On the afternoon of Thursday, January 20, a cold, gray winter rain was changing to snow. I crossed the James River via the Huguenot Bridge headed toward the Woody Funeral Home in Chesterfield County. Seemed like the snow was falling harder south of the James.
Faye Bokkon, an outstanding Social Studies teacher, that I had worked with at Hermitage High School had lost her husband, Billy. A visitation for family and friends was taking place this afternoon. My schedule would not allow me to attend Billy’s funeral on Friday.
Billy was a good man. He was our insurance agent. He held our lives in paper policies.
Billy reminded me of my father who also sold insurance. They shared a common trait—honesty.
In our interactions with Billy, my wife and I found him to be honest, always thinking, always looking ahead, and we trusted his experience, his wisdom.
For the last few years, Billy’s health had been declining. On January 10, his body granted him the peace that he deserved.
At the visitation, I was able to speak with Faye for a few minutes. She was emotional. This was a tough loss. Her moist eyes and shaky voice affirmed her sadness.
But, I believe in Faye. She is a survivor. People like Faye, who dedicate their lives to classrooms with high school students packed in it, know how to work through life’s challenging moments.
Billy’s obituary cited his passions—family, the University of Virginia, and the village of Midlothian.
Billy was an avid sport fans. His love for the teams at the University of Virginia was unsurpassed.
Through a family connection Billy and Faye attended lots of football and basketball games, and the annual ACC mens basketball tournament.
When they attended the ACC tournament, I would ask Faye to pick up a copy of the tournament’s program for our son, Andrew. Andrew loved going through that packed magazine full of league history and lots of statistics.
Thanks to my brainwashing, Andrew and I cheered for the ACC team that wore the darker shade of blue. Billy knew this, and a couple of times he gave us his game tickets to watch Duke and Virginia play in Charlottesville. Andrew loved it.
In 2004, Faye and Billy attended the ACC tournament in Greensboro. Billy told me he would call if Virginia lost in the quarterfinals. A loss would mean there would be some extra tickets around from friends.
I think it was after midnight when he called saying he had two tickets for us to attend the semifinals and the finals.
Early on Saturday morning, Andrew and I drove to Greensboro. We met Billy in the lobby of the hotel, paid for the tickets, and worked our way to the Greensboro Coliseum. The seats were spectacular. We had a blast. Duke won their game, and they would be facing Maryland on Sunday in the finals.
The ride back to Richmond after the game on Sunday was long and painful—Duke lost to Maryland. But, in truth, there was a win in this. Thanks to Billy and Faye, we attended the best college basketball tournament in America.
A lot has changed in the world of college basketball in the eighteen years since we attended the tournament.
In 2019, Virginia won the mens college basketball championship. Their coach, Tony Bennett, is a class act. Virginia deserved to win the tournament that year. They were truly a united team, and the players never backed down in games when the outcome looked bleak.
I’m sure Billy enjoyed every minute of that championship season.
And I’m certain on Monday, February 7, 2022 from the comfort of courtside seats in heaven, Billy loved Virginia’s upset of seventh ranked Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Duke’s bluechip, one and done recruits were outplayed by a Virginia team who performed with a committed toughness and heart.
When I think about Billy, I keep coming back to his heart.
He had a heart for people.
Everything he did in life linked his good, kind, and generous heart to people.
I know our son, Andrew, will never forget Billy’s generous heart.
On that cold, snowy January afternoon, I will never forget Billy’s coffin draped in our American flag for his four years of service in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War.
Nor will I forget the family and friends who filled the parlor space to pay their respects to Billy, Faye, and their daughter, Allison, and her family.
It was an opportunity for our hearts to give back to Billy for all that he meant to us.
Billy, up in the wild blue yonder, I know you are still smiling from that win over Duke.
Enjoy that victory, your heart deserves it.