Bickham’s homecoming

Published 2:11 pm Saturday, November 24, 2012

I’ve never met Lon Bickham, the 32-year-old Hunterdale man who suffered the most serious of burns over 95 percent of his body in April 2011.

But one of the great things about living in this community is even though you’ve never met a person, you probably know some of their people.

By extension, that makes you one of their people, too, and under that definition, I could definitely consider myself one of Lon Bickham’s people.

Lon’s grandfather and namesake, Lon “Skinny” Marks, lived one house up the road from my wife, Mary’s, family homestead in Capron. My niece and two children refer to the old white farmhouse he shared with his longtime wife, Georgia, and their children, including Lon’s mother Carolyn, as “Mr. Skinny’s house.”

Georgia died before my niece and children were born or old enough to know her, but in Skinny’s last years, most of which were spent in poor health with constant care, our kids would occasionally visit him in hopes of providing a bright spot in his day.

It always did.

Lon, who grew up in Suffolk, was practically raised in Capron, hunting with Skinny and the other members of Indiantown Hunt Club.

Indiantown is a big part of many Capron families, including mine. Skinny Marks was a founding member in the 1940s, and Mary’s grandfather, “Moon” Rawls, joined shortly thereafter, in 1951 or ’52.

There’s no telling how many hunts they went on together.

Mary’s father, John, has been a member and an officer of the club for decades, and her brother, John Jr., is the club’s president.

Lon spent a lot of time with Indiantown as a child, forging an important bond with Skinny, just as my son Whitman does with his Pop and Uncle John today.

There are a lot of other ways I consider myself one of Lon’s people, just as many of you do as well. And I’m guessing that over the last year and a half, Lon has probably found he has a lot more people than he even knew he had.

But they, like me, don’t consider themselves his people just because of some family connection or friendly acquaintance. It’s because, even though they’ve never met Lon, they have been inspired by his courage, amazed by his family’s love and dedication, and awed by the miracle of his recovery.

After 19 months of recovering from the explosion on a logging site near Emporia, which by all reasonable measures he shouldn’t have survived, Lon went home to Suffolk on Wednesday. On behalf of all of your people let me simply say, welcome home Lon, welcome home.