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  • Writer's pictureDustin L. McCarty

Sonny Firestone

Sonny Firestone. Sunday, February 19, 2023 at 2:00a, the world lost a good man. Felbert Wilson “Sonny” Firestone went home to be with his Lord. Sonny is one of the men whom I could never believe would die. He looked largely the same from my first memories of him until my last. Had the same laugh, had the same smile, had the same lack of hair, had the same look in his eye when he was going to tell me something of importance.

Sonny was my “uncle,” not by blood, but an uncle of the more rare kind - one by choice. He and Nonnie named me. They were closer than any blood grandparents or blood relatives outside my parents, children, and grandchildren. They were lifelong friends with my parents. That type of friendship is a rarity. Where was I when he passed? At the coast on an annual weekend getaway with our lifelong friends, the Bryants. Ours was a trip that reflected so many of mom and dad’s journeys, getaways, and times with the Firestones. They took trips to the beach, trips to Mexico, trips fishing, Sonny and dad went hunting a few times (and took me with them once!). Life. Long. Friends. Dad passed away in 2010 and Nonnie and Sonny came in a hurry to be with mom and comfort her. I remember Sonny telling me at the house before the funeral, “Son, you are a good man, but you are no Herbert McCarty… he was truly one of a kind.” I can say the same thing about Sonny… I’m a decent guy, but I am no Sonny Firestone. He was truly one of a kind.

Limited in formal education, Sonny was a mechanical genius. I cannot think of any piece of equipment - auto, truck, house, oilfield, diesel, electric, gasoline, engine, transmission, etc. etc. etc that he could not figure out its operation and come up with a functional, creative, and cost effective solution for when there was a problem. He invented a mobile fueling station for oilfield application. He crossed over motors into cars which they had no business being in. He put the body of a 40’s Lincoln convertible on the frame of a Pontiac Firebird and made it look like it was completely original. He always had a number of projects going - motorcycles, car restorations, interesting creations in metal to accomplish some need or resolve some problem he had identified… He restored things, fixed things, loved life, and mentored me in ways he may have never realized. Why would he not realize it? Because he was just being who he was.

He and my dad taught me much about how to work and how to interact with people - particularly with how to interact with other men. I learned how to negotiate by watching and listening to dad and Sonny at auctions, garage sales, estate sales, or on the porch of someone who wanted to sell a car they had in their yard… they just didn’t know it yet. Always be ready with some measure of humor or a good story; always be friendly, genuine, and relational; always be respectful even if you held another view; always ready to stand up for what is right, as well. And both of them set living examples of what it means to be committed and faithful to love one woman for a lifetime, regardless of circumstance or difficulty.

As a small boy, I slept many a night on a pallet on the floor at the end of Nonnie and Sonny’s bed when I would come and stay with them in the summer. I was fascinated by Sonny’s shop and all it contained, and he was happy to let me fool along with him in whatever his day held. Sonny not only taught me how to cuss, but he taught me how to cuss proficiently, effectively, and fluently. This started when I was a toddler with them and my parents at the beach in winter. Having spent the car trip and a lot of time saturated in Sonny’s words, I saw some seagulls in the water and wanted to get in with them, but was not allowed, because it was cold. My observation and question was, “Look at them damn birds in that water! Why can’t I swim with them damn birds?” My abilities in this skill grew under his example and tutelage from then on.

Sonny loaned me the rifle/shotgun combination I learned to shoot with. A .22 / 410 over and under with a stock carved by Uncle Chester. It was far too beautiful a piece to loan me, especially since the permanent destination was Sonny’s grandson, Wil. But he trusted me to take good care of it, which I did. He always had a chair in the same place in their house, right beside and under a large collection of arrowheads and spearhead he had found over the years. They always had a fresh pot of coffee ready. He always carried a good, sharp pocketknife. I am the proud owner of one very used three-blade Case with stag handle worn smooth from years of being in Sonny’s pocket. He gave it to me on a visit in the past few years, so that (his words) I could have one of Uncle Sonny’s knives as a keepsake. I also am the proud owner of a wealth of memories - not as many as my mom and dad have, but still a trove of recollections of delightful times, exciting discoveries in his shop and the field beside their house, stories and jokes, laughter and card games, words of wisdom, and example of creative grit without knowing how to give up.

I am also delighted that, after a lifetime of knowing about Jesus, Sonny came to trust Him as Savior and then began to grow in his faith over the past several years. When the man who loved you unconditionally, who was your dad’s best friend, who was to be the one to take you in should something happen to your parents, who was the one who gave you your name but still called you “bottle butt,” who is a strong part of a very short list of men who shaped the man you have come to be… when that man dies, it leaves a hole. And I am grateful for that hole for it shows just how much of me was from that good man.

Thank you Jesus for Sonny Firestone. I look forward to joining him and dad again before Your beautiful face and worshipping You for eternity together with all the saints.

Rest well, Sonny Firestone. Your journey through this temporal world has come to an end. We who remain behind will continue on with fond memories.

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