Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Gus Bounds: A Man of Faithfulness and Integrity

Gus Bounds in 1993
On April 18th, my grandfather, Gus Bounds, went to Heaven.  At the age of 96 years and 10 months, he had become the longest-living member of our family, second only by his mother who lived to be 96 years and 4 months.  Although we were in the middle of safe-at-home orders due to Covid-19, we were blessed to have been able to attend the graveside services held at my family's cemetery in Carnes, south Forrest County, Mississippi.  I have heard that there may be a memorial service later, but I do not know if that will happen, nor do I know if I will be asked to speak.  However, I would love for my readers to get to know my Grandpa through the eyes of his only granddaughter.

Grandpa was born in 1923, the oldest of eight children.  His mother Ida and his father Ben reared him to work hard and to serve God.  He helped his father farm and raise sheep from the time he was very small.  He grew up hunting and was an excellent marksman.  As an adult, he won awards for his skeet shooting and throughout his life brought home plenty of game for his family to eat.  He was also a talented artist.  I heard his sister, my great aunt Penney, say that after he went to town with his father, he came home and drew pictures of what he saw for his younger sisters and brothers.  As a boy, he was bullied and was injured very badly when a kid choked him.  He had to have surgery and for the rest of his life was unable to sing.  He learned how to box and he taught other boys how to box so that they could protect themselves from being bullied.  After his father died in 1941 from a stroke, he had to help his mother take care of his siblings.

In December of 1941, he married his high school sweetheart, Wilna Lee, when he was only 18 years old and still in high school.  He moved to New London, CT, where I believe he went to welding school.  After his first child, my mother Sylvia, was born, he became a boxer for a short time.  He then decided to join the Marines.  He moved Grandma and Mama back home to south Mississippi and enlisted in the Marines.  He fought in the Pacific Theatre of WWII and was a messenger boy on the front lines.  He claimed God's promises of protection found in Psalm 91 and made a promise to God that if he made it home alive, he would rear his family for the Lord.

Grandma and Grandpa reared three children: my mother Sylvia and her younger brothers Ben and Steve.  Grandpa was a very hard worker.  I've heard it said of him that, "There's no quit in him!"  He worked hard his whole life until he could not work anymore.  In addition to subsistence farming to provide for his family, he also worked at a furniture company and as a welder.  He worked at Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, MS, for over 20 years helping to build huge military battleships such as the USS Ticonderoga.  When he retired in 1988, they had to hire three men to take his place!  It takes a faithful man and one of integrity to be such a hard worker!

Even after retirement, he didn't stop working!  He and Grandma moved back to the "Old House" which they tore down and set on fire before building the new house to take its place.  While the new house was being built, they roughed it by living in the new barn they had built just a few months before.  We lived just a short walk away; they could have stayed with us, but they enjoyed living simply in the same way as they had growing up.  Grandpa continued to farm, putting in large gardens and raising cows, chickens, ducks, sheep, and even some guineas.  Although he owned several old tractors (he loved the antique ones the best), he often used his donkey Deacon to do the plow work.  He also grew sugar cane that seemed to reach to the sky and cut it down by hand.  Every year, he enjoyed taking the sugar cane to be processed into sweet, delicious cane syrup which we all enjoyed poured over homemade biscuits!  In his downtime, he always found time to read the newspaper and watch the news on TV.

Grandpa read the
Christmas Story to us
from the Bible.
Grandpa read his Bible faithfully.  He was a lay preacher and Sunday School teacher for much of his adult life.  After he retired, he even taught himself how to play the piano using materials he ordered through the mail.  He proved his faithfulness to the Lord over and over by his devotion in service and in his relationship with God.  He never failed to mention God's grace and mercy in his prayers.

I had a wonderful relationship with my grandfather.  When I was grade-school age, he made a puzzle cut out of a floor tile and showed me how to put it together.  The Christmas I turned 11, my mother gave each of us a Rubik's Cube and a book that showed how to solve it.  We sat together on the couch and figured out how to work it together.

In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit, Grandpa chose to stay home even after Grandma and Mama evacuated to my brother Sammy's home in Alabama.  He hunkered down and rode it out.  His property didn't sustain any catastrophic damage, but it was still a mess from all the fallen branches and debris.  He had it cleaned up long before FEMA came in and even more quickly than others in the community.  He didn't wait for others to come clean up his property (although my brothers and cousins went down to help him - but they didn't have as much to do as they thought.)  By the way, he was 72 at the time, still spry for his age.

In 2007, I became engaged to my husband.  I knew that my Grandma would come to the wedding with my mother who was her caretaker; however, I knew there was a good chance that Grandpa would not want to leave home.  I knew that the best way to get somebody to be somewhere is to give them an important job.  I called Grandpa on the phone and told him I was getting married and that I wanted him to give me away.  I could tell that he wanted to say no, but after hesitating, he said OK.  When I came home about a week before the wedding, he was excited about it, and he asked me to take him shopping for a brand new suit to wear to the wedding.  I gladly took him to Belk's at the Turtle Creek Mall in Hattiesburg where he bought a very nice black suit and a tie to match my wedding colors.  (He was supposed to have been buried in that suit, per Mama's wishes, but I forgot to ask about that.)  I remember walking with Grandpa down the aisle and when my pastor asked, "Who giveth this woman in marriage?" he straightened up nice and tall and said with great pride in his voice, "Her granddaddy, Augustus L. Bounds!"  I will never forget that to my dying day.

Toward the end of my Grandma's life, she was very insecure and didn't talk much.  She digressed to the point where she would make one of several statements, "Where am I?"   "Where's Gus?"   "I don't know."  and "OK." I remember Grandpa answering one time with, "I'm right here.  You've still got me, Wilna.  Yeah, you've still got me!"  A man married for 70 years, he proved his faithfulness to his wife and to his family many times over by his example.

In 2010, I had my daughter Gracie.  From the time they first met when Gracie was a newborn until the last time they saw each other when Gracie was not quite ten years old, the two shared a very special, very close bond.  They delighted in each other's company! Grandpa loved to rub his whiskers on Gracie's cheek like he used to do to me.  Gracie loved to hug on her Papa and play with him.

Another favorite memory is when Gracie lost her second tooth in my mom's hospital room.  Gracie had slipped on the tile floor in her sock feet and busted her lip.  Grandpa was visiting in the room at the time or came in shortly after.  I saw him get a mischievous glint in his eye, and he pulled out the top plate of his dentures showing her how he can take his teeth out, too!

Grandpa was last allowed to attend our annual Bounds Family Reunion in 2017 when he was 94 years old.  His mental faculties had been declining for a couple of years.  At my mother's funeral two years before that, not only did he not recognize my brother's daughter, but he also didn't even know that he had grown grandchildren at all!  At that time, he had been going outside at all hours of the night (sometimes not dressed properly or for the weather) to do anything from getting the mail to feeding the chickens.  Despite all of the mental confusion to that point, the family reunion was the first time that he did not recognize Gracie, but he was fascinated by her.  He kept asking, "Who is that little girl?  She looks like Mother!" as he watched her run around and play with her cousins.  Although it made me sad that he didn't know her, my heart was warmed by the fact that his heart remembered her, even if his head did not.  We are very blessed to have had the opportunity to be able to take Gracie to see him as often as we did.  I think it is important for children to know their grandparents and great grandparents well.  It is well worth the time and effort to establish lasting relationships and memories.  Children need to see that those relationships are important and need to see that the elderly are valuable.

The last thing I want to tell you about my grandfather is his integrity.  Grandpa grew up in a time when a man's word was his bond.  One thing you can be sure of is that if Gus Bounds said he was going to do something, it got done.  If Gus Bounds said that this is the way it's going to be, then that's the way it was going to happen.  He never resorted to secrecy or deception to make things happen the way he wanted to; he was an honest man, through and through, and worked for everything he had.  He never asked for anything from anybody, but freely gave from the abundance of what God had given him.  He planted a large garden to help widows of the community.  He also gave to those who asked for handouts time and time again.  I am blessed to have known him for as long as I did and am grateful to God for his influence in my daughter's and my life.

Thank you for allowing me to tell you about my grandfather.  Those of you who knew him personally know what a great man he was.  He was loved and well-respected by many.  I told my daughter today that, although he was a quiet man, when he spoke, people shut up and listened.  I believe that's because he had God-given wisdom, and he allowed the Holy Spirit to work in him to become the embodiment of a man of faithfulness and integrity.

"A faithful man shall abound with blessings." Proverbs 28:20
"The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him." Proverbs 20:7

Here is a slideshow I put together showing some of my favorite photos of Grandpa.
Pin It!


Post a Comment