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Dr. George Finis McKerley

It's very hard to post a memorial tribute to someone who held a unique place in the community for many people and possibly even more animals.

Dr. George McKerley, a veterinarian who served the Calhoun County area for many years, died after a short illness on 16 October. Wednesday evening, there was a memorial service at the First Baptist Church of Williams -- a small community north of Jacksonville. Beverly and I went, along with many people who'd known Dr. McKerley as their vet, neighbor, fellow parishioner, and friend.

Funerals and memorial services are something Beverly and I never look forward to. We especially dreaded this one because of the raw shock we still had from news of Dr. McKerley's death. We were latecomers to Dr. McKerley's wide networks, but three dogs within our extended family made us regulars for several years. We greatly enjoyed the connection, both professional and personal. He also supported my senate campaign, for which we were very grateful.

Since Dr. McKerley was a proud Auburn alum and avid fan, several of us got the word to wear orange. I've had nothing in that color for years, except a reflective safety vest. A quick trip to find something turned up almost nothing. Finally, I found a bright orange pullover. I wore that under a blue blazer. It was an odd fashion statement but seemed justified by the occasion. I thought he'd approve.

As Rev. Chris Thomas, the pastor, gave his eulogy, our unease abated somewhat. Pastor Thomas built on his relationship over the past 7 years with Dr. McKerley as church pianist, organist and greeter. He recalled many aspects of Dr. McKerley's life and career as passionate lover of animals and friend to their humans. He also noted Dr. McKerley's passion for Auburn -- running up the Auburn flags the last time Auburn beat Alabama in football.

At the end, I had to thank Pastor Thomas for his tribute to Dr. McKerley and for uplifting the rest of us in the process. I’m thinking the orange pullover should probably go to a local organization that helps those in need. That would probably be a fitting disposition, extending the compassion of the man in whose honor I got and once wore it.

RIP, Dr. McKerley. Many -- human, furry, feathered, and scaled -- are going to miss you. A lot. Jim Williams

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