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Morning Sun
  • TRUE STORIES: Dennis Frank Malle

  • Tuesday morning, before going to work, I parked on the north side of Broadway Lumber and jaywalked across Quincy toward the back bay of Malle Service.

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  • Tuesday morning, before going to work, I parked on the north side of Broadway Lumber and jaywalked across Quincy toward the back bay of Malle Service.
    As I passed a large pile of assorted brands and sizes of old tires, I spied Ed, standing in the half-light at the rear the station, fixing a flat, a look of unutterable shock and sadness on his face.
    Continuing across the oil-stained concrete I recalled W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues,” which begins with the lines:  “Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, / Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone, / Silence the pianos and with muffled drum / Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.”
    I was at a conference in Kansas City last week when his brother, Dennis, died unexpectedly of a heart attack, so this would be the first time we talked.
    “Sorry about your loss, Ed.”
    “We’ve been joined at the hip for 33 years,” he replied, his eyes going liquid. “Everything in here except that old lift,” he said pointing it out,  “we brought it in together.”
    I looked around at the racks, tools, signs, workbenches, lifts, overstuffed chairs, tires, tubs, etc. A car ran over the pneumatic hose out front by the gas pumps and the bell clanged, reverberating out from the corner if Broadway and Quincy like a church bell tolling a dirge.
    Bob came in with a customer to talk to Ed about the type of tires he was needing. He discussed the situation with Bob and the customer, then turned back to me.
    “I’ve always said it takes three men to make one here. Now with Dennis gone … I’m not sure what I’m gonna’ do. Sure we had our disagreements over the years. Sometimes Bob would put on his striped shirt, blow his whistle and tell us to go to different corners … but one of us would end up apologizing. (long pause) I’ve lost the wind in my sail, J.T.”
    Feeling his grief as I walked back to my car I recalled the last lines of Auden’s poem: “The stars are not wanted now: put out every one; / Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun; / Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood; / For nothing now can ever come to any good.”
    As you might expect, the memorial service at the Presbyterian Church was standing room only.
    There was a welcome by Pastor Campbell, following which, Andrew Hayse, accompanied by Susan Laushman on piano, sang Amazing Grace. Then eulogies were given by brother Ed, friends Dennis and Scott Crain, and Nick Castagno. Last came Dennis’ son, Kevin.
    I really didn’t know much about Dennis, other than he was the fair-minded and straightforward guy I talked to about buying tires, but I found out a lot about him from the stories his brother, friends and son shared.
    Page 2 of 3 - I learned he loved to eat, shot an elk with 100-year-old rife, had a keen sense of humor, strong work ethic and big heart; that he was a good friend, father and husband; that he was intelligent, respectful, generous and humble; and that, above all else, he was loving (the only exception being the Missouri Southern Lions and Northwest Missouri Bearcats).
    Also that his nickname was “mother,” which was bestowed on him years ago by Dennis and Scott Crain because of his motherly behavior on hunting trips. They gave him flowers on Mother’s Day.
    After saying that Dennis’ wife, Judy, was the love of his life, Ed remarked that he told her before their marriage, “The Malle boys are hard headed. You better have the patience of Job … or a baseball bat.”
    Because, like Ed, I grew up with two older brothers, I strongly related to his boyhood stories. Things like fishing with M-80s; being set up to get in trouble petting grandma’s mink neckpiece in church; sabotaging the lawn mower to get out of cutting grass; and shooting an arrow straight up to see where it would come down (between the collar of Dennis’s shirt and back).
    Ed ended his eulogy in tears, talking about how, when he was too young to leave the yard, he’d watch his brothers ride off on their bikes calling out, “Come back! Come back! I feel like that little boy again … but now I’ve lost my brothers. They aren’t coming back.”
    Pastor Campbell read from 1st Corinthians: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”
    Rev. Campbell also suggested that we buy a card, write in it a memory of Dennis, and send it to the family. That it would be an immeasurable comfort in their time of grief.
    This brought to mind a visit with Dennis at the station last fall when I told him I was going to be leaving on a trip transporting some PSU students and wanted to get some new tires to be safe.
    Dennis patiently looked the tires over, asked me how far I was going on the trip and how far I usually drove in a week. Then he looked me in the eye, shrugged and said, “Sure, we could fix you up … but there’s just one problem.”
    “What’s that?” I asked.
    “You really don’t need a new set of tires yet. Come back in the spring and we’ll check ‘em again.”
    This experience was not, I’m sure, a unique one. His integrity was something every person who spoke at the memorial brought up.
    Page 3 of 3 - Ed spoke to this as well as the depth to which the loss of his brother’s spiritual presence would be felt with, “He was my rock. When we’d have a problem that was getting to me, Dennis would say, ‘We’re going to be all right. Keep doing the right things and things will be all right.’”
     
    J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and prevention and wellness coordinator at Pittsburg State University. He also operates Knoll Training, Consulting & Counseling Services in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or jtknoll@swbell.net.

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