Monday, June 26, 2017


Father’s Day got me to thinking about the mentors in my life. My father taught me things that have been vital throughout my life. My grandfather and an uncle were iconic in my life, but there were also mentors who were unrelated by blood. The contributions of my mentors often seemed insignificant at the time. But when looking back over my life, I’m humbled by the things they chose to share with me.

One mentor in my early life was Cecil Kitchens. He was an old mechanic that worked on our cars and lawnmowers. Mr. Kitchens who lived on Red Star Hill near Old Dora was the best mechanic around according to my dad. After a few visits to his shop, he became number one in my book too. Cecil’s shop was orderly. His hand tools were as clean as spoons.

When people brought machines to him for repair, the first thing he did was listen to the customer. He’d nod as they described knocks, sputters, and squeaks. He always did a visual inspection of the mechanism. His approach to his work was methodical. I credit Mr. Kitchens for my problem-solving skills.

Throughout my life whenever I’m working on a device, I think of how Mr. Kitchens looked and listened before putting wrench to metal. Thanks to Cecil, I’m able to fix things.

Several of my teachers in school taught me things that my report card did not reflect. Not the least of which was “Always Do Your Homework.”  Even today when I have a meeting at work or at one of my volunteer efforts, I always do my homework. I realized the importance of this lesson after years of meetings. When someone comes unprepared, it is a waste of everyone’s time. Not doing homework is rude and expensive.

Another mentor that stands out in my mind is Dale Short. I’m sure he’ll blush when he reads this, but
Writer Dale Short
it’s true. He taught me to take photographs. He also taught me the love of writing and the importance of working on the craft daily.  We worked together at The Community News in Sumiton just after my tour in the Army. The job didn’t pay a lot, but what I learned during my time there was priceless.

G. M. Young was a general manager for the phone company back in the 70s. I met Mr. Young at a city council meeting. He started hanging out the paper office. We’d all drink coffee now and then. We talked about business, politics, and the meaning of life.

When I left my job at the paper, I lost touch with Mr. Young. My cousin Tommy Lowery hired me at his package store to pump gas and load beer. I worked there almost a year while I looked for a job. One day Mr. Young stopped by the station for gas. He stepped out of his company car and leaned against the door as I filled his tank and cleaned his windshield. He asked if I’d ever thought about working for the phone company. I told him I was looking for a job and would do most any kind of work. He pulled a slip of paper from his pocket and wrote down a name and phone number.

At break time, I called the number and asked for Mildred Clayton. She was a hiring manager for MaBell. She told me to come in and take a battery of tests. Before leaving that day, she asked me to report to work on January 3, 1977. I was thrilled.

Working for the phone company allowed me to buy a new home, attend college, travel, and meet amazing people through the years. I often wonder if Mr. Young realized the impact he had on my life.

It doesn’t cost money to be a mentor, but they often share something much more valuable –knowledge, empathy, and time.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Goes On is available on You can contact him via email at


  1. Thank you Rick for sharing and reminding.

  2. How right you are. And being a mentor is something to aspire to.

  3. When I think about the impact different people had on my life, I've got a lot to be thankful for too. It is amazing how people come into our lives and change it forever.

  4. You are right ... My late daughter Nicole was a great mentor to all her students and friends and we knew nothing of it as she never bragged, it became evident after her death that she was a great mentor by testimonials of the many, many lives she impacted. Some wanted to quit but she mentored them and they stayed the course and today, they have their PhD because she cared.

    Smiles & hugs

  5. What a powerful post my friend. Now you have my mind racing, yep amazing the ones I see. This is a keeper for sure, THANKS!

  6. Wouldn't it be great if the people who gave us such gifts knew the impact they've had on us?

    1. Anonymous12:54 PM

      That would be fantastic!!

  7. Great post Rick!

  8. If we take the time to think about it we realize we have learned something from each person with whom we interact. It is necessary to be open and accepting to the lessons.

  9. Wow. Thanks for the prompt! Immediately, my mind went to my personal Life History teacher ... so instrumental in rebuilding my self-confidence ... taken far too soon, too young. Still others who 'held the door' for me. Dang, but I wish I'd expressed my appreciation.

  10. I love your list and who inspired you. It just shows that people we never think were major people I. Our life...were


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