REMARKS MADE AT JOHNNY WEAVER'S FUNERAL
BY CAPTAIN MICHAEL SMITH
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.
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."
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.
- 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.