My Friend Al, part three

Al’s love for mail order and his fascination with old cars led him to Motor Mint. Die cast cars from the past is their speciality. Al loved looking at those cars, and especially buying the ones that he had owned long ago. This 1949 Buick Roadmaster is the first one he gave to me. He said his first car was a ’49 Buick Roadmaster, although if I remember correctly, it was not a convertible. A few weeks later he gave me a shelf and eight more cars to go with the one he had previously given me. I enjoyed these as much as he did, I think. In my office right now is a curio cabinet filled with some he gave me and some I bought or received as gifts from others.

It was not odd at all for Al to give me these cars, as he was a very giving person. He would sometimes send home clothes for John Robert. Now these were his clothes and you can imagine the cultural divide in clothing styles between an 80 something and an 17 year old! I know that Al often gave his cars away to nurses, aides, and other people.

Sometimes he offered me money, but I always told him I wasn’t coming to see him for money. So he would write a check to the Central Church and send it with me. Occasionally, though, he would insist that I take it and take Maggy out to supper. He was a very giving person.

When I moved away from the Coast, he wished me well – although we both knew we would miss our visits. I contacted the Rodenberg Church of Christ nearby and Joe Powers began visiting Al regularly. Joe is an amazing brother that led Rodenberg’s post Katrina efforts. He has a neat story of his faith journey as well. Another friend, Sarah, who worked at the V. A. but in another department would visit him when should could as well. Maybe there were others, but those are the ones I know about.

When John Robert died, I went to see him at the hospital to tell him. He was genuinely sorry. As Maggy and I returned to Monroe and got more involved in the ministry here, my opportunities to see Al grew farther apart. I was able to surprise him a time or two. And last time I saw him, he looked great. He made a striking observation, though.

He was basically bedridden, getting up only to open up his mail or go to the bathroom. He mused that so much effort had gone into keeping him alive, but for what? To lay in that bed a little longer? I think Al was satisfied that God would save him.

We enjoyed phone visits mostly over the past several months. He was always worried that I would change my number and not tell him! I promised him that he would be among the first to know! Sometime last year a call went to voice mail, but the message was unintelligible. I could tell he talked a long time. I just couldn’t understand him. A few weeks later he asked if I received his message.  I told him I couldn’t understand it. The doctors had told him that he had pneumonia and would not live very much longer. He called to tell me goodbye.

The last time I talked to Al was a few weeks ago. It wasn’t a very long call. Just checking in. He didn’t say goodbye.

Friday morning Joe Powers called to tell me that Al had passed away Thursday night. He will be buried in the National Cemetery at Biloxi Monday morning. I will not be able to be there, and neither will his sisters or nieces. I’ll miss his phone calls. I’ll miss looking at his latest cars. But I’m glad he’s with Jesus now. It won’t be as lonesome nor as painful.

I changed my phone number this past week, but did not need to pass it on to Al.

I’m so glad that his sister Mary called me a few years ago to go by and check on her brother. He became my friend. I’m happy for him in heaven.

Alton Milligan’s obituary is located HERE.

Thanks for reading,


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