Wayyyy back when I was in the 4th grade, I, like most everyone else, rode the bus to school.
The year was 1974. I lived way out in the country outside the Guntersville city limits on Browns Valley Road, or what the old folks back then called "Suck Egg Road."
I rode bus #158 and my bus driver was a man named Mr. Earl Law. I had to walk a half mile down my dirt road "driveway" to make it to the black-top county road to be picked up. On my bus, like on several others, there were bullies who picked on kids smaller than they were, or on kids who were better off, or on kids who wore nicer clothes, or picked on kids who had short, bad haircuts (ME!), or just whatever.
Being bullied sucked, but I was only 9 years old, 4 foot 5 , and maybe 60 pounds soaking wet. So...I got picked on. A lot.
Then one day, this GIRL stood up for me.
She told the bully to leave me alone.
The bully laughed at her and said something like "What are you gonna do about it?"
So she showed him.
She punched him in the nose, blood went everywhere, and he, the big, bad bully started crying. And everyone on the bus laughed at the suddenly not-so big, not-so bad bully who just got beat by a GIRL!
He never bullied me again.
In fact, I don't think he ever rode the bus again!
At that moment, Sherry Martin became my hero and my friend.
As the years go by, you lose contact, but as fate would have it, we re-connected and became friends on Facebook a few years ago. We chatted here and there, commented on this post and that...but it was a month ago that she once again became my hero.
My truck was (and still is) in the shop. I had a 6-month doctor's appointment in Huntsville with my spinal surgeon that I could not miss, and absolutely no way to get there. No one could help me.
Then, out of the blue, and after not seeing each other for 37 years, Sherry messaged me and said "I will take you!"
Just like that.
Then 3 days later, she spent a day helping me load and move the contents of my storage facility from Huntsville to Albertville. I didn't ask her to help, she just volunteered.
Her philosophy was "I've been there and I know what it's like. Someone helped me, so I have an obligation to pay it forward."
And she did.
Sherry was just good like that. Here's a woman I hadn't seen or spoken to in 37 years and she was still being my hero like we were back on the bus, like we had never lost contact.
She was a natural protector with a maternal instinct, a "shepherd" if you will, of children. She drove and watched over her "flock," generations of school kids, as a bus driver herself. She was obeyed and respected on any bus she drove. For over a span of more than 30 years, scores of parents rested easy knowing that their children were safe when Sherry Martin was at the wheel.
Sherry passed away in her sleep this week, and my heart is breaking. She was a sweet, sassy woman with a voice like an angel and a big heart of gold and she will be greatly missed.
She was a mother.
She was a grandmother.
She was a protector of children entrusted to her care.
She was a nightmare for bullies.
She was a hero and savior to kids who were bullied.
She could sing like a country star.
She was a devout follower of Jesus Christ.
But most important of all, she was a little boy's hero, and she was my friend!
Rest in peace, Sherry. This world is a bit darker with your departure, but Heaven is a lot brighter with your arrival.
(Donnie "J." Jones is a free-lance writer and week-end air personality on 105.1-FM, WQSB, "Alabama's Country Giant." This is his first ever submission to the Advertiser-Gleam.)