Jesse Rhodes - A
In this universe, there is
black and white, light and dark. There
are conservatives and liberals. There
are those that do and others that dream.
There are the good, the bad, the rich, the poor, the Red Sox and
Yankee fans and ultimately, not falling within any boundary, stereotype,
or group – there is Jesse Rhodes. A
man who, on my Embry Riddle softball dynasty – The FUBARS – was
nicknamed during just one season in team newsletters, among other things
– Jesse “the body”, The Rhodes warrior, Goin’ postal, the savage
beast, and the one that he seemed to live up to – Jesse “the
Now in all the years I’ve
known Jesse, I have described him as many things, especially in those
newsletters and the FUBAR website, but the one that seems to stick in my
mind is that of liking him to a Border Collie – Think about it.
He’s always there. Always
attentive and above all else, always on.
Maybe it’s the food he ate?
Maybe what he drank? Maybe
it was all the slobber and licking? Maybe
it was just fleas? I don’t
know, but what I do know was that under no circumstances would he ever sit
I would like to thank everyone
for coming today to help celebrate Jesse’s life.
I will apologize beforehand if this is lengthy.
As my wife says, and most of you know, I do have a tendency to talk
just to hear myself speak.
I use the term celebrate,
because to do anything otherwise, in my opinion, would be in contrast to
Jesse’s spirit and I feel as though I would be insulting him by not
having my words, at times, take somewhat of a jocular tone.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ll all miss him deeply, but I feel as
though if he could decide, he would have us party until 3am in his honor
and I feel as though I should have a beer in my hand now… But I
In the fall of 1991, my
sophomore year at Embry-Riddle, I started my instrument ground school.
Walking into class for the first time, probably late, there were
just a few seats remaining. Recognizing
a student who I had seen at the gym a few times in the back row – the
typical class clown locale, I took a seat adjacent.
“Hey. I’m Dave,
I’ve see you at the gym.” I said and he replied, “Dude!
You been checkin’ me out at the gym?
That’s not my thing buddy, but thanks anyway.” or something
stupid to that effect. He
laughed that contagious laugh, simply adding, “Just kiddin.’
I’m Jesse.” Little
did I know what I was in for … there should’ve been a disclaimer…
Jesse Rhodes – One size fits
all, limit one per household, keep away from pets and small children, for
external use only, and parental discretion is advised …
Keep away from fire or flame,
do not use while operating a motor vehicle, contents may explode under
pressure, sound levels may exceed 120 decibels within 20 feet and not
liable for damages due to misuse, neglect, and/or projectiles.
But, above all else, please keep your hands and feet in the vehicle
at all times…
Continuing our chat, I learned
that Jesse lived just few miles from my mothers house in Clearwater, FL
and thus over subsequent winter breaks, we built a foundation for our
friendship by keeping each other in as much trouble, and alcohol, as
possible - a trend that I fear hadn’t changed for the past 15 years.
I would be remiss to say there weren’t just a few stories.
Free-spirited, uninhibited, and
many times just plain wild and crazy, I think many here would agree; Jesse
was the flag bearer, our platoon leader if you will for most social
gatherings - Out in front of the troops, directing the assault, he would
charge headlong into the melee typically, screaming at the top of his
lungs. Trust me, I like to be
the center of attention; you can ask anyone, even I’ll admit it, but
when Jesse was in a room, what was the point?
It was no contest; everyone just loved him and yes, even his
Oh, we could amuse, but he
would be comical. We could be
loud, but not surprisingly, he would always be louder and we could be
sociable, but there too, he would always outdo us.
Some of you know this all too well, with his unlimited
supply of bear hugs, tackles, screaming, arm wrestling, jokes, keg stands,
pictures, head butts of the manly but non-aggressive persuasion; if there
is such a thing and of course, the kissing? … What was up with
all the kissing at the Ocean Deck that night anyway?
Mark you know, you were there! …
All the “mini” animated
moments aside and there are enough to fill volumes - My wife, a
professional accountant, an easy gig for a poor pilot I admit, told me
while I was working on this that there is not enough time in the day or
patience in this audience to listen to all the stories I have.
At first, I disagreed with her, probably out of principle, but then
I quickly saw the error of my ways and realized that if I actually
tried to tell them all, then explain them all, we would in all likelihood
be stuck here growing old together…
I will however, share one - a typical “Jesse” moment -
In 1998, I was to be married in
Birmingham, England. Not to
be confused with Birming-“H”am - notice the lack of an “H” there,
my wife is so proud. I solicited several close friends, all members of the FUBARS
at one time or another, to stand in my wedding.
Jesse, an underpaid flight instructor at the time, was among them.
He said he would be honored and happy too – after we told
him we’d pay for the tuxedo rental.
And so, through rigorous international negotiations, as his
reputation preceded him, Jesse was granted passage through customs into a
“foreign country” for our wedding.
If you think the laws didn’t intimidate Jesse here in the states,
just put him on foreign soil. “Soil”
mind you, where partying, drinking ale, cheering sporting events and
defending your teams honor at all cost, physically if necessary, is a way
of life. It was a utopian place built just for him and we figured it
would be an awesome spectacle to say the least.
Like letting the Border Collie go without a lease in the park for
the first time - Free-spirited, uninhibited, and many times just plain
wild and crazy…
So stories abound, on the night
of our wedding another was born. Jesse,
along with many other irresponsible members of my wedding party,
decided to head downtown for some post - nuptial drinking and partying.
Reaching the city center, via taxi, Jesse - note the previous
Border collie references, bolted from the cab.
Now why did he do this? Well,
we figure he did this because either A. He had to just run at that moment,
B. Saw money across the street or C. wanted to elude paying the cab fare
at the current 1.71-1, Dollar to Pound exchange rate…
And so, across the busy street
he ran, in his tuxedo with tails mind you, looking the wrong way if
I recall the story correctly, running towards a waist high stonewall that
separated the traffic from the sidewalks.
Approaching the wall and ignoring the cries from others in the
group, some still in their taxis paying his fare, he hit the wall one
handed, throwing both legs over, traversing it with ease and grace - a
manner in which one irresponsible member was quoted later, “Dude.
He looked like freakin’ Batman!”
A side note here.
While yes, these waist high stonewalls do separate traffic from
pedestrians, they also prevent the traffic from driving into what the
Brits call “subways” or pedestrian tunnels as they are in actual fact.
Their function to allow people safe passage under the busy
streets, the very same streets that Jesse had just run across -looking the
And so, over the wall goes
Jesse “Batman” Rhodes like its a jailbreak, or pretending to hot dog a
two point conversion for the Bucs and finds himself looking at a good
15-20 foot drop to the base of the ramp into the subway.
Yup, he went over the deep end… again.
Surprising – not in the least.
Typical Jesse - Definitely.
I remember Jesse telling the
story from this point and saying that as he went over the wall, and
noticing the sudden drop, albeit too late, all he could think was,
“Crap.” [That’s not the actual word he used but we are, after all,
in a chapel.]
Of course, after ending up in
the subway, the realization hit him, and probably a little sobriety, that
not only had he made this “minor” miscalculation, but more
importantly, a group of people he knew were watching and saw this
“doofus” maneuver. Now,
he couldn’t let them know that he knew that he had “miscalculated”
and so mustering all his strength, he limped up the ramp and re-appearing
from behind the wall in his typical animated style, basically said, “I
meant to do that! … Ow.”
My wife being sympathetic and
yet also a realist, upon hearing the story through various sources the
next morning, asked “Is Jesse alright?”
Which translated directly from British as, “Did the bloody fool
damage the tux.”
Yes, Jesse was full of these
“Jesse” moments and from all the great ones, I like to think he taught
me, all of us, many things by these outlandish actions, however
unconventional at times they may have seemed, or appeared.
For example … from
this subway incident, he taught me the important lesson – Do not to jump
over walls in foreign countries, drunk, in an attempt to be cool
and look like Batman. Remember
- Measure twice - jump once.
In addition to that lesson, his
behavior taught us many basic fundamental things as well.
He taught us trust by allowing us to know what he was thinking and
that your secrets were always safe with him, and anyone who would listen,
or pay to hear them. He
taught me support when he was right there to laugh hysterically when I
dropped a dumbbell on my shoulder that HE was spotting.
He taught us that picking a fight with 8 people at once, although a
losing prospect, was an easy way to explain the black eye and the loss due
to them having “an unfair advantage” and a tougher offense.
He even taught a cockateel that it CAN feel like a bird of prey on
the inside and probably taught, even on some small level, taught that guy
in the library 11 years ago politeness when he popped him in the head for
not relinquishing the USA Today. That
whole story by the way - a “Jesse” classic, will cost you a
Now, the above examples holding
true, he taught us, seriously taught me the value of friendship and the
loyalty of being there whenever a friend was needed.
He taught us when to laugh at a good joke, when to make one, and
when to be one. How to be
carefree, enjoy every moment, live hard, try new things, enjoy life, and
above all, not take anything too seriously, well anything
that is except maybe the Tampa Bay Bucs.
If he were down to his last dollar, he would give it to you; mind
you, there would be major grief about it in the process, and probably
interest to pay, he would still give it to you. Our happiness, our
security and our friendship were more important than material wealth –
Our friendship was his currency…
At the end of one of my
favorite movies, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
A film most of you have seen I’m sure; The premise - A man given
the chance to see what his life would’ve been like had he never been
born, the ending provides me with the basic principle that I live my life
by; “No man is poor who has friends.”
In the category of friendship,
I am truly lucky to be such a rich person, but Jesse was and is by far,
the richest person I have ever known.
He holds a level of respect and admiration that few ever achieve. I
am richer for knowing him and we will all continue to be wealthier people
for having him in our thoughts and his infectious qualities in all
of us. In friendship currency, Jesse will always be our silver dollar –
not that common, bigger than the rest and when push comes to shove, still
worth a buck – with interest.
Jesse. I know I can take
comfort in knowing that wherever you are, you are most definitely being
loud, causing trouble, laughing, cheering the Bucs, challenging everyone
to arm wrestle and probably, more than likely, attempting a coup...
Total and utter chaos, Jesse
“The Psycho” Rhodes style; you’d have it no other way…
I’ll miss you bro and
wherever you might be, we’ll see you when we see you …
In the meantime - keep the beer