There are people in your life that just make you smile. Period. Gary Murphree was one of those people. That is why his passing yesterday makes me so intensely sad.
Affectionately known as The Dancin Bear, my friend Gary was one of the kindest, most gentle souls I have ever met. Never without a twinkle in his eye, his quiet strength and soft spoken demeanor only served to mask a cunning wit and keen sense of humor.
I have told this story many a time in the sixteen years I have known Gary. It was 1995 and we were sitting around a table with a group of friends at a restaurant during a real estate conference I had organized. The mood was jovial as we all shared our favorite stories. The discussion then moved to a central theme: "What is a dream or fantasy you've always had?" When it came to me, I said, "well, my fantasy has always been to be in a long red sequined dress, thrown across a piano singing some deep throaty torchy song in a piano bar...." Without missing a beat, Gary quickly spoke up and, in a faked tone of disbelief, said, "That's unbelieveable! MY fantasy has always been for you to be in a long red sequined dress, thrown across a piano singing some..........." He didn't even get to finish as outbursts of laughter filled the air. I reached over, smacked him on the head as he blushed profusely.
It was a story I will never forget. Nor will I forget the sweet man who was never without a kind smile, a warm hug or a nice thing to say about someone.
You will be missed Dancin Bear. I'll sing one for you soon.