I made a little girl cry the other day.
Her grandmother brought her to the garden center where I do some part-time work this time of year. The little girl’s great grandfather was John Floyd. He used to frequent the garden center, buying his flowers and enjoying some lively conversation with the owners.
That was before I worked there.
I knew John as a South Bend police officer. He was a good cop who spent two decades of his 35-year career as a school resource officer at Riley High School. I did a story on how he and other SROs were mentoring students.
He seemed to have a way with teen-agers and held them to high standards.
After the story was published in the Tribune, he took the time to write me a nice letter even though he was far from my focus of the article. It is always nice to receive a note from a reader, especially a hand-written letter. And from a guy, no less. Women are usually better at that.
Letter writing is almost a lost art these days. A quick e-mail or a text is the way most of us do it now. John, I guess, was old school.
In 2007, John would die from injuries he suffered in a horrific gas explosion that leveled his home. It was an awful way for anyone to go. It damaged eight other homes in his Arbor Pointe neighborhood northwest of South Bend and could be heard as far away as Cassopolis.
Over 80 percent of his body had been burned. He also suffered several fractures.
I looked up his obituary and read the countless notes from those who cherished his friendship. Here is one of them from former Riley student Dana Champagne (Feldman):
“Mr. Floyd was a wonderful and caring man. He always seemed to know what was going on at the school and who needed a kick in the pants. He was everyone’s extra dad. I think he enjoyed helping everyone out and guiding us in the right direction … chatting with the students and making sure things were calm. He was a good man and we will all miss him.”
John had retired as a police officer just the year before and was working as a security officer at Washington High School at the time of his death. He was 66 and he was surrounded by family members at the Kalamazoo burn center where he passed away. He had three children, 10 grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
I’m guessing that Talisha — I think that’s what the soft-spoken little girl told me her name was — had not been born yet. She never got to meet her great grandfather. She had only heard about him. She lives in Las Vegas with her family and was in South Bend to visit relatives.
So I told her that her great grandfather was a good man, a thoughtful man and a man who helped make his community better and safer. I told her that as she sat in her grandmother’s car while tears rolled down her eyes. I told her she would have liked him — heck, she would have loved him.
I don’t like to make anyone cry (except maybe a few of my golfing buddies). But this time, it felt ok. It seemed like a good cry.
Her tears flowed back through several generations of her family.
Talisha thanked me so sweetly that, to be honest, she made it hard for me not to cry a little, too.
I should have given her some of the garden center’s flowers in memory of her great grandfather. I wasn’t quick enough to think of that at the time.
John Floyd is buried in Southlawn Cemetery. Maybe the flowers i should have given Talisha can go there.