If I were defining Rhett Jackson’s mantra, it would be, “ I am happy, and I want you to be happy too.” Over 50 years of friendship, I followed him through three different business ventures.
He happily delivered a set of furniture to our mountain cabin in Asheville from Jackson Furniture Co. in North in the mid- 1960s, carpeted our home and personally inspected the instillation to make sure we were happy when he owned Rhett Jackson Carpets in the 1970s and reached the point of complete happiness when he opened a book store in the 1980s and appropriately named it The Happy Bookseller.
It had everything bookstores carried, but there was more: It became a community oasis. The caring friendly atmosphere he and wife Betty created caused a change in mood and feelings.
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I had become Rhett’s family doctor and confidant from our first meeting, and when my thoughts needed to be reframed or my attitude adjusted, I made occasion to slip off to the oasis and visit my friend. He gave me by far more with his wisdom and insight than I was ever professionally able to provide him.
He included me in the caboose gang, which could probably be called his inner circle — mostly friends from childhood. Periodically six to eight of us would meet at his pond, where he had placed an old red caboose. We fished, ate our catch and set around the fire and talked. These are the most cherished memories of our relationship.
When I announced my retirement in 1992, he arranged for me and Parker Evatt and our wives to join him and son Jim, living in Anchorage, along with their wives to tour Alaska. When we reached Fairbanks, he persisted in locating the family I had stayed with 40 years earlier while a student missionary. A happy reunion happened.
Knowing my love for salmon, Rhett saw that I had it at every meal. On our return flight, on the sly he arranged with the stewardess to serve me a salmon sandwich he had made. Obviously, all he had done made me a happy camper.
What more can be said about a person who was happy and wanted you to be happy too? Except that we will miss him.
S. Hunter Rentz, M.D.