(Horses at Cherokee Hills in rural Calloway County & near KY Lake / Photo by Gene McLean)
(Cornbread was our “daily bread” at the outdoor kitchen at KY Lake / Photo by Gene McLean)
(The view from our house and Sue Bucey’s house at KY Lake / Photo by Gene McLean)
Sue Bucey was a modest woman.
By any standard. By every measuring stick.
She wasn’t blessed with an abundance of worldly possessions, and closets full of fancy clothes or pretty dress shoes. Flip flops and work boots made up most of her foot apparel. She would laugh and say…
“A pair of work boots fit my feet just fine, Gene.”
She didn’t have money growing on trees, even though she could raise one from a little sprout of green into a towering nest of shade. Often times, she would just shrug life’s weights off her chest with a hefty bench press and sigh…
“Money just gets you in trouble. And, I find enough of that on my own.”
She didn’t have the luxuries of life, that many people today stockpile in droves. She often laughed when someone asked why she had a two car garage…
“I have to have a place to park all my problems.”
For the most part, she worked every single day of her life to make ends meet. And, to be honest, sometimes the ends dangled. For the most part, she made her own jams and jellies because she liked to, and because she needed to. And, to be honest, Sue could make some of the best strawberry preserves you ever dabbed on a hot biscuit.
Often times, Sue would take an odd job or two.
She would recover your boat cushions.
She would plant flowers in your garden.
She would water your flowers.
She would make sure your garbage cans got put up.
She would stay awake late at night to make sure nobody uninvited invited themselves to your house. She would store your 4-wheeler for the winter. She would power wash your outdoor furniture for the summer. She would host a pot-luck party every Fall. She was the first to greet you every Spring, with a broom in one hand and a dust mop in the other.
Every single time she did something for me, she would look me right in the eye and say…
“Gene, I don’t do it for the money. Sometimes neighbors just do nice things for their neighbors. That is why they call us neighbors.”
This morning, at about 3 a.m. ET, I got a ding on my phone. A text message. And, as my own mom would often say, nothing good ever happens at that time of day.
And, as in most cases, my mom was right. Again.
Come to find out that my neighbor at our wonderful lake house in New Concord, KY., Sue Bucey, had passed away. She had sustained a massive stroke on Monday afternoon. And, despite the efforts of her loving son, Doug, and a team of doctors at Baptist Hospital in Paducah, Sue Bucey never recovered; never regained consciousness; never had the chance to say goodbye.
At about 3 a.m. ET this morning, my loving neighbor moved to a better neighborhood. Don’t know if the streets are made of gold or not. I’ve heard tell. But Sue Bucey’s heart sure was. Don’t know if the angels are singing on high, but if they are? I’m positive that Sue jumped right in, without missing a beat. How she loved to sing karaoke. Don’t know how all that works up there, to be honest. But I do know that Sue Bucey is already busy working, helping her new neighbors out.
After all, that’s just what neighbors do, right?
I bought my Lake House about 10 years ago. Met some of the most wonderful people to ever step on God’s Green Earth.
There was Don and Judy Levesque, my next door neighbors to the North of me. Soon, they became two of my closest friends and allies. Don did more for me than I will ever know. He could fix anything that needed fixing. And, most of all, he would fix anything that needed fixing. To be frank? Much of what needed fixing, to be totally honest, was me. And, Don did his best. God, did he work on me.
There was Phil and Sue Bucey, my next door neighbors to the West of me. Soon, they became two of our guardian angels. A few years back — on one hot, steamy 4th of July weekend — we arrived at the house only to find that our air conditioning unit was out of order. Friends and family were already on their way. When the Bucey clan saw us out there toiling — in a sweaty mess — they came rolling down the hill. Big fans. Little fans. Electric fans. Battery-powered fans. Bags full of ice. Bags full of soft drinks. Bags of food. They never asked for a dime in return. They didn’t even ask that we return the fans. They just gave.
Just a couple of months ago, Sue came down to the lake house and pulled up a seat on the ground. She started pulling weeds form the “monkey grass” that she had transplanted and donated from her garden to my hillside. While she toiled, she talked.
Come to find out, Sue Bucey rode quarter horses when she was a little girl. Learned to barrel ride as a child. Fell in love with her horses that her granddaddy tacked up for her, and gave her a leg up to ride.
Come to find out, Sue Bucey read this blog every, single day. Religiously. And, “liked” nearly every post I made.
Come to find out, Sue Bucey was one of my biggest fans. Even though she never made it to a racetrack, she loved following my racetrack journeys. Even though she never owned a Thoroughbred, she loved living my racehorse stories. Even though the world of horses was a world away, she loved the journey.
She even made me a Christmas ornament for my tree. Painted a barn by hand. Wrote on it: “Gene’s barn.”
Those stories made my day.
Those stories, now, make my life.
It didn’t take me long to figure out there were three things that I could count on at Kentucky Lake, and every time I turned my car into Red Water Estates and the driveway at 136.
I could count on Don and Judy.
I could count on Phil and Sue.
And, I could count on that ole’ Tennessee River would be flowing from the South and headed North. North to Kentucky Dam, and through the locks, all the way to the Ohio River.
I could count on all three.
About 5 years ago, Phil Bucey contracted cancer and passed. About 3 years ago, Don Levesque contracted cancer and passed. Last night, Sue Bucey passed. Judy has since moved to California to be near her family.
We are left with a ton of memories. Some of which make us laugh. Some of which make us cry. All of which make us who we are today.
When I go to the Lake tomorrow, to pay my respects, I will pull into that driveway at 136 Red Water with an empty pit in my stomach, and a tear on my face. And, a lump in my throat that a cold beverage won’t be able to choke down. No matter how I try.
All of my neighbors have moved on now.
Three of them have moved on — like that ole’ Tennessee River — running from our South to the great North above.
I will miss them. More than I ever thought possible. I will miss them so.
As far as I can tell, Sue Bucey loved three things in her life more than any other.
She loved her family. Oh, my. How she loved her family. She took the young ones fishing off my deck. They caught some catfish last year, and bragged about it for hours.
She loved sitting on the deck of her house. She could see Kentucky Lake in all of its’ glory. And, that ole’ Tennessee River. Nearly every single day, she would post a photo looking down on that beautiful, glistening waterway.
And, she loved her neighbors. Oh, how she loved her neighbors. Most of the time, she loved her neighbors more than herself.
And, if it is true that the meek shall inherit the Earth?
Then Sue Bucey should get about 1,000 acres right on the banks of Kentucky Lake.
She deserves it. She has earned it.
Sue Bucey may have been the most modest person I have ever met. No way anyone would call her rich.
She may be the richest person I have ever, ever known. Rich in all the things that really matter.
Goodbye, Sue. I will miss you.