A Rock flies

Rockey, Reagan and Valdie

By Dr. Marty Becker, DVM

This is not your grandfather’s obituary with the standard formula of: John Doe was born in Anytown, USA, on ___. They died from ____, on ___, and are survived by _____. Then the obligatory listing of parents, siblings past and present, schools attended, who they married, family details, what they did for a living, achievements, a few more platitudes, then directing donations.

I know the formula well, as I wrote the standard 800 word obit for my late Dad and Mom, Bob and Virginia Becker.

Rockey, Valdie, Teresa and Marty

Rockey Lee Burkholder was unicorn unique, and as such gets a one-of-a-kind writeup. Seeing as memorial services are on hold from the COVID that took Rockey’s life too soon, we’ll let this obit help you know this fluorescent icon of Boundary County, better.

WARNING: This tome of an obit/story is raw, real, unusually candid, and settles some scores. If you think you might be offended by a life story far from the typical pablum, in a format that doesn’t fit the mold, don’t read any further. Nor should you read on if you don’t believe Rocks can fly.

Everyone in Bonners Ferry knew Rockey, yet very few really knew Rockey. For you see, he was as complex as he was simple. It took effort to get past the superficial, flamboyant, Energizer-Bunny Rockey, to meet the special person who existed off the street, outside of the public eye and inside the life he shared in his heart and head, at home, with family, or in special circumstances with special, life-long friends.

Take the person who Rockey called his best friend, Gary Meddock, who protected Rockey when some bullies in various special needs groups they were both in tried to pick on him. Yes, Gary protected Rockey with muscle and loved him with heart.

Rockey was probably Boundary County’s single best known and most beloved citizen.

Some called him the town mascot, others the town crier. If you asked any of the thousands of people who knew Rockey Lee Burkholder, from ages eight to 80, the descriptions of Rockey would be similar: Kind, loving, complimentary, positive, complimentary, gregarious, fun, with a great sense of humor and low-to-no filter. Rockey both said the things we should have said to most people we interact with — compliments — and things we’d sometimes “like to say,” but wouldn’t dare, from little digs to world class insults.

Even if you were on the end of an insult, or shocked by something Rockey said, it was impossible to be mad at Rockey, as no matter what came out of his mouth, it was quickly followed by the best belly laugh … ever. A genuine, bellowing laugh emanating from jack-o’lantern teeth (he was terrified of the dentist) that made his ample belly move up-and-down like a huge, hairy Duncan Yoyo.

If you were a woman, according to Rockey, you had always lost weight, had gotten too skinny, looked beautiful, or needed a man (didn’t matter if you already had one). If you were a man, well, most of the time you had gotten fat, were going bald, or were at risk of losing your spouse, partner, girlfriend to someone better looking.

The local kingpin of matchmaking, Rockey suggested hundreds, maybe thousands of matches in his adult life, and as far as we know, not a single one was the right fit that manifested in a long-term relationship or marriage. His 100-percent failure rate spanning well over six decades of trying never deterred him a bit, as he was trying to connect ICU nurses at Bonner General Hospital in Sandpoint with male nurses there during his last week on earth.

The son of Jim and Valdie Burkholder, Rockey was born August 31, 1948, in Bonners Ferry and was named after famed American heavyweight boxer, Rocky Marciano. Why his birth certificate said Rockey, not Rocky, well, that will remain a mystery. Diagnosed as retarded (a medical diagnosis from the time with no negative connotation), Rockey didn’t talk until he was almost five years old.

The doctor told a very worried mother not to worry, that once he started talking, he’d never stop. We’d love to have had this same doctor help us bet on horses or pick lottery numbers, as his prediction was a “split an arrow with another arrow,” bullseye. Nobody loved to talk with anybody or everybody as much as Rock. Saying hi, giving a compliment, saying something silly, engaging in conversation was sustaining to him and he loved to spread cheer.

We recently took Rockey for a recheck at a podiatrist’s office in Post Falls. He was complimenting the nurses and one of them asked him, “Rockey, why are you a so happy?”

He replied with a grin so wide he could eat a banana sideways, “I was BORN happy!” The whole waiting room of strangers erupted in applause.

As Rockey left the office, shuffling off on his patented “feet shuffling” and “shoulders moving up and down” cadence, I put my arm around him and said, “Bonners Ferry has been so blessed to have been the place you were planted, grew up, blossomed and bore fruits of happiness and joy. Every place, every person, needs a Rockey. But you’re ours!”

As Rockey got into the vehicle where his mother had been snoozing and my little dog QT Pi was yapping at shadows, he proudly told her about getting applause. Valdie remarked,

“Rockey, you’ve never met a stranger,” Valdie said. “Everybody loves you. You’re special.”

I heard sniffling and nose blowing, and looked back and Rockey was crying.

Rockey had many serious medical issues, including diabetes and asthma, that caused him to be hospitalized many times per year, some chronic physical issues, including severe arthritis, and mental issues. Besides developmental delay, he had panic attacks, severe anxiety and depression.

When anybody gave Rockey a compliment — which was often in our amazing community — it was as if Rockey had won the lotto or had been patted on the back by an angel. A compliment coming back to the “King of Compliments” was life sustaining, especially in the later years when Rockey struggled with the twin ravages of old age and chronic health conditions.

Over the years, Rockey held a multitude of jobs including some that will shock you; working on the green chain at the local mill, setting chokers for his gyppo logger dad, washing dishes at the Panhandle Café, mowing lawns for the City of Bonners Ferry, cleaning the Rex Theatre.

Except for a short period in his late teen years when Rockey went to the Nampa State School in Nampa, Idaho, which served the state’s developmentally challenged population, he lived with his parents, his grandparents or right next door.

Rockey lived for about 20 years in the trailer house behind the old North Side School, across the street from his mom’s house. For the last 10 years, Rockey would spend part of his days in his trailer enjoying time with his two cats, Jerry and Reagan, but eating all meals and spending nights with mom.

Baby Rockey!

Rockey was the middle child, Jim his older brother, Teresa his younger sister, and he was seven years older than Teresa. He, along with the rest of the family, called her “Baby Teresa,” a name still in use by family today. Rockey and Teresa always had a special relationship that was fueled by unconditional love, limitless affection and to-die-for loyalty.

We recently had the chance to read Teresa’s diaries (Teresa age 12-22; Rockey 19-30 years old) and Rockey went everywhere with Teresa and her friends. I mean everywhere short of dates.

Teresa always made Rockey feel part of the group and found something sincere to compliment him on. They had fun, in caps, and with an exclamation point. FUN!

Even when Teresa went to college and got married, Rockey was front and center, where he belonged. Everyone knew Rockey played favorites with his “Baby Teresa” throughout her life, and this devotion, attention and spoiling carried over to Teresa’s daughter, his niece, Mikkel, and her daughter, Teresa’s granddaughter and his grand-niece, 11-year-old, Reagan.

Mikkel and Reagan also treated Rockey like royalty, making him feel noticed, special, pampered, spoiled, loved, the center of the universe. What happens when our family holds Rockey up like a trophy or gold medal for the world to see, while simultaneously Rockey treats four girls (mom, sister, niece, grandniece) like they formed the foundation of his world? Well, Walt Disney (who was married in Lewiston, Idaho, by the way) might describe it as, “Pixie dust falling from the air … everyday … everywhere.”

Magic it was. Blessing after blessing. Never taken for granted. Celebrated. The rest of you got doses of Rockey; we got the whole, swollen mid-section, pregnant looking, Rockey enchilada.

One funny note.

Rockey always kidded me that I was fat like Ted Kennedy, bald like Mr. Clean, and that my breath smelled like a toilet. In turn, I teased Rockey about his big, round, hard belly. In older age, even when his arms and legs shrunk, his belly stayed the same size.

During his hospitalization in Sandpoint with COVID, he had breathing treatments for COVID pneumonia that required him to rest on his stomach for two hours at a stretch, three times per day. Many people who knew Rockey would tease him about having a “bun in the oven,” especially me. Rockey’s stomach was so hard and protruded so far, to have him rest on his stomach on a hospital bed would have been like trying to have a human teeter-totter remain motionless, with the two ends (in his case, head and feet) level.

To accommodate Rock Rock, the put him on a pregnancy pillow. He kept warning me with a laugh, to not tell anyone in town.

I didn’t tell anyone, Rockey. I’ve told everyone!

The family, Valdie, Teresa, Mikkel, Lex and Reagan, got together and came up with a list of Rockey’s most identifying, endearing qualities and characteristics that would define him for those who knew him, or for friends he hadn’t met who wanted to know more about him:

1. Perpetual motion – Rockey was like the proverbial “fart in a skillet.” He arrived on the scene like a helicopter, appearing out of nowhere, creating a whirlwind of activity, some would say chaos, then poof, he was gone, having moved onto his next stop.

Around his house, Rockey couldn’t stay seated to watch a TV show, movie, or at the table to go through multiple courses. Up, go to the bathroom. Up, get a drink. Up, get on his breathing machine. Up, take a shower. Up, walk downtown.

Rockey literally never stopped moving until the last 11-days of his life, when he was trapped in ICU, inside a COVID isolation bubble at Bonner General Hospital in Sandpoint, Idaho. If you wanted proof of his life of movement you could have done one of two things: 1) Stood on the bridge in downtown Bonners Ferry and counted his daily trips over many decades, or 2) looked at his bulging, sinewy, ultra-defined calves, evidence of thousands of miles of walking.

2. Noise was a necessity – Lee couldn’t stand silence. He always had more than one radio on, with the volume dials pegged. Then he’d turn the TV on, and the volume up, with radios still playing in multiple rooms.

For good measure, he’d walk around the house, turning on music boxes and getting the parakeets excitedly chirping. He absolutely loved wind chimes, so much so that we teased him that it wasn’t the snow that was going to cause the roof over his trailer to collapse, but the hundreds of windchimes (not kidding here) hooked on the beams that held up his porch roof.

Rockey also couldn’t stand silence when around other people, as thousands of you can attest.

He was the social lubricant, conversation catalyst, who got people talking, anywhere, everywhere, no matter what the situation. For example, I still remember close family friends, Chuck and Gayla Roady, coming over to the Burkholder house when Jim died in 2002. They knocked, we opened the front door, they walked into the kitchen; Chuck’s eyes met Valdie’s and in a touching moment, without a word, they hugged and cried.

For what was probably 20 seconds but probably seemed like 20 minutes to Rockey, everyone in the room teared up and watched them. Then Rockey broke the silence in his game day voice (Rockey DID NOT have a sanctuary voice) by yelling, “Hey, Gayla, when are you going to bring us more cookies?!” We all laughed and it helped us heal.

3. Tease and be teased – Rockey loved, LOVED the give and take of teasing. When he found people he could tease and would tease him back, he delighted, looked forward to seeing them, even sought them out to go a couple of rounds.

Rockey heaped insults on me more than anyone else, and I gave him an equal amount back in return. This parrying was just one of the reasons Rockey and I were best friends. One of our family’s favorite things to do with Rockey was to scare him, as he not only had the body of Foghorn Leghorn, he was a chicken.

Two examples come to mind. One, when Rockey was the janitor at the Rex Theatre, we’d call the theatre and with a disguised voice, tell him that we had been watching him through the windows and were going to break in and chop him up. Panting scared, he’d phone home begging us to pick him up. We’d nonchalantly respond that we were finishing a movie and having a snack, and to hang tight, we’d be down to get what was left of him in about an hour.

Invariably, Rockey would get someone to take him home and he’d rush in and tell us how he almost got hit 100 times with an axe. We took Jim, Valdie and Rockey with us on dozens of extended trips in the USA and globally. While on drives, Rockey would fall asleep, one of us in the front seats would count down with our fingers, 3/2/1, then we’d all scream at the top of our lungs while the driver swiveled the wheel in a faux crash. Rockey always threatened to tell the pastor on us.

4. Habit forming – Rockey did the same things in the same order every single day. Notice that you never saw Rock with whiskers? He shaved first thing every morning, followed by turning on the radio to K102 Country, making coffee, checking his blood sugar, then having breakfast. He always made his mom’s breakfast the night before, fed the squirrels and his parakeets the same time, got the mail as it arrived, took a nap at 1:30, woke up and listened to Library of Congress Books on Tape (originally targeting the blind, but expanded to include the elderly and those unable to read), then getting up and tuning to Jerry Springer and Judge Judy, then his daily shower, followed by KXLY local news, World News Tonight with David Muir, watching old westerns on Starz, you get the picture. Before Rockey stopped walking the town, he followed the same precise path hitting the same stores in same pattern, daily, for decades.

5. Gift giver – While Rockey loved to get — presents, finds at yard sales or Goodwill, buying from Walmart or ordering from the pile of catalogs seniors love — he gave away 99-percent of everything he had or could find. Few people who left his house, or children who saw him in town or at church didn’t get a present from him. Children’s gifts were mostly Tootsie Pops borrowed from Pace Kerby’s office (wink, wink); many adults received items Rockey would borrow from Mountain West bank (Friday donuts) or flowers Rock Rock would borrow from various flower beds on his walk to town to gift to ladies at his myriad of stops including Larson’s, Pace Kerby, BF Herald, Under the Sun, Post Office … then move up the South Hill to continue his rounds.

6. Walkie Rockey – Imagine a barrel-chested walkie talkie, constantly moving around town on well-worn paths, spreading compliments, good cheer, gossip and gifts. Like a balding cat on a hot tin roof, Rockey never stayed in one place for long.

Long before Facebook Messenger, SnapChat, Instagram, or texting, our town had Rockey fulfilling these services with aplomb.

7. Celebrity impersonator – Everyone looked exactly like someone else to Rockey. Mom Valdie was Jessica Lang, sister Teresa was Kathy Lee, niece Mikkel was Anna Nicole Smith and I was Fat Bastard from the Austin Powers movies.

Marsha Greenslit was Betty Boop while Jim Greenslit was Bill Murray. Gerry Dinning was Liza Minnelli while Wally was Elmer Fudd. Tim and Connie Roscoe were Ken and Barbie, even after they grew into Social Security age.

Rockey, Valdie, Baby Teresa and Marty

8. The bridge – People swore like the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, there must have been more than one Rockey.

He seemed everywhere, almost omnipresent. But if, like Big Foot, you were going to trap Big Gut, the best place and method to catch Rockey would be to put a $5 bill on the sidewalk deck of the bridge over the Kootenai River, and when Rockey spread out giraffe style to pick up the Lincoln you’d snare him.

Before Rockey got crippled with joint degeneration and even more so with asthma, he would walk to town and back four to six times per day. Any request or excuse would send him off the recliner, on the floor, out the door and down the hill. Rockey would be on the bridge, someone would toot their horn or wave, Rockey would smile, wave with a wrist as sturdy as a noodle and just beam joy to you.

9. Bonner Ferry’s Liberace – When Rockey went to Vegas, he loved to see glamourous Vegas shows with elaborate costumes. Same in New York City when we took Rockey to the famed Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.

To Rockey, the world was a stage and he loved being noticed.

While he couldn’t afford a famous designer to custom make his costumes like Cher, George Jones, Madonna or Lady Gaga did, he could go into any store and with hawk like eyes, find the brightest, shiniest, most sparkly, iridescent, gaudy, happy clothes. Rockey had day-glow Crocs that looked like someone had eaten a 96 count box Crayon box and vomited onto the shoes.

If a shirt had fluorescent colors with smiley face and sparkles, well, Rockey had hit the trifecta.

When we’d shop at Larsons, Rockey would walk right past the Carhartt shirts I would admire, heading straight to the section of shirts Larson stocked for people who flag on construction crews or wear hardhats and clothes that demand notice. I asked Rockey one time why he liked clothes that most people wore to be safe. His response, “I wear them to be sexy!”

10. School – Rockey went through the eighth grade due to some very understanding, warm, loving teachers and administrators. Rockey didn’t understand math, not even the basic 2 + 3 = 5 or 4 x 5 = 20 stuff.

He said he would look out the windows for hours while the teacher taught the other students lessons he didn’t understand. Remember, Rockey was a child in the days before special education, tutors, etc.

Rockey could read fairly well, had rudimentary writing skills, but in conversation, would appear normal to most people who just met him. Flamboyant? Yes. Crazy happy? Yes. A touch feminine from mostly being around women? Yes. Ribald and inappropriate at times (learned and encouraged by his other best friend, Fat Bastard/Ted Kennedy). Yes!

11. Church – Rockey had rock solid, overflowing, vibrant, childlike faith and is certainly in the arms of God. Luke 18:17 in the Bible says, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

If there were pictures in scripture to illustrate verses, Rockey’s face would accompany this verse in every Bible. For those of you who never actually attended church with Rockey, he put on quite a show. Up-and-down to the bathroom, ricocheting here and there to give kids Tootsie Pops or gum, up to check out the cookies for fellowship time (and borrow a few), up getting coffee for his mom or water for himself.

On occasion he’d sit for more than a few minutes in the pew (same pew, on the middle aisle, always to the left of his mom) and blow his nose or clear his throat, loudly, perfectly timed to be during the worst possible moment like when the pastor would ask for prayers for someone or ask the congregation to bow their heads in prayer.

He also dozed off and snored, then boom, up and off chasing something.

12. Memory – I met Ken Jennings the Jeopardy champion a few times. My mother, Virginia, graduated from college when she was 16-years-old. I’d bet the farm neither had a better memory that Rockey.

While certain skills were lacking, his recall of events was like Rain Man.

For example, we’d be in the car traveling on the California Coast on famed Highway 1, and Rockey would say something like, “Around the corner is the restaurant we ate at when we were here. It’s red, with white window trim, on the right.”

Sure enough, there it was exactly as he’d remembered it from 20-years before. We could tell stories of his memory that don’t seem believable.

13. Kindness – Rockey was an earth angel.

Thousands of you were recipients of his kind words. Words of sympathy when you lost someone. Words of joy when you welcomed a new child. Words of affirmation or compliments when you needed them most. Funny words when you needed to laugh.

None of us ever heard Rockey say a mean word to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Rockey traveled with us to 20 countries, and about 40 of the 50 states, spreading comfort and joy. What you don’t know is that for decades, Valdie and Rockey took food/supplies to dozens of individuals in need. For many years, Valdie was the lunch lady at the North Side School and Rockey was her unpaid assistant. In a way, they were a clandestine super-duo around town, as Valdie would always make extra food for supper and after they ate, the two of them would load up the car and make rounds taking food and necessities like toiletries, prescriptions, grocery items, batteries, etc., to those who needed not only something to eat, but someone to talk to.

We purposely, openly and honestly shared Rockey’s last 10-days on earth with a wide audience. We’re talking really wide as Rockey’s passing was on the national news, ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir on Friday, December 11, four days after his passing on December 7, 2020 (Pearl Harbor Day).

Mikkel and Teresa, with a patriotic Rockey flying over watch

Why were we open while many, including relatives in Boundary County hid the fact that they, too, had had COVID? Because Rockey was so upset that people weren’t taking COVID seriously, and taking precautions to protect themselves and others from this deadly virus.

Rockey didn’t want his 95-year-old mother, Valdie, or sister Teresa, who is immunocompromised, to get COVID and die. Rockey would get angry and yell at the TV when the local news showed that folks in North Idaho were protesting restrictions or refusing to take the science-based precautions of wearing a mask, social distancing, and avoiding large crowds. I also overheard Rockey’s prayers asking God to protect all of us.

Rockey, too, was scared to death that with his history of respiratory problems, that if he got COVID, he would die. Once Rockey got COVID, he asked that we share his suffering, physical and emotional, and joys, the cards, flowers and prayers.

You know Rockey. He always wanted to not just be part of the story (just think of the Bonners Ferry Herald’s Seen & Heard) but the feature of the story.
Rockey told the doctors and nurses at Bonner General Hospital that his story could help others avoid what he was going through. After hearing those comments when calling to see how Rockey was doing and having some seasoned communicators in the family, we were sure as heck going to grant him this wish.

We too, follow science, and hope his story can save lives and the misery of watching people you love, suffer and die. Trust me. If you could see the face of someone you love, superimposed over Rockey’s face as he struggled for every single breath, you’d take every precaution to protect yourself, family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and strangers.

There’s a really good chance that someone in Boundary County, who thought COVID was a hoax, no worse than seasonal flu, and laughed off science-based precautions delivered from respected epidemiologists, gave Rockey the COVID that killed him.

Sorry to be so blunt.

For too many, facts are hard to swallow when you’re used to a diet of propaganda. Who was it who gave Rockey enough of a dose of virus to infect and kill him? Could have been a friend or a total stranger. Probably someone asymptomatic, and almost certainly without a mask.

Think of this death like a Dateline show with Keith Morrison hosting. Most likely, somebody in his hometown killed Rockey. Not with a gun, or slow poisoning with antifreeze, but slow strangulation from a high enough exposure to the virus to cause him to contract COVID, which led to COVID pneumonia, which is what’s listed on his death certificate as the cause of death.

If only you could have witnessed Rockey’s last 72-hours of precipitous decline, his last 20 minutes on earth where we were with him in his high-tech ICU room surrounded by machines and the loud hiss of high-flow oxygen, or his last few seconds as his heart rate declined and he became agonal, gasping for one last breath, just one tortured sip of air.

You too, would be terrified of what devastation COVID can bring an individual, family, friends, neighbors, your community.

Please. PLEASE.

Just like you obey traffic laws and don’t shoot guns while hunting where a stray bullet might impact innocent people, take the simple, surefire, reasonable steps to protect yourself and others. COVID doesn’t know races, ethnicities, religions, sexual preferences, socio-economic status or political parties.

This virus just exploits weakness in defenses.

If you want to risk you own life by skydiving, rock climbing, paragliding or even work in high risk occupations, that’s your choice. You’re only directly impacting yourself. But when you risk your life and other innocent people at the same time, in the name of personal freedom, that’s not okay. In fact, it’s reprehensible and indefensible.

Speaking of raw truth, not everybody was good to Rockey, and some people were purposely cruel. An immediate family member always pretended Rockey didn’t exist, never included him in their life, ridiculed him, was harsh with him and embarrassed to be around him. Although given the opportunity to be there at the end when we knew Rockey was dying, they didn’t pick up the phone, write a card, or send something.

Nor did they contact Valdie while she faced COVID or after Rockey’s death, until being repeatedly hounded through another relative, to do so. Thank God the thousands of people who loved Rockey made what could have been an unthinkable act just yet another forgivable disappointment. If any relatives want to know who this is, just ask me on the street, on a call or by text.

When you watch a 48 Hours or 20/20 segment and the investigators ask who might have disliked the victim and harmed them, the family often says, “They had no enemies. Everybody loved him/her.”

While it’s easy to imagine that everyone loved Rockey and was good to him, it’s not the truth. Some were embarrassed, annoyed, or too busy to interact with Rockey.

No biggie. We understood that. Rockey accepted that. But there was also one person in town who was not only ignored, disparaged and humiliated Rockey … and treated him like a leper … he also treated Valdie poorly, over many decades. Ironically, both the Burkholder and Becker families are great friends with his mom and brother. In a crazy twist of fate, we ran into this individual at the Kootenai River Inn three days after Rockey passed. Valdie in a wheelchair, myself and the guy who always wears a hat.

Still in shock, pushing Valdie past the fireplace and towards the restaurant, I looked up, saw him, and reflexively shook his hand. Looking shocked and sickened that I had shook his hand (I’m guessing in his mind, Rockey dying of COVID meant I’d infect him), he once again ignored Valdie, who was looking up at him with tears in her eyes, having just spoken to someone near the reception desk who consoled her through tears.

Never said hi or offered condolences, but instead yapped about needing to wash his hands after shaking my hand. I told him that Rockey was no longer infective when he died, I’d just tested negative for COVID, and had used Purell at the front door 30-seconds before.

Didn’t matter. He stomped off without a goodbye, but moments later I found out he paused to hug my wife, Teresa, as she entered KRI lobby. The guy has a proclivity for paying extra attention to pretty ladies.

Ask Valdie or I who this person is and we’ll tell you.

Just know, having only one local person that was dismissive and negative towards both Rockey and Valdie over several decades, while thousands were the opposite, warm, generous, gentle, caring, loving, just goes to show you the ebullient goodness of Rockey reflected back to him, the special nature of this special place we call home, and God’s rich blessings.

How many of us could only count one naysayer, enemy or people who were dismissive of us, rude, or unkind? Certainly not me; I’m not half the person Rockey was. Probably not you.

Rockey’s friendliness, warmth, gentleness and love was mirrored back to him. Even magnified.

Rockey + COVID = A Bridge Too Far. Rockey left his earthly family and joined his heavenly one; his dad Jim, grandmother Josie and her husband Norm. His uncles George, Junior, Aunt Famie and dozens of other loving White/Burkholder family members, such as Tom and Annie.

I saw a statistic that a person is dying from COVID about every 30 seconds. So every time you hear local legend Bing Crosby’s song, White Christmas, five or six people will die. But if we pledge to take the steps to stay safe, channel Rockey’s sincere, warm, joyous, complimentary attitude as we go forward in our lives and head towards a New Year, it will never be a Black Christmas. Always a White Christmas with the Lord’s bright light, fanned in part by Rockey’s fluorescent, wings.

God bless you all. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Our families can’t thank you enough for your prayers, positive thoughts and acts of kindness.

Oh wait. Where to make a donation in Rockey’s name. The standard ending. Rockey loved all animals but especially dogs and cats. When he moved out of his trailer and in with his mom fulltime, he donated most of his possessions to the local animal shelter. If you feel moved to make a donation, please send to: Second Chance Animal Adoption, PO Box 1925, Bonners Ferry, ID 83805.

Oh my, I almost forgot. Let’s go back to the tease in paragraph two. “Rocks can fly.” Having done network TV in NYC for over a quarter century, I met many of the famous people that you see in movies, on TV or in the news. For most, not some, most, I’d say you could describe them as having duplicity, performances, hidden agendas and posturing for personal gain.

Put another way, they’re as deep and fake as a Western B-movie façade.

Rockey? He was authentic. For someone to have the absence of guile, to have no culpability for wrong doing, to see the absolute best in everyone, to continue to smile through pain, he earned his wings. His brother Jim got his wings as a Vietnam era pilot, F4 and then F-111 fighters. Rockey? He got his wings on December 7 as one of God’s special angels.

When this Rock flew up to heaven to join family, friends and fellow angels, he immediately made his presence known. Never, ever, have so many angels simultaneously lost weight and looked beautiful. To Rockey, all of you ladies were perfect on earth. It was so easy to find everyone perfect in heaven.