We lost a very dear friend, well, let's just call it what it is and say family member, this past week. Sometimes you don't have to share genetics or DNA or a blood line or anything of that sort to be family. Hal White left this world entirely too early on this past Thursday. You may have read all of the great articles, as it has certainly been proven that he was well loved by the Jackson community. The Clarion Ledger, Facebook, JFP, etc., etc. have all provided fantastic articles and commentary that focused on this great man. I thought I would take a moment to share what I think of when I think of Hal White. He was honestly my Dad's soulmate. He was his brother. He was his best friend. He was just as much part of our lives growing up, as perhaps a cousin or aunt or uncle would be to some others.
I can remember being quite small and attending any type of musical event Jackson hosted with my parents. We would usually follow that up with a trip to Hal and Mal's, where we were served up as many Shirley Temples as we desired. Hal always made the best fried cheese. And, yes, technically, they were the frozen kind. But they always tasted the best there. And, I can say that I recently ordered up a batch over St. Patty's Day, and they are still number one in my book. We would walk in and everyone would yell, "Ray Boone!!!" I remember sitting on those bar stools when my feet couldn't touch the ground. We would run around like little kids do, but no one seemed to mind. Hal never seemed to get irritated that 3 little dark haired, brown eyed, energetic adolescents were bouncing off his walls. It was a home of some sort, I guess. We did St. Patty's every year. I am not sure at what age my parents started bringing us with them, but my Mom has pics that go way, way back. As I approached my late-teens, I would go hang out up there with my friends. No drinking, though. I could only have 1 beer when my Dad was with me. Mom, don't be mad that I posted this on my blog. It was only one. :)
If you ever saw Hal and my Dad together, it would just make you laugh. The constant banter was beyond entertaining. I could just sit and listen to them all night long. You've heard in all the articles about how much Hal loved golf, but how he just wasn't that great at it. What I always think of, though, is Hal saying, "I am going to whoop Ray Boone's a$$ in golf this weekend" Those 2 loved playing together. If they were together, all was well with the world. They talked politics. They argued. They put each other in headlocks. They hugged when they had had a couple too many. Or maybe just a couple. They told jokes. They complained. They laughed...alot. We crack up every time we think about a trip we took to Copeland's after one of their Sunday jaunts on the golf course. Taylor was about 5 and sleeping soundly in Ann's lap while Hal and my Dad made a spectacle out of our table. They decided to have a contest to see who could make their spoon land in their water (didn't want to waste the cold beer) by hitting it as hard as they could with their fists. Carly, Haley, and I were just rolling laughing while Ann and my Mom sat there with disapproval written all over their faces. Everything was ok until one of them nailed our waiter with a flying spoon as he was walking by the table. It was always a good time with Hal and my Dad. Even when I was just a young 'un.
My parents rescheduled their annual croquet tourney this past Memorial Day because the White's were out of town for a family wedding. Hal rescheduled his annual Oyster Open because it fell on the same weekend as a Boone family milestone (which was certainly a disaster when this same thing happened a couple of years ago.) I would have given anything to be a fly on the wall for their annual "Fall Ball' trip- this past October made 17 years of continuing this tradition. We always get a kick out of reliving our rehearsal dinners where Hal stood up to give a speech and ended up talking about how much he loved my Dad. He did this twice.
When I have thought about Hal over the past few days, I think about how much he loved music. He would get out there and dance with Ann or Rivers. He would tap his feet and point his fingers in the air. He would sing at the top of his lungs if it was late at night while having an arm slung around the shoulder's of whoever was standing close by. I think about his great cooking- the soups go without saying, but I was a fan of his red beans & boiled shrimp. Carly & I both had our wedding receptions at Hal & Mal's and the only hard decision was choosing from all our fave foods on his catering menu. It never failed to be entertaining when you would go out to eat with Hal. It usually ended up with him criticizing the meal he had ordered. All in good fun, though.
One reason I wanted to move back to Jackson was so I could raise my kiddos doing the same things I did as a child. And, honestly, Hal and Mal's was a huge part of that. I see the H's running around like crazy and getting so excited when we pull into that parking lot...I can see that this is going to be a big part of their childhood, too. And it's not just the place. It's the friendly faces when we walk in the door. It's the atmosphere, it's the food, it's the music. But, most of all, it's the people. And Hal White was quite a significant force behind this. While he may be gone from us here on earth, I believe he lives on, not only in that restaurant, but through all of the many special people he has touched along the way. What a great club to be a part of.