October 25, 2021


This is the only photo I have of the young Arley Eaves.  I wonder if this was how he looked when he and his first wife Alta Burger got married.  By the time he and my mother married, he had white hair and two grandsons. And that Arley was the one I knew and loved.

Life was never easy for him.  He said his mother told him he was so tiny when he was born that his head could fit in a sugar bowl. His mother died when he was ten and his father struggled to support him and his little sister Pearl.  His formal education was cut short after third grade as he often moved around to stay with relatives while his father worked on the railroad.

This photo of Arley enjoying a picnic with some friends from work reminds me of his generous and supportive heart for others.  When he was in a leadership role, he respected the dignity of everyone who worked with or for him and offered any assistance they or their family needed.  “He would give you the shirt off his back” was a familiar proverb in East Tennessee—and one that Arley literally carried out at least on one occasion.  I don’t recall the specific circumstances, but he came home from work one day in his undershirt.  His explanation was that an acquaintance stopped by his office that afternoon on his way to a job interview.  Noticing that the man’s shirt was somewhat the worse for wear, Arley took off his own shirt and insisted the man wear it to his interview.  Many times he emptied his pockets of cash (which he always carried) to someone running behind on bills or unable to buy groceries. Shirts, cash, things—those were dispensable.  Arley valued people, everyone who crossed his path in the course of a day.

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