Tommy, who keeps up with everyone he knows, called me just after January 1, 2016 to tell me the wise old man was in an assisted living facility called Bright Leaf near Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I found the number and called the facility. The administrator was very cordial in discussing my friend’s status and, at length, put me through to him. He told me he had been at the Research Triangle for about a month before deciding to apply for a place at Bright Leaf. He had apparently been participating in a “think tank” on North Korea. He had lived there for a season back in the 50’s. He urged me to come see him, so, I talked with my wife and we flew to Charlotte and rented a car (a new Lincoln, which was all the rental people had available), and drove to Bright Leaf.
It is a beautiful place, very clean and well maintained both inside and out. We found the wise old man holding hands with an attractive lady in the activities room. He was very happy to see us and introduced us to Trixie, who had served as a special assistant to the president back in the Eisenhower days. Our friend told us Trixie was responsible for having Ike add “under God” to the pledge. She modestly told the story, which, though frequently related did not seem rehearsed. She said, “Mr. and Mrs. Ford, Ike was a no-nonsense, common sense, straight talker. He was not religious in a churchy sense, but he had a deep relationship with God. When I mentioned that the pledge looked more humanistic than Christian, he said, ‘What do you recommend. Put it in writing.’ So I produced a little treatise on the influence of deity upon the founding and preservation of our country’s ideals, you know, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The next thing I knew, he held a news conference where he handed out and read through the new pledge on television. Needless to say, I was delighted. At the non-publicized gathering after the conference, he told many people that I was the one who came up with the idea.”
The wise old man beamed and told us Trixie was from the south end of Key West. Until Hawaii became a state, that was as far south as you could go in America. She dated Hemingway and was acquainted with Faulkner. “Well,” Trixie put in, “My relationship with Bill Faulkner was a little more than an acquaintance. I was down there in Oxford, Mississippi for the production of the movie version of ‘Intruder in the Dust’. I helped the casting people find suitable locals to play certain characters. Those twins who did everything together were the most fascinating. If you remember the film, those twins did everything in sync, even down to crossing a fence and shoveling dirt. But, Mr. and Mrs. Ford, you folks did not come to visit with me. I will go on a stroll and give you some time with him.”
“Isn’t she something?” the wise old man said with a sparkle in his eyes. I have enjoyed getting to know her. But, let me visit with you two for a while. Mrs. Ford, did you cook black-eyed peas and cabbage for the New Year celebration in Washington. My wife replied, “Well, sir, I substituted turnip greens for cabbage and added potato salad.” We had a great visit.