Seneca said, “it is the bounty of nature that we live, but of philosophy that we live well; which is, in truth, a greater benefit than life itself.” Sadly, my dear uncle Oral McKinney, who understood the philosophy of living well, passed away on Saturday, November 3, 2012, after struggling with Parkinsonism.
Living well for my Uncle Oral was enjoying the simple things in life: family, education, sports, the outdoors and fishing. My best way to describe Oral, stealing the first sentence from Norman Maclean’s epic novel A River Runs Through It, was summed up best by Maclean: In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.”
For Oral, a humorous quip, a good joke or tall tales of fishing were never more than a mention away. Growing up in eastern Kentucky with my mother and having three uniquely gifted uncles (Earl, Oral and Harold) around was a windfall of good fortune. My grandfather passed away when I was eight. Uncle Oral taught me how to properly swing a hammer, saw a board correctly, use a measuring tape and tried his best to teach me how to catch a fish. All but the latter stuck with me to this day. I couldn’t catch a fish if my life depended on it, no fault of Oral’s.
I will always remember Uncle Oral making trips down to my grandmother’s tire store and trailer park during the summers to help with repairs and maintenance. The days were filled with work, but, in the evenings, Uncle Oral would take me and his son Bryan fishing or frog gigging in and around the local creeks and ponds. Oral would always fill the evening with stories about fishing while we were actually fishing. If the fish weren’t biting, Uncle Oral could pass the time with a joke or terrifying ghost story.
The smell of fish frying in my grandmother’s kitchen along with the sound of Uncle Oral’s laughter still echo through my memories today. He certainly made my life richer.
And that, I have to say, is what I would call living well.
He will be missed.
This is Oral’s obituary from the Dayton Daily News:
MCKINNEY, Oral O.”Mac” age 77, of Franklin, OH; died Saturday November 3, 2012 at Hillspring Nursing Home. Oral was born in Grayson, KY on January 21, 1935 to Fred Louis and Mary Madgalene (Rupert) McKinney. Oral was a veteran of the Korean War serving in the U.S. Army, was a member of the Masonic Lodge, and retired from Dayton Public Schools in 1985 following 24 years of teaching. He was a member of the Springboro Baptist Church and a lifelong resident of Waynesville. Oral was an avid fisherman and loved sports. He was preceded in death by a sister Opal McKinney. He is survived by his wife of 53 years Betty (Cooper) McKinney; a son retired Lt. Colonel Bryan D. McKinney and wife Amy; a daughter Cathy M. Lawson and husband Kevin; 2 brothers Earl McKinney and Harold McKinney; 6 grandchildren.