My heart is heavy today, as I grasp the fact that an old and dear friend is no longer with us. A father-figure to me for several decades, Les Scarce left this world Monday morning. Though he passed peacefully, it doesn’t lessen the loss…
I met Les and his wife Normalou, in 1984, at an EG Kight show in Tulsa. I was dating Mike Cleeton at the time, and it was Valentine’s Day, so he and I were out on a date, looking for a place to have a nice, quiet dinner. I would have been content with a Schlotzky’s sandwich, but he preferred a hearty meal, so we ended up at Melody’s Restaurant, near 71st and Memorial Drive.
It was one of those magical nights that’s hard to describe, filled with music, laughter, and instant friendships. Many people who were in the room that night are still friends today. We shared so much in common, among them a love of good music.
EG would perform in Tulsa for a month at a time, several times a year, and all of her friends would come together and celebrate life. And all of her friends became friends with each other, and we all became part of a big musical family. And Les and Norma were a big part of that family.
When I heard the news that Les had passed away, the memories came flooding back. An astute business man, he was the one who spearheaded the business of a fan club for EG. We were a corporation, held regular business meetings, and had annual picnics at LaFortune Park in Tulsa, for all the fans to come together and play games, have raffles, and just have fellowship with each other. Kids of all ages would come, and some would go home with prizes of some sort. But the biggest prize was our friendships, and Les and Norma were like the parents of this great big extended family.
In this photo, we thought it would be fun to pretend we were the best band in town, so EG would hire us! Nothing could have been farther from the truth. The only one of us who could actually play the instrument we were holding was Les! Barry Whitelock, our vice president was on drums, and Fran Whitelock was on mandolin.
Through the years, I’ve attended church with Les and Norma, gone out to hear live music with them, and shared many meals with them. Tulsa was so alive with great artists and musicians back then, and when EG wasn’t in town, we regularly went out to hear Debbie Campbell, Spencer Sutton, Mark Bruner, Jimmy Strader, Gus Hardin, Tommy Crook, Flash Terry, Ron Chandler, Earl Clark and Spectrum, Don White, Buddy Bruce, Sylvester, and so many others. And Norma never minded sharing Les with others, because he loved to dance so much.
When I moved to Nashville in 1992, it was difficult leaving family and friends behind, but I was determined to make a difference in the music business. And I carried Les’s business guidance with me…
In later years, though Les didn’t dance much any more, when I’d drive back to Tulsa for a visit, I so enjoyed spending time with him and Norma, eating at Goldie’s, or the Full Moon Café, or CJ Maloney’s, their favorite club. The music and fellowship was still so much a part of their lives, and looking around the table, I was reminded that some of those friends we were sharing yet another meal with were some of the people we met all those years ago at Melody’s.
Those who knew Les well, and even those who were blessed to be around him for a short time, all experienced his humor. He was the instigator of so much laughter, and his recitations often had the listener doubled over. Many know his version of the “wide-mouth frog,” and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve smiled, just thinking about his famous line – “Sallisaw Henryetta Wagoner Catoosa,” a pun using the names of small towns in Oklahoma.
One of my fondest memories of Les was the time he and Norma and I embarked on a mini-vacation, through the Ouachita Mountains that run from Oklahoma to Arkansas. It was a beautiful time of year, and with no real destination in mind, we simply took off in their big green Chevrolet (which they had bought from my grandparents) and headed down the road. Under no deadlines, we stopped when and where we wanted to, and often pulled off the road just to take in all the beauty. One of my favorite photos of them was taken on that trip.
They were so young at heart, and we were having the time of our lives.
True friendships withstand the test of time. And Les and Norma have remained my dear friends through all these years. Here we were a couple of years ago, celebrating Don Stacey’s birthday.
Though we didn’t talk every day, I always felt them close, because they were so much a part of who I have become. Their influence is still with me today, and I’m so grateful to have had them in my life…
Les fell ill several weeks before he passed, and the doctors did all they could. I was so torn, wanting to be there with him and Norma, as I had several times in the past, to help them through this health challenge. But it wasn’t to be this time.
My heart aches for Norma, but I’ll be with her in spirit as she journeys through the grief. I know she won’t be alone, with her family and friends to support her. And I hope the memories will sustain her…
Though my heart is heavy, and I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to Les in person, it comforts me to know that he was at peace. He had told Norma that he was ready to go, and he started to describe the colors he was seeing, as he transitioned. I know that he rests now, with no pain, and no worries. What a beautiful reward for a beautiful soul…
Hold your loved ones even closer this Christmas season, and remember what it was that first drew you to them. Forgive, and laugh, and love… as much as your heart can hold….
Service information can be found at http://www.christian-gavlikfuneralhome.com/memsol.cgi?user_id=1484566