Fathers are often known for their strange characteristics. Dad certainly had his share of them. For example, he was very much a man of discipline and routine. Every afternoon after school he came home, went straight to his room and changed into his work clothes before he would do anything else. His clothes were always the same: boots, jeans, and shirt all carefully laid out on a chair. He was very meticulous. His closet clothes were hung as if in a filing cabinet, filed by type: cotton shirts hung together, flannels together, suits and jeans. I learned early that you couldn't just go and get something out of his closet without him knowing about it. If you moved anything on his shelves he would know about it because he would set things up in a certain order. He even went as far as to measure the distance from the edge of the shelf with his thumb. Of course when you come from a family of seventeen children this was a means of self protection. He was very meticulous -- with his bookkeeping, his animals, and every other facet of his life.
Dad didn't like chocolate. The reason was, he said, when his sisters were learning to cook all they made were chocolate cakes, pies, and brownies so he got sick of chocolate. He also had a peculiar way of cleaning his plate before he ate that he blamed on his sisters. He would pick up the plate, tilt it at an angle, and blow on it. Then he would wipe the plate in a circular motion with a napkin. Why? Because his sisters used to sneak the cats in the house and he found cat hair on his plate. So he got into the habit of cleaning his plate before he ate. Sixty years later he was still worried about those darn cats!
But perhaps his most prominent idiosyncracy was that he liked to gripe. Once two youngsters were discussing their fathers especially the little peculiarities of their behavior. One asked, "Does your daddy have a den?" The other said "No, he just growls all over the house." Dad could be like that sometimes. You could have given him a treasure chest full of gold and valuable jewels and he would probably have complained because he had to carry it home. He just seemed to love pointing out that behind every silver lining there was a cloud! Sometime in my early childhood we bought a cup with a picture of a farmer on it. The farmer was laid back against a tree wearing his overalls chewing on a straw and wearing a straw hat. The inscription on the cup said "Oh, stop gripping Paw."
On the way here Lisa and I were talking in the car and I said, "You know everybody's got a story to tell about Dad, he was such a unique and colorful character." She said to me, "I can describe it in one word: he's a Brock." The Brocks are certainly known for their sense of humor. They love to tease each other and anyone else they would meet. It was part of the way they showed their affection for each other. They were always telling tall tales and trying to get one of their siblings into trouble. So Dad had to learn to be crafty early on.
One Sunday his father went to the Methodist church and Dad and his sisters were supposed to walk to the Baptist church where they regularly attended. Dad decided he would skip church that day and his sisters snitched on him. His father called him in and said "Darrell, did you go to church today?" Dad said "Yes." His father asked "What was the sermon about?" Dad said "Sin."
Dad learned early how to pull tricks on his brothers, too. He and two of his older brothers had a garden to hoe about a mile from home. Since there were three of them they decided each would carry the water jug one-third of the way. Dad arranged so that he could carry it down one stretch past an old widow lady's house. The work took several days, so each day this woman would see Dad carrying this water jug past her house. One day she yelled at the two older brothers, "Shame on you for making that little boy carry that water jug." I think it was at this time that he developed that crafty grin which he sported the rest of his life!
My friend Tony Boyd who is minister at Pleasant Hill Christian Church came to the funeral home for the viewing and said "The only thing he's missing is that little bit of a smile. You never saw him without a smile." That's true. Dad was always smiling like the cat that ate the canary - usually because he was! But nothing brought a smile to his face like his children and grandchildren. Even in his lowest moments the last few weeks you could mention one of the grand-kids' names and he would smile a happy smile. His greatest joy was in watching things grow, from his garden, to his livestock, to his children, to his grandchildren, to his great-grandchildren. My sister Judy said that when she was five years old he used to let her roll his hair and put bobby pins in it. At that point in his life he didn't have much hair but he was willing to share it with a little girl. Her story reminded me of how he was when my daughter was little. When she was just old enough to crawl around she would beat on old pans and a bee separator on the back porch and Dad would say "Alisha play, Grandpa sing." He would then sing whatever came to mind for as long as she would want to play.
Like all the Brocks Dad had a jovial sense of humor. One night about five years ago we were sitting on the porch kidding Dad about being so cantankerous that he wouldn't get into heaven. We told him he wasn't going to heaven he just thought he was, and we told a joke about an old man who had all his valuables put into a chest and placed in the attic. He told his family when he died he would snatch up the chest on the way to heaven. After his death his widow went up in the attic and found the chest right where the man had placed it. She said "That senile old fool! I told him he should have put it in the basement!" When mom got her chance to chime in she followed that joke with this story about my daughter Alisha who was three at the time: "The other day Alisha was talking to Grandpa and said 'Mommy and Daddy and Alex are going to heaven. But I want to stay with you Grandpa.'" Either she thought he wasn't going to heaven or else she thought being with Grandpa was better than heaven.
Despite all his cantankerousness, you just couldn't help but like Dad. He always had what my wife calls "That Brock charm."
Dad was always generous. Well, perhaps not always. At some point he got tired of teachers taking his pencils from his desk and not returning them, so he began to put notches in them. Then he would go from room to room and whenever he found a pencil with a notch he would pick it up and say "Thank you." Otherwise he was very generous.
He supported a number of volunteer civic and military organizations and he always backed up his membership by giving to the work. He was generous with the church, giving both time and money. I could tell you many stories about that. He was generous toward his family. He always managed to help out anyone at any time. But perhaps most of all he was generous with his time. When people would come to buy chickens or drop in unexpectedly he would be glad to talk about farming for hours. If there were any children he would show them around the barn and introduce them to all the animals. He was truly a friend to any child. At Free Home he would run the little school store just to be able to work with the little children. He would sell pencils and paper and make change. And sometimes when a little child would come in without enough money he would just take what the child had and sell them what they needed. Even in his last years he worked with the Department of Family and Children's Services and took great pride in helping children through that department.
Dad was a hero. It's hard to realize that, growing up in a free country so many years after WWII. But one day his farming, generosity, and friendliness all came together in a surprising moment. July 4, 1996 we were walking back from the barn. A couple was biking past the house and stopped to rest. Naturally, Dad struck up a conversation. The girl (in her late 20's or early 30's) was from Holland. Holland had been captured by the Nazis in WWII. When she learned Dad had been in WWII she thanked him. She said "I have never before met anyone I could thank for my freedom." Indeed, Dad was a hero. Ann Wilkie introduced Dad at his last public appearance at Free Home on Veterans Day by saying that both as a military man and a man Dad was her hero.
Whatever else Dad was, Dad was always the teacher. When I was a kid, like most kids, I didn't know when to speak and when to listen. He had some memorable ways of telling me that listening was important. Sometimes he would draw upon childhood stories to make his point. He would look at me, playfully tug on my ear, and recite a line from Little Red Riding Hood, "My grandma, what great big ears you have." On other occasions he would turn to the story of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby, and remind me "The Tar Baby, he don't say nutting'." Sometimes he would get proverbial and say things like "You learn more by listening than speaking" or "You learn when you're listening, not when you're speaking." I also heard that "You have two ears and one mouth because you're supposed to listen twice as much as you talk." Sometimes he would even get biblical and say "Be quick to listen and slow to speak."
When you lived with Dad you learned how to fix things. In fact, as a boy I used to read a book that was entitled "My Daddy Can Fix Anything." Whenever there was a project to do he would always ask you how you thought it should be done. Then you would discuss the options and come up with a solution. It was a wonderful teaching method! Working with Dad you were a Jack-of-all-trades and master of none. You could fix a little of a lot of things but not a lot of nothing!
Like his father before him, Dad could be a tough taskmaster. Whether it was weeding the garden, mowing the law, cleaning out the chicken house, or building a fence - everything had to be just so. One time I was working with him and we had to drive one large nail into the barn to latch the gate with. But because Dad was so particular and wanted it just right it took us 30 minutes to figure out how and were to drive one nail.
When you worked with Dad it became your goal in everything to please him, because Dad was the one who set the standard. Dr. Gary Stewart, one of Dad's former students now a Doctor of Education with the Hall County School System, told this story to me. He said "When I was thinking about going into education I called your Dad and asked him 'Why would I want to teach?' He said Dad waited for a moment and said 'I don't know Gary, why would you want to teach?' And he responded "Because I want to be like you." Dr. Stewart then told me "Your Dad was a man of honor." Once again, Dad had set the standard. And he has set a standard for all of us.
He was both a great American and a great man. In the totality of
his life he served his country, his church, his community, and
his family. Like so many others who knew him before I did, I
didn't have to look far to find a role model for manliness.
Because in every sense of the word Dad was a real Man.
Dr. Darrell Jennings Brock, 74, of Union Hill, who served the longest tenure of any principal in the Cherokee County School System, died Wednesday, January 19, 2000. Services will be at 11:00 a.m. at Sosebee Funeral Home, with the Revs. Roger Spencer and Bob Pooley officiating. Burial will be in Macedonia Memorial Park.
The son of a teacher, Dr. Brock graduated from Halls High School in Knox County, Tenn. before enlisting in the Army Airborne Service in 1943.
After completing basic training he was assigned to Company I, 315th Paratroop Regiment attached to the 79th Infantry Division.
On June 6, 1944, he stormed the beach at Normandy on D-Day and fought through Europe until the end of the war. He was wounded twice and captured by the Germans interrogated, but managed to escape. He also fought in the Battle of St. Lo and the Battle of the Bulge.
After the war ended in 1945, he was in charge of a Displaced Persons Camp in Czechoslovakia and in command of the troops on their trip home by boat.
He reached the rank of sergeant and at one time he was the highest ranked man in his regiment not killed or wounded. He was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, Bronze Star, 4 battle stars, and the Purple Heart and Oak Leaf Cluster.
Following his discharge from the military, Dr. Brock attended Maryville College in Tennessee and North Georgia College, where he studied elementary education, and the University of Georgia where he earned his master's degree in elementary education and school administration.
He began his teaching career in Fannin County and taught in Gordon County before coming to Cherokee County in 1952. He taught at Oak Grove Elementary school for two years and became principal of Free Home Elementary School in 1954, a position he held for 34 years, the longest tenure of any principal in Cherokee County. He taught all grades and coached basketball, football, and baseball.
Dr. Brock married the former Eloise Barton in 1948 and together they taught school all their careers together. They retired in 1988.
Dr. Brock was involved in many civic, community and professional organizations. He served as president of the Cherokee Principals' Association and the Cherokee County unit of the Georgia Educational Association. He was a member of the Canton Jaycees, the Canton Lions Club, the American Legion Post 45 and Pickens Chapter of Disabled American Veterans. He and 10 other veterans often served as honor guards at funerals at the request of families who have lost a son or daughter in uniform.
Dr. Brock's interests included everything from country music to politics. He spent part of his retirement working on his small cattle farm.
Dr. Brock was instrumental in organizing Trinity Presbyterian Church and became a church elder at 21. He also served as Sunday School teacher and superintendent, was moderator for the Cherokee Presbytery, and a commissioner to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church.
Survivors include his wife Eloise Brock; three sons, Gary Dean Brock and Derek Brock, both of Cherokee County, and Darris Brock of Gray, Tenn; one daughter, Judy Brock Powell of Cherokee County; two brothers, Eldred Brock of Knoxville, Tenn. and L. W. Brock of Maryville, Tenn.; two sisters, Vera Harris of Jamestown, Tenn. and Audrey Carmon of Coryton, TN; 16 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren; and nephews and nieces.
The family will receive friends from noon to 9 p.m. today at the funeral home.
Contributions may be made to the Building Fund of Trinity Presbyterian Church, c/o Rev. Roger Spencer, 390 Saddle Horn Circle, Roswell, GA 30076.
Darrell Jennings Brock, 74, of Alpharetta, a Cherokee County educator for 40 years, served his country during World War II and went to college on the GI Bill. The investment paid off in dividends to the community.
Mr. Brock was principal of Free Home School for 34 years, the longest tenure of any Cherokee principal in memory, school officials said.
He died of lung cancer Wednesday at his residence. The funeral is 11 a.m. today at Sosebee Funeral Home.
The teacher's son from Raccoon Valley, Tenn., loved the military and brought respect to the classroom. "He was my hero, my mentor. He's the reason I went on to college," said Dr. Gary Stewart of Gainesville, directory of Hall County middle and high schools.
Mr. Brock received a master's degree in elementary education and school administration from the University of Georgia.
His son Darris Brock of Gray, Tenn., said his father wanted to be a lawyer, but changed his major after he failed Latin. He later earned a divinity degree, though he never took up preaching. Still, folks called him "Doctor," his son said.
In 1944, Mr. Brock joined the Army to become a paratrooper. He was assigned to Company I, 315th Paratroop Regiment attached to the 79th Division. After basic training at Fort Benning, he landed on the beach at Normandy on D-Day, was wounded twice and was captured by the Germans. He managed to escape and return to his old regiment.
A sergeant, he was in the battle of Saint-Lo and the Battle of the Bulge. At the end of the war, his division was involved in mop-up operations in Czechoslovakia and east Germany, and he was in charge of a displaced persons camp.
He received a Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster and several
military decorations that, until recently, were on display at
Free Home School.
Mr. Brock kept a meticulous garden, said his son. "That was his pride and joy, and he resented anything that took his time away from the farm," his son said. "We've had horses, a couple of donkeys, cattle, bees, an apple grove, chickens, ducks, geese, sheep, goats, everything but pigs. The place was like a petting zoo. People would come over and bring their kids, and he would show them around."
Mr. Brock was a member of many civic and professional organizations and a founder of Trinity Presbyterian Church.
He and his wife of 51 years, Eloise Barton Brock of Alpharetta, retired in 1988. "We always taught at the same school," she said. "On Friday nights, we went to ball games because he was a coach."
Survivors other than his wife and son include a daughter, Judy Brock Powell of Woodstock; two other sons, Gary Dean Brock of Alpharetta and Derek Brock of Canton; two brothers, Eldred Brock of Knoxville, and L. W. Brock of Maryville, Tenn.; two sisters, Vera Harris of Jamestown, Tenn., and Audrey Carmon of Corryton, Tenn.; 16 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family requested that contributions be made to the Trinity Presbyterian Church Building Fund in care of the Rev. Roger Spencer, 390 Saddle Horn Circle, Roswell, GA 30076.