Late last week local legend, Roy Story, was laid to rest less than a mile from his home on Culpepper Mountain. I considered Roy a great friend and judging from the stories and response of his passing it became clear that many of you felt the same way. Moments before we were to leave the church for the cemetery someone said, “He’s taking his final trip up the mountain.” I caught myself holding back another tear and as we made our way to Culpepper the rain began to fall on the mountain.

He was considered a pillar of this community and like so many in his generation, he has left behind a rich legacy. The past week has given me a lot to reflect on given the passing of a great man like Roy. His is a generation that has long been admired due to their strong sense of community, service of their fellow man, and the priority of a good work ethic. Values like those are often over-politicized in our culture and sadly are fading away.

The way in which we think about community is rapidly changing. Long before social distancing was a public health guideline we began to distance ourselves from one another. Social gatherings and community is often an event that happens on a screen rather than on a court square. Former generations learned from one another’s experiences, shared one another’s troubles, and made it through tough times together. Today, we rarely venture far enough from our front door to learn our neighbor’s names. The value of self-reliance often overshadows the importance of belonging to a community. Prior generation’s dependence on one another was born out of necessity and in today’s culture of self-reliance, our dependency on one another is a shadow of what it used to be.

Over the past few years, this community has seen many heroes from this generation pass on. Though they have passed, their spirit lives on in many corners of this community we all call home. In 1985 George Jones released an album with the title track of the same name “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” The question was posed in reference to the rich tradition of country music and the challenge of carrying forward the torch. Late last week that same question resurfaced as it rained on Culpepper. The drive home that evening made me wonder who will the next legends of the county be? What legacy will my generation and that of those in positions of leadership be known for? Who is gonna carry on the spirit of the heroes who built this community into a place we all call home?

Perhaps what could most be admired about the local heroes who shaped this community is that they did not realize they were doing so. The contributions they made to this community were not born from a desire to be recognized or honored, they were born from a deeper understanding of what it means to be in community with one another. The truth is that we do not need to wait for another hero to emerge, we are the answer to George Jones’s timeless question. Every day go and do the little things that ensure the spirit of our heroes remains alive.

David Cook is a local resident of Van Buren County and can be reached at

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