If the world seems a little gloomy today, I think I know why.

A friend’s mother passed away earlier this week. I write, on occasion, about deaths because, one, I either had the utmost respect/love for that person, or two, they contributed so much that they just couldn’t be ignored in this space, even if for one last time. “Daddy” Jack Jones (Samson), John Mills (Eufaula) and Mickey McMillan (Marion) are just a few that I couldn’t let another issue go by without saying something.

Add Judy Cline Reynolds to that list.

When her son, David, called to inform me of his mother’s passing, well, the whole timing was somewhat ironic. Just last week, I had been telling a friend of an incredible lunch I used to enjoy.

I was invited to Judy and her husband’s house for lunch on occasion. I remember David saying once as I hopped in his pickup, “Mom told me she’s got wilted lettuce today.”

I kinda looked out of the corner of my eye at David, somewhat suspiciously, as if to say, “Why in the world are we passing up Chicken Fried Steak to go eat wilted lettuce?”

Listen, many of us claim our mother is the world’s greatest cook. Mine was/is phenomenal. She made things come off a stove that would be 6-star meals if they awarded as much. But wilted lettuce? Yeah, she had chicken, but David made mention of his mother’s wilted lettuce first. And… It was incredible! Haven’t had it before or since, and it’s doubtful I’ll ever have it as good. I’ve Googled how it’s made, but I know I could never make anything that tasty.

I remembered her as one of the most purely happy people I’ve ever been around. If you saw her, you saw a smile… directed at you… regardless of who you were, where you were and what you were doing. I’m sure her smile is missed by everyone from the cashier at the local grocery, to countless waitresses, to whomever delivered her mail and, well, you get the picture… everyone who crossed her path, even if just occasionally.

Judy had raised just about as good a son as I know. He is a great guy and remains a friend today from some 750 miles away. I met the family during my early days as a sportswriter and sitting in some less-than-swanky American Legion ballparks across a three-state area, you get to know the regulars because if you’ve ever sat in the bleachers at Aurora, Missouri, Spiro, Oklahoma, or Mountain Home, Arkansas, you learn that you are not just the day’s opponent, rather somewhat an enemy and your kind is not truly welcomed.

I’m sure myself and some players’ parents deserved more than our share of evil eyes along the way, you know, with our ‘if you can’t be nice to me I can’t be nice to you’ attitude, but I’m positive Judy never was looked at as we were. All she did was exude happiness, even in Spiro, Oklahoma.

There’s one less smile on earth today. Judy’s wilted lettuce will likely never be matched, but hopefully someone will brighten the world just a little bit more with a smile.

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