Published on June 29, 2021
By Shirley Prihoda
On Saturday, we awakened to what has become the norm in Brazoria County - rain.
It would have been a good day to binge-watch home renovation shows while sharpening our critiquing skills, but that was not to be. Instead, we did what most seniors do because we’ve lived long enough to know their importance - we headed to Brenham for a funeral.
Like most things, funerals can be viewed from two different ways. If you’re young, funerals are uncomfortable and seem to go on forever. However, that view changes as you reach your 70s and beyond. Mainly because there have been more goodbyes than hellos, and funerals have attained a comforting rite of passage that this life is not the end for the believer.
We arrived at the First Baptist Church of Brenham, signed the Guest Book, and walked into a sanctuary full of gray hair, ours included, to say, “Until we meet again T.K.”
I was taken back to the first time I met T.K. Condron. He was 93 years old. Time had stooped the A&M Corps’ military erect posture, but his presence still filled my office at Adult & Teen Challenge Brenham.
He offered his hand in what I learned was his characteristic handshake, firm and long. He shook hands like he lived. I held onto to his large hand that had clearly worked for a living and not wanting to offend, held on for those awkward moments waiting for his release.
He was there with food from Bread Partners food pantry to serve the men living in the residential facility who were trying to find purpose outside a life of addictive behaviors. He showed up frequently, and as our friendship grew, I began to uncover the far-reaching heart of this gentle giant of a man.
That knowledge didn’t come from him. He was not that kind of man. He would say he was just an average man who simply loved God in a way that showed.
He thought the world would be a much better place if others did the same. He never considered this as anything special on his part, he simple fed the hungry. He didn’t do this to show who he was, he simply did it because of whose he was - the Lord’s.
At the funeral, I learned T.K. was a student at Texas A&M in the 1940s. He was at a movie that December day in 1941 when the world stopped with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
He did what honorable men do; he enlisted in the Army. He wanted to serve the country he loved and requested a combat assignment but never got out of the U.S. His gift of organization was recognized, and he received the assignment of food coordination for all the troops.
He said if a service man put anything in his mouth, it came through his distribution center. His understanding of agriculture extended to developing food freezing and storage techniques that were later adopted commercially by the food industry.
Privately he would tell his grandchildren, “If it’s in your freezer, most likely we developed the process.”
The food distribution center was in Indianapolis, and it was there he met the one love of his life, Christine. He married her, brought her to Texas, and loved her without ceasing for 70 years.
They filled their “slice of heaven” with kids and grandkids, but in 2007 he knew something was not the same with his beloved Chris, as he affectionally called her. Dementia began the slow process of taking her farther from him every day.
He painfully learned to do all the things she had once done so effortlessly. After eight years of holding on to her, she slipped from this world and away from him. He was left with an empty house and bittersweet memories of a woman who had filled his world.
He knew there would never be another one like her, and with a heart of compassion, he threw himself into helping others.
T.K. understood the positive effect of giving to others and the negative effect of wanting others to give to you. That’s exactly what the men at Adult & Teen Challenge needed. With the intention of training the men to look beyond themselves, like the book of Philippians says: “whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
We created an annual award to recognize a citizen who serves the community. T.K. epitomized the award, and we wanted to name it after him. He refused, saying there were way more people deserving than he. It took quite a bit of convincing, and he eventually grew comfortable presenting the award each year.
I am proud to have known this gentle giant. He was a humble man, and that was a big part of his greatness. In typical T.K. fashion, he gave his granddaughter, Shannon Deer, explicit instructions for his eulogy: “Don’t go talking so big about me that you’ll have to open the casket to see who you’re talking about!” Until we meet again, T.K.
This potato dish is colorful and so delicious!
6 Small Potatoes, unpeeled and halved (Red, gold, or russet work well)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour melted butter onto a cookie sheet and sprinkle the seasonings over the butter. Place the potatoes, cut side down on the butter. Brush the tops of the potatoes with the butter mixture - this makes a beautiful golden crust. Bake 30-40 minutes or until knife inserts easily. Remove from the oven and cool on the pan for 5 minutes before removing.
(To contact Shirley, please send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, Tx. 77516)