My friend was known to one and all as "CJ." In fact, many people who knew him for years did not know his first name, and there were only a handful who knew his middle name. CJ was born the same year my father was born. Though there was a generation between us, we became close friends and confidants.
I first met CJ when I took a job in the school where he taught. I was 35 at the time, he was 59. We had work-related business together since his academic charges and mine were basically the same bunch of twelve- and thirteen-year olds. But we soon discovered that we had "leisure time" business, since we would meet in the gym after school hours for fiercely fought contests across the Ping-Pong table. Table tennis was a passion for us both at the time, and we were fairly evenly matched. He was older, but it has often been said that age and guile trump youth and enthusiasm. Well, sometimes. Often when he would lose a closely-fought point after a long rally, he would say: "Well, I'm a sad man."
CJ served in the US Army during WWII. He fought in North Africa, and landed on the European continent at Anzio. Needless to say, he saw much action. He could still get into his uniform when he was in his seventies and eighties, and he enjoyed talking with interested groups about his experiences in the war.
CJ's wife, Sue, succumbed to cancer shortly after I met them, and he was left with the youngest of his four children, who was in junior high at the time. Whatever else he may have accomplished in his life, he raised his children in the way in which they should go, and all of them are very successful in their own right. CJ never remarried, but he had a blast traveling the world, literally seeing every continent and meeting many interesting people.
CJ took up tennis at about the time he retired, and while I could handily best him on the court at first, he was never satisfied to come in second. He worked at his new-found pastime, joined a tennis club so that he could play year round, and it was not long before I found myself on the short end of the score more often than I liked. Eventually, though, when he was in his late eighties, I made a miraculous comeback! Golf was another passion of this wiry old man. He always walked the course, and often "shot his age." I did not participate in this with him, as he had a cadre of buddies who were able to provide him better competition.
CJ moved to Macon, Georgia when in his early nineties to be near his son who was pastor of a church in that community. He was able to continue his active lifestyle until the last few days of his tenure on earth. I miss this old man. He was a good friend.