even pay off the equipment. As a grandfather, he held babies and changed diapers and played silly games and attended rec soccer games and ballet recitals and found joy in his grandchildren’s idiosyncrasies, of course thinking they were the smartest, best, and most remarkable of any children ever born. Simply put, he leaves a hole in their and our hearts that cannot be filled this side of heaven.
In loving memory,
Gene’s life will be forever cherished by his daughter Meredith White and son-in-law Danny White, his four grandchildren Addison, William, Amelia, and Abigail; his brother and sister-in-law Vadis and Becky Hedrick; his sister and brother-in-law Louise and Frasier Webb; his brother-in-law Don Hare, as well as nieces, nephews, and great-nieces and great-nephews. He is preceded in death by his wife Linda Hedrick, his parents William Newall and Arena Juanita Hedrick, and his sister Arline Hare.
In honor of Gene’s life, his wife’s service, his daughter’s vision, and his grandchildren’s benefit, donations can be made to Valley Classical School. Please send checks to Valley Classical School 610 N. Main Street, Suite 261, Blacksburg, VA 24060.