You don’t have to meet someone in order to be inspired by his actions.
This thought crossed my mind this week with the passing of a modest man with a remarkable personal story. Clary Milburn, who died this past weekend, left behind a legacy of inspiration and kindness.
Just ask the members of The Galveston County Daily News.
No one ever questioned the man’s magical touch with a pot of boiling water and a fresh catch from the nearby water. One taste of his creations would send one into a moment of suspended disbelief. A master can do such things.
But there is a little-known story about Clary that continues to echo in the hallways of The Daily News.
Once, years before Hurricane Ike showed us what a real flood looks like, our staff was covering one those ordinary rainstorms that hit when the tide is high and puts several feet of water over island roads. A couple of our editors had been working hard all day to report the event and had skipped lunch. When they finally caught a break and thought about getting something to eat, they realized they were flooded in at our Teichman Road building. Standing on the entry steps, they saw the front door of Clary’s was open. They slogged on over, went in and sat down at a table. After a while, a young woman came by.
“We’re not really open,” she said. “But Clary said he would cook you something as long as it’s something simple, like shrimp and French fries.”
And it was in those moments Mr. Milburn again demonstrated his remarkable kindheartedness and caring soul to those around him.
Soon, big platters of fried shrimp and fries arrived at the table. These two Daily News staffers will swear to this day that those fried shrimp and French fries — cooked by Mr. Milburn himself on a day when he wasn’t really open and was trying to deal with a flood — were among the best meals they’ve ever had, anywhere, any time. If you ever enjoyed Mr. Milburn’s special cooking, you can only imagine how wonderful his generosity must’ve tasted to the exhausted staffers.
The story, like we said, remains legendary throughout the hallways of The Daily News.
And when it came to settling up, Mr. Milburn quickly waved off the subject to another day — if that ever came.
What is so wonderful about this story is that there are hundreds more like them being told around the community following his passing. A reputation like his is earned over a lifetime – one genuine gesture, one generous action at a time. And when the time comes, it is the emotional deposits in the lives of those touched which remain behind.
Doing the right thing is easy in most circumstances. The test of true character comes while under stress. In this case, people we trying to find a sliver of normalcy in a world turned upside down by Mother Nature.
And with Milburn Clary, character never tasted so good.