Monday, February 15, 2016

Thanks Kid (Remembering Johnny Weaver)

The legendary Johnny Weaver died on February 15, 2008 - - eight years ago today. These remarks were made by Johnny Weaver's supervisor, Captain Michael Smith, of the Mecklenburg Country Sherriff's Department. They were made at Johnny's funeral in Pineville NC on February 20, 2008. They are posted with Captain Smith's permission and the blessing of Wendi Weaver, Johnny's daughter. My personal thanks to both Wendi and Mike for allowing them to be shared here.  
-Dick Bourne


I was hoping this moment would never come. As Johnny’s supervisor for many years I am proud to say we lost one of the preeminent hardworking, dedicated, enthusiastic, fanatical, focused, dependable, reliable, entertaining, pleasurable, compelling, witty, loyal, truthful, steadfast, professional, employee and friend that we will never be able to replace.

I guess a prodigy is a good place to start as I am about to take many people to places and events in the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office never before seen heard of or even believed by many. I have had the distinct pleasure of working directly with Johnny for about 10 year’s out of the 19. I will cherish my experience forever. I guess the one thing I can pat myself on my back for today is I finally have Johnny dressed the way I wanted to see him dressed for years and he doesn’t have a dip in his mouth and I don’t have to worry about how I would handle the complaint for him using tobacco products while on duty. We as command officers are continuously reminded to treat all our staff fair and equally. Favorites are not the way we do business but I must confess I have only had one favorite in 21 years and it was Johnny, so I guess I will never have another.

I am going to take you back to this last Friday February 15. It started out as any other day we all spend together except we couldn’t find Johnny. We all knew Johnny did not just not come to work or call, that was not the Johnny we all knew. Judges and juries don’t think we as officers have instincts but trust me, we do. I think we all new something was wrong and we need to go check on Sleeperman. As the first unit arrived he called out on the radio for others with a tone in the voice describing a sense of urgency telling us something was not right and Johnny needed help quick. Medical staff were summoned and so where his co-workers who just went on their own because the tone in the voice told it all. My instincts told me this was going to be the part of this job I have been trying to avoid with Johnny for many years. I turned on my lights and siren and began my journey to go get my friend and do what I could do to help. I was in the downtown area and as everyone knows sometimes traffic just doesn’t move too good then if you add the little blue lights and a siren you better hold on to your seat because it is show time.

So as I am proceeding to Johnny’s house under the sound of the siren and the minute of focus and decision making for some odd reason I heard a Rolling Stones song on my car radio. I leaned over turned up the volume and thought to myself as the adrenilin increased wow I wonder if this is what they listened to as they all road together in Johnny’s Cadillac from show to show. Now the siren was gone it was just me and the Rolling Stones and Johnny on the road. It made me really think because Johnny told me some of the stuff all you wrestlers did and if I stopped that Cadillac today, somebody would be going to jail, unless of course Johnny was driving and then it just might be your lucky day. So I say to you look around and take a good look at all these co-workers in uniform and realize one thing. We are well aware of what fun you all have had in the past in that Cadillac telling them lies and cherishing those moments as friends do. I asked Johnny one day how long it took to get from one place to the other and he said it depended who was in the car but usually two cases a beer and a bottle would get us there. Yep Johnny told on all of you. As I pulled up to Johnny’s house I saw the co-workers the expressions on there face and it confirmed what I already knew and it was not good. The second thing I saw was that old Cadillac still sitting in the driveway holding all the good times to it's self and then I said to myself, “well Johnny what do you think about that ride we just took that was some pretty good driving on my part”.

I guess I should have known and I actually do know now what Johnny was going to be like to work with and be around. Our first conversation was pretty short. I said "Hey Johnny what’s up?" He said "The price of beer," and kept walking and I said to myself this is going to be alright. Our companionship was off to a good start.

Johnny probably has not changed much over the years. He was still Johnny, strong as an ox, still a wrestler and loved life. We even used some of the skills he had to help us. One day Johnny just like many other days was moving a prisoner from one location to another and when they arrived at the final destination and went to open up the van door, out comes the prisoner without the leg shackles on he had when the trip started. Johnny took that devastating swing and the situation was well under control and as his co-worker said, “I am glad he didn’t hit me because something would have broke”.

Many people just don’t understand everybody young and old knows Johnny Weaver and as generations pass through our spinning wheels of justice there is still the case when somebody says "hey my dad wants to know if Johnny Weaver still works here" and the answer would certainly always be "well of course." I think on many occasions he probably still wishes he was back in the ring so he could most assuredly reduce any tension if it still did exist.

He told of one trip on the way to Raleigh how one unsatisfied customer asked him eight times to pull over because he wanted to wrestle Johnny to see it he still had it. I believe they may have stopped I just hope the one that started it finally made it to prison safe and sound. I guess the Dean of Wrestling took that one to school or at least I hope he made it to the prison.

As one of Johnny’s supervisors, I will always say he was a person who was a team player and cared more about everybody else than himself. Back when he was battling his prostate cancer a number of years ago he came in one day and said "hey Boss, if you don’t mind I need to run over there to Presbyterian Hospital real quick and get my dose of chemo and I will be back." I begged him to take the day off and as Johnny always said "no I got too much to do, I will be back." I told him "look Johnny just go home play in the garden do something, we won’t dock your pay, just go." He still would not do it but at least we were able to get him employee of the month shortly after this. Who else could deserve it more but a man who was older than all of us, had cancer surgery, treatment, and hardly missed a day of work, who could possibly be more worthy?

We idolize Johnny Weaver for the person he was and not being the wrestler that everybody grew up watching. Late last year it was time for our bi-yearly physical assessment, well we thought that it would be a good idea for us as A shift to do it all together so we could encourage each other as what everybody thought was going to be the worst day in our life. Johnny came to me and said he didn’t like doing this and it really stressed him out because he couldn’t pass all the requirements. Now when I say he could not pass all the requirements, trust me he passed most of them but that was not good enough for Johnny. I told Johnny he did not have to pass all of them everybody was already impressed what he did and many who were 30 years younger than Johnny could not even come close to achieving the level of physical fitness he did. I said "Johnny, you have nothing to prove to anybody. Don’t hurt yourself do the best you can and we are here for you. And if medic has to come and get you, don’t let them leave until I am done and we can go together." Well as we were getting ready to run our mile and half I looked at Johnny and I told him "you know, this run is nothing if I passed it last time you can pass it, but let’s do this. I will do it with you so it ain’t no big deal as long as you are ok. So if we fail the run we will fail it together." "No Boss go ahead" he said "I will be alright." I said "No Johnny, if you go down I am going with you." I did remind him next year we are going to get $300 if we pass everything. I said so next year you might have to get another running partner. We looked at each other and laughed.

Well go was the word, and off we went. Johnny took off, me right beside him, and he started running and I thought to myself "this may not be a good idea because at this pace I don’t know if I am going to make it." Well we continued on side by side and if Johnny wanted to jog we jogged, if Johnny wanted to walk we walked. I was the drill sergeant constantly telling him slow down, Johnny don’t hurt yourself take your time, rest if you need to. Well as we were getting closer to the finish line I told Johnny to go in front I want you to win. As we crossed the finish line and there was still some people behind us and they yelled out our time. Well Johnny missed the passing time by 13 seconds and me 15 seconds. I looked over at Johnny and said "Damn Johnny, if I knew we were going to be that close I would of left you the last 100 yards." Johnny was gasping for air, put his hand up on my shoulder and said "Thanks boss." I looked at him and said "See Johnny, you need to let that competitive spirit of yours from the Senior Olympics rest because you are going to kill me."

In August of 2007, we sent Johnny down to the Broad River Maximum Security Prison in South Carolina. He came back to Charlotte and called me on the phone and said "Boss I need to see you, I got a problem." Well this here is getting ready to be a first because in my 19 years with Johnny, this has never occurred. I immediately thought the worst. He decided we would meet behind HQ and I hurried to get over there. On the way over many things went through my head and not to many of them good. Well when I get there, Johnny is livid and I have never seen this way before. He starts to tell me when he was at the prison they lost his ID and some of his equipment he had. I looked at him, paused and said "Is that what you are worried about?" and he said "Yes I am. You got to do something about this." And I said "Johnny that ID ain’t nothing, it can be replaced." "I know," he said "but Boss, they lost it, not me." I said "no problem don’t worry about it." He said "Well you should see what they made me do. They made me stand away from them, hold my keys out, drop them, turn around walk through detectors, I kept setting them off. I told him, "Well Johnny, they just had some people escape down there a couple of months ago and I think they were in there for murder." He said "Well they never made me do this before. They made me keep going through the detectors, take my pins off do it again, take my shirt off do it again, take my vest off they took my badge from me. They wanted me to take my holster off, I told them I couldn’t it was secured on my belt with bolts. They made me take my shoes off and then he said they were going to make me take my pants off." I said "Stop Johnny. I know what it is, you didn’t have any underwear on and you got scared didn’t you?" Well he went back into his story still wide open and I again said to Johnny "Is this all because you did not have any underwear on?" Well to this day he still has not told me if had underwear on or not and I guess I will never know now, but boy was he mad.

Well as I told everybody Friday night as we met, I told everybody that things are going to change, we are going to have to work harder, go places we have never been, but pull together to get the job done. I told them Johnny can never be replaced and it will take at least two people if not more to do what he did as well as what he stood for and the way he worked. We are going to have to pull together, work harder, depend on each other, and carry out tasks we have not done for years. We are also going to have to by maps for the entire state of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Florida and many others.

Johnny said he only wanted to work just a little longer because he wanted those medical benefits, but boy doesn’t he look sharp today. The nice shinny badge, gold pens, award and service pins, tie and tie tack, shined shoes and well rested.

Johnny’s trade mark after many of his matches I guess he would sing, “Turn out the lights”. Well Johnny the lights are out but there will always be a memory of what you have done for this agency and many of the people who have graced your friendship. Sleeperman, it’s your time to go to sleep.

Thanks KID!

- Captain Mike Smith
Mecklenburg County Sherriff's Department

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This post was made with the permission of Capt. Mike Smith and with the blessing of Wendi Weaver, Johnny Weaver's daughter. It originally appeared on the Johnny Weaver Blog, one of the family of Mid-Atlantic Gateway websites.