J.T. Seesing, who died a few days ago, was a longtime member of the Rotary Club of Cape Girardeau. He was a delightful conversationalist at the weekly lunches. He was full of stories, and all of them were interesting or funny or both. It was always a treat to be seated at the same table as J.T.
Occasionally, J.T. would have an opportunity to tell some of his best stories to the whole club. We were never disappointed.
One story in particular J.T. told over and over. Anyone who had been a member of the club for any length of time had heard the story so often they could tell it themselves. But hearing J.T. tell it was much better.
The story goes something like this:
Seesing is one of the oldest family names in the world. As a matter of fact, you can trace the Seesing family all the way back to biblical times. Why, the Seesing name is in the Bible!
At this point, first-time hearers of J.T.'s tale might be raising a few eyebrows. Nobody alive today can trace their family back to Bible times. These are folks who have plopped right into J.T.'s trap.
You see, J.T. could quote chapter and verse to prove his story. "It's right there in the Bible," J.T. would tell his skeptical listeners.
And then he would give you the exact quote. It can be found in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Look it up for yourself it you want. But one Bible translation renders Paul's advice to the church at Thessalonika this way (verses 16 and 17):
"Rejoice always, pray without Seesing."
Some newer translations put verse 17 this way: Pray continually.
Too late. J.T. always proved his claim. You should have seen the grin on his face. That alone was worth listening to the story one more time.
When I joined the Rotary Club 16 years ago, I soon discovered that J.T. Seesing and I had something in common, something rather unusual.
J.T. was Mr. Aviation in Cape Girardeau for many, many years. He was the fixed-base operator at the airport, and he was a flight instructor who trained many of today's local pilots.
When I was growing up in the Ozarks over yonder in the 1950s, seeing an airplane fly over Killough Valley was a big deal.
During dry spells, when the potential for forest fires was high, you could pretty much count on seeing a small plane flying lazy figure-eights over the vast forests that cover that part of the Ozarks.
I used to sit in our front yard and watch the spotter plane go back and forth, back and forth. I always waved. The plane was too high to see if the pilot waved back.
I mentioned this to J.T. at a Rotary lunch one Monday. He said: "That was me in the plane." He had a contract to look for forest fires in the 1950s. How amazing to be talking to the pilot of a plane I waved to half a century ago.
Oh, yes. J.T. said, he always waved back.
Joe Sullivan is the former editor of the Southeast Missourian.