Was the fall of 1994. A moment out of my extraordinary life of good fortune. I was standing in the living room of Ms. Bea Barkley. She was putting a golf ball into an empty soup can across the room. With ease I might add. Rambling on about Harvey this , and a Harvey that…whoever Harvey was.
She was wearing a disheveled house coat and slippers. She was 82 and ailing. Her roof was leaking, which I was there to assess and arrange to fix. I noticed an ancient copy of Life Magazine sitting on the coffee table. On the cover a picture of the inauguration of JFK. I asked her if she was a collector of the magazine. Nope. She said that’s a picture of my husband on the cover. You were married to JFK I said sheepishly? The man standing next to him . The preacher she said smiling, the one giving the benediction. That’s my husband.
I was instantly in awe. She went on to explain to me that President Kennedy was a Catholic, and being the first President not to have been a Protestant for appearance sake they thought it best not to have a Catholic Priest do the benediction. So LBJ offered the services of his minister…Pastor Barkley. Her husband. Thus began my friendship with Bea Barkley.
In the spring of 1995 I had occasion to need to do something nice for a doctor in New York who had done something over and above the call of duty for my daughter. I knew he enjoyed golf so I called Bea and asked if she would mind if I provided the book, having her friend Harvey to sign it personally for this doctor? She said she would be happy to.
The next day she called me and said she wasn’t feeling well, but that Harvey was expecting me to come myself. I freaked. I went to Barnes and Nobles and bought every copy of the Red Book and the Green Book that they had…6 in all. Shortly thereafter I arrived at this unassuming home at the edge of the golf course at the Austin Country Club.
I knocked. A giant voice from the other side shook the door. “Come in!” It rumbled. I stepped in like Dorathy into Oz, knees a little unsteady. Mr. Pennick I’m Stacy Pearson , Bea Barkley’s friend. “Bea Barkley has a friend???” The giant voice fired back from behind the lazy boy concealing it’s occupant. I could swear I was in the presence of the Wizard himself! “Step around here let me see you”. I did as commanded.
He looked me up and down. “My friends call me Harvey. My father’s name was Mister. Call me Harvey. Have a seat.” He was a man of advanced age, barely over 120 pounds. Yet his presence was unmistakable. His caretaker had just left for the day. His wife had not yet returned for the day. So here i sat for the next two hours…in the presence of greatness.
Mr. Pennick signed every one of those books. And we talked like old friends. For once in my life I was smart enough …to mostly just listen. Once past the gruff introduction we settled into a quiet and wonderful exchange. He kept putting a golf club in my hand and I kept treating it like a baseball bat, but other than that it went well. I asked him who he thought the best golfer in the world was at the time. He said he loved all of his students and was enormously proud of them (Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Davis Love lll).
He had made his millions late in life. Before me sat a man unchanged by money…a creature I have never seen before. He told me he never ceased to be amazed at the list of world dignitaries that sought him out. Just last week it had been Sect State James Baker. The week before the Great Willie Nelson. He was humbled by it all. I could tell by the way he spent time with me that was true.
As we sat together he acted as if I was doing HIM a favor. As the time came for me to leave he insisted that he give me something. I said he had given his time and that was more than generous. He started to get loud again and pointed to a closet and said now go o ER there and pick something out…I want you to have something to take with you. Do it!
So I went to the hall closet and opened it. On the top shelf were dozens of gimme hats. He pointed…those…one of those. I said well, ok. I looked for a moment and saw one with the NBC Peacock and reached for it. “NOT THAT ONE!!” Oh. Ok. So I picked the o e you see above. I handed it to him and he signed it. I never really knew how much I would come to appreciate it.
Thank you Harvey. You are still Mr. Pennick to me sir. Thank you for the lessons in humility. In that you are a giant always!