About 50 years ago, when I was in the ballpark of five years old, I walked out of Pratt’s Market with a candy bar that my mother hadn’t paid for. Neither had I, as my finances at the time were nil. Once in the car, Mom saw the Milky Way (I’m pretty sure) in my hand, and the reading of the riot act ensued. I was then instructed to return the pilfered chocolate to the store. And no, I was not to just go in and sneak it back onto the shelf. I was to hand it back to Ralph Pratt personally and apologize profusely for my childish transgression.
I was filled with dread as I walked back into the store and found Ralph by the registers. With welling tears in my eyes, I reached the candy bar up to him. I could barely get the words out – “I’m sorry Mr. Pratt. I took this without paying for it.” I was prepared for a scolding, but, truth is, I’m pretty sure he was trying not to laugh. He thanked me for correcting my error and my apology and patted me on the head.
“It’s okay, Cindy Jo,” he said. “Just don’t do it again. Go on back out to your mama, now.”
Cindy Jo is what Ralph called me, always, the nickname he gave me from my late mother’s name. I do not remember meeting Ralph or any of the other members of his considerable family. Like many longtime, multi-generational residents of Fountain City, our families have easily known each other for a century. Humor and kindness are what I remember about him most.
Ralph passed away on the morning of June 1. He’d been in declining health the past few years, but tended to with great care by his children, Perry Pratt and Penny Pratt Searcy, and his extended family. It is a considerable loss for the community that loved him as much as he loved it back. From the family store, to Central High School, to Smithwood Baptist Church, Ralph’s connections ran deep, and one of Smithwood’s favorite sons will be greatly missed. Farewell, good and faithful servant, neighbor and friend. Our thoughts go out to Perry and Penny, their families and the staff at Pratt’s Country Store.
See the family’s tribute and arrangements here.