Riley married his wife Barbara many years ago. The Kendricks spent their lives raising a family and serving the Lord.
They were both instrumental in the success of Open Bible Baptist Church in Holly Springs. Not only did they attend regularly, but Barbara played the piano and Riley played the guitar.
They also teamed up with Larry and Elsie Edmondson to form a gospel singing group that sang in other churches and sometimes nursing homes in the community.
Riley and Barbara are probably as good as people get when it comes to the way they have lived their lives.
On a hot summer morning a few years ago, Riley got up early to go to work. You see, Riley worked for a waste company driving a truck. He was a hardworking man who worked hard until the day he died.
Barbara found her husband that morning and he had already left this world for the next. She was devastated, as would be expected if you knew them.
I doubt she is over it today completely. And who would blame her? She lost her soul mate.
But as much as Riley did for the Lord in his lifetime, there was the greatest lesson of all to be learned from his death.
Many times when someone is of age and not heavily involved in politics or civic interest, not that many people seem to make it to the funeral home. And even less make it to the funeral. And even less again make it to the graveside.
That was not the case when Riley passed away. The funeral home was crowded from the beginning to the end. The funeral was held in the chapel of Sosebee Funeral Home and there were very few empty seats.
The Rev. Floyd Ellis did a fine job in remembering his dear friend. But it was tough on Floyd, as he and Riley were close friends both in and outside of church.
It was blistering hot on the day he was buried. But there was a crowd that gathered at his grave for the short service. I thought I might pass out from the heat that day it was so hot. But no one seemed in a hurry to leave.
Many stayed while the grave workers covered the grave and put the flowers in order.
That is almost unheard of, but it happened. Now to answer the question of why.
Riley Kendrick never in his life met a stranger. He would talk with anyone at any time regardless of what they might have done in their life. He simply loved his life and the people in it.
The throngs of people that came to the funeral home consisted of family, friends, and customers he had got to know while working his long days.
Riley Kendrick didn’t choose his friends based on economics, religion, criminal history, political views, or any other lame reasons that many do today. He just loved people without ridiculous conditions being put on them.
That, my friends, is why the funeral home was full, the funeral was full, and many risked having a heat stroke at the burial. They did it because Riley Kendrick was nice to them.
There were people there from different economic backgrounds, different political views, different churches, and I am guessing just about any other difference you want to input.
But they all had one thing in common. Their lives had been touched by Riley. Riley was never in the public arena other than church and I don’t recall any civic organizations he belonged to.
But the people came to see this hard working man for one main reason. They came because he was the same every time they saw him. He didn’t let pettiness keep him from making friends.
Maybe what Riley had was a gift. But if so, he made the best of it. He wasn’t ashamed of whom he was and he wasn’t ashamed to be friends with anyone. And because of this, he died a very rich man.
Now there are people like me who might be forced to hire pallbearers to carry our bodies the last few feet. But if so, it will be because of pride.
Riley proved pride to be overrated.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.