You may find it hard to believe, but I was a nerdy kid. I have always been the kid who went to the library after school instead of playing outside. I always preferred reading a book instead of throwing a football. That did change, but in elementary school, I was not alone. My best friend, Eugene Little (circled on the right), was the other pea in the pod. We were the Carver Elementary School geeks. During our tenure at Carver, we were the two smartest male students, all the way through seventh grade. We never threw that in the face of our classmates. We simply did our work and stayed focused. Eugene was also my best friend, from elementary school through college, and beyond. We went to two different high schools. I was at Southwest. He went to Northeast. Both of us ended up in Atlanta. I was at Morehouse. Eugene was at Georgia Tech, majoring in Electrical Engineer.
Eugene’s mother, Elizabeth Spivey, was my “other mother.” Eugene was an only child. Mama, as I affectionally called her, adopted me as her second son. My mother supported our friendship and was good friends with Mrs. Spivey.
Eugene’s mother, a registered nurse, was diagnosed with cancer during Eugene’s second year at Georgia Tech. The cancer was aggressive. She was often hospitalized which necessitated Eugene going home on weekends to be with her. Whenever I was home, I visited. In 1980, Mama died. Eugene was devastated. Although his parents were divorced, he was closer to his mother and her death led to depression. His grades at Georgia Tech suffered. Eventually, because of financial hardships, he dropped out of his five-year dual degree program and began working at Sears in Atlanta.
After my graduation from Morehouse, we remained in touch with each other through phone calls and exchange of letters and notes. When I moved to Pontiac, Michigan, our communication became sporadic. I learned that he had moved to St. Paul. Minneapolis and was working for the United Health Care Corporation. He was a respected and much beloved employee. He had joined the Pilgrim Baptist Church and was very active.
One evening, out of the blue, Eugene called. It was my last conversation with him. I could tell that he wanted to share something, but he didn’t. I chose not to push, but was glad to finally catch up and talk with him. We talked for thirty minutes. A few weeks later, I received a call from my elementary school principal, Mrs. K.J. Shakespeare, informing me that Eugene had died. I remember sinking to the floor. The news hit hard. When he had called, he was in the hospital, cancer. He chose not to tell me. I went home to attend his celebration of life on that Saturday, December 17, 1988. Today, and many days, I miss my friend, my brother.
Who are you thinking about? Send me an email (email@example.com). I would love to hear your story. May the memory of Eugene Fredrick Little, Jr. continue to be a blessing. Amen.