Farewell to Wade Joyner
Remembering a Friend
December 15, 2018
We had just moved to Nashville and were attending a black-tie event, benefiting the elephant sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee. This was a pay-to-play evening, and we were new to town, sitting in the nickel seats, about half a mile from the stage. We had heard of the famous friendliness and warmth of Nashville – and as luck would have it, we were seated next to the Joyners and about to learn what Southern Hospitality is all about.
Before the evening was over, Martha was headed to a new book club, and I was going duck hunting in Marks Mississippi – and we began to feel the warmth of the South. Wade lived the credo of family, faith and friends, and the Joyners were kind enough to sweep us – a couple of Yankee refugees – up into that trinity. But what made it entertaining was his singular dedication to having a ball living life – a natural extrovert at work or play.
Wade hunting geese in Maryland
Wade was the most open and outgoing guy I ever met, and he loved the outdoors – fish, hunt, ski, motocross, snow mobiles, white water – it didn’t matter, he did it all. Shouting hollering, laughing, whistling all the while. Wade talked me into joining the local YMCA and doing a spin class with him on a regular basis. He sat in the back whistling, shouting encouragement, teasing and being generally obnoxious. It was infectiously fun, and we always missed him when he didn’t show up.
Martha, Donna and Wade on Mt Battie, Camden Maine
Somehow, we went on a ski vacation with Wade, Donna and a group of friends from Nashville, and our friendship blossomed. Go on vacation with another couple, and you either end up as fast friends, or never speak again. Fortunately, things worked out, and they joined us on one of our most preposterous undertakings – highpointing in North and South Dakota.
On snowmobiles on the Continental Divide
Headed out to White Butte in North Dakota – in the pouring rain
The trip was a huge success, including spending the night in a former brothel in Deadwood SD, climbing the highpoint of South Dakota in a pouring rainstorm, climbing Harney Peak (the highest point east of the Rockies), visiting Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands and Wall Drug – where I got one of the best photos of Wade ever taken.
During the trip I got the first real insight into the severity of his heart problems, and his absolute refusal to give into ill health. He was willing to play hurt. As a matter of fact, he refused to stay on the bench.
Wade at Wall Drug, SD
Last year we acted as tour guides for a trip in October to Maine – combination of woodcock hunting, leaf peeping and lobster eating. Every bit of it a pleasure.
Woodcock hunting in Searsport Maine
Wade never took anything too seriously. He reminded me of the famous Burt Reynolds character – Bandit, of the eponymous Smokey and the Bandit series of movies – a wisecrack for every one of life’s absurd moments – an archetype for a generation that answered the call and went to Vietnam. Wade never spent much time talking about his time in Vietnam, but like everyone who went there he spent the rest of his life wondering what it was all about. I introduced him to the books of James Webb, probably the best author about the Vietnam War from a soldier’s point of view, and he devoured them. And then every once in a while, we’d talk about it.
Wade and Donna on Mt Desert Island, Maine
Over the last two years Wade and I spent at least 100 hours in a truck – driving off to hunt something – geese, boar, woodcock, ducks. And the whole time he talked, and I listened. He claimed that he talked to keep me awake – I normally drove – but I think that he liked to tell stories, and I did enjoy hearing them. Stories about growing up, playing football, his family, the Navy, Vietnam, the YMCA, work, Nashville, hunting, riding motorcycles, a book he’d just read – it didn’t matter. Sometimes he’d talk about how proud he was of his grandchildren, giving humorous detail about watching them play ball – he really loved that.
Wade had a multi-generational family business – a difficult thing to pull off, but he did it brilliantly, and in a difficult business. He treated it like an extension of his family, and he made it work.
While he seldom spoke about it directly, his love for his family in general, and Donna, in particular, permeated everything that he ever said.
It took me a long time of listening and watching to really understand how important duck camp in Marks was to Wade. He discovered duck hunting relatively late in life, and was determined to make up for lost time. There is something about the bond of men and dogs that makes hunting touch something very visceral in who we are as humans. Wade really felt this bond with his dog Pepper and the team at duck camp – and we will think of him every morning when we wait for first light.
Snow geese over Duck Camp, Marks, MS
Wade was a great guy, a man’s man, and he will be missed by all who knew and loved him.
Sunset over Duck Camp