Those Who Have Gone Before Us

Michael L. Smith 
Beloved Blacksmith and friend died July 26, 2010

Mike carried two types of hammers in his lifetime; one being a carpenter's hammer for 37 years and the other one held was a self taught blacksmith's hammer for over 14 years. He was always ready and willing for a challenging project no matter how big or small.

Jon Eldeen
August 10, 2011

I have known the one and only Jon Eldeen of the Hang Around Cafe for four years. My husband, Doyle has known John for many decades, back to when Jon cooked Fry Bread on an open fire, and Doyle hadn't even conceived of his own kitchen yet.
There was a friendly rivalry that existed between them, and yes, even friendship. They used to shop together for Events and shared many an after hour evening together shooting the breeze, and sometimes almost each other.

My experiences with Jon were casual and to the point, he often questioned my taste in men, and I often questioned his taste in fashion and decorum.

My favorite event to do with Jon was Dade City Withlacoochie Park Rendezvous in Florida, At this Event John set up directly across from us and we couldn't avoid eye contact, or tossing a few barbs at each other. He was a man I loved to hate, and looked forward to the next engagement when we would lock horns again.

I would often stage impromptu puppet shows at the counter, just for his benefit and chagrin. I would make obscene shapes out of wet bar towels and wave them at him menacingly. I would often pretend to walk down invisible steps to the basement, disappearing behind the counter, only to raise the finger of defiance at him, which often got him to crack a smile and to shake his head at the crazy woman across the way.

He liked me, and I liked him. But it was more fun to pretend we didn't and put on a show for the rest of the camp. We were competitors and it was better for business to not get along so folks would be walking by on the chance the sparks would fly and they'd get a free peek. It was also more fun and a great way to pass the long slow days when the public was a no show.

I really used to get his goat at camp meetings, I would make faces at him as he gave, "The Speech", as I used to call it, his long winded rambling at the end of the Event, that was all about what the promoters of the Event should do to make the Event better, he was right, but I had heard it so many times I always took the opportunity to make faces at him, when only he could observe me doing so, to try to throw him off. He never lost stride and always stayed on point, but his face would betray a certain irritated amusement.

He never acknowledged these childish "fits" of mine, or made any allusion to my bad manners. He didn't want it to stop. It was like a kid Brother and Sister, elbowing each other at the Saturday Matinee and the show wasn't the same without the ritual pot shots.

My last encounter with him was at our Kitchen when we hosted a Camp Feed and he passed through the food line, grumbling as he went, at having to enter our "Sad little Enterprise". He had cooked his favorite rice pudding to share and I contributed garlic fry bread rolls. We alternately wrinkled our noses at each others attempts, but we ate each others offering, and liked it secretly, rejecting it openly. Never would a compliment pass between us, never a kind word and we revelled in it.

I was relating to another buck skinner how my Father was raised on Isle Royale. Jon's head snapped around and his eyes lit up. Turns out he knows much about the place I was born.When he came abreast of me, we talked like regular people for the first time. We promised to swap Isle Royale history the next Event we met. Our relationship was finally warming up to a civilized future. We were going to sop kidding around, (for a short while), and become real compatriots.

But it was not to be.
Jon passed today, and I am feeling the loss. I can't imagine a Rendezvous without him, major crabby old curmudgeon that he was. Life without his caustic remarks will be all the blander for it. Now I will never know the knowledge he had to share about my homeland. I am lost, for a while, in hole he has left, for he took what he knew with him and it will never return.

Jon was many things, Father, Husband and Incredible Historian. "He also cooked a little".
He will be sorely missed and my prayers go out to his family in their time of sorrow.

The portrait photo provided is from Professional Photographer Ava Francesca, and the picture was taken at Dade City Rendezvous 2009. Thank You Ava!

Gator, November 6, 2010
Other people have said it better than I ever could, here are remembrances from his friends.

I had to think long and hard on how to summarize Gator in just a few words. Gator was out going. He was loving to all who knew him. He loved life. He loved to travel. He loved his family. He loved his music and flutes. He loved anyone who would play cribbage with him. The one thing that I will always think of him for, he took a green horn (me) and when I tried to do something or asked about something, he would say "son, let me show you how and let's do it together". Gator, I am going to miss you. Save me a place at the Heavenly Rendezvous. I know it is going to be the best one. Love you brother. I am going to say so long. Goodbye is permanent and I know i will see you again. Peace be with all of his family and friends.
Wiatt Williamson's Photos
      -Darrell "Firewalker" Posey

He was a fine man and we were close friends when Turtle and Annie were alive and have not seen each other for a few years, but needless to say he was family, rendezvous family and he will be sorely missed by us and all our other rendezvous family members.
      -Marlis A Simms
Glenn Valentine (a.k.a Gator) was an awesome guy. The first time I met him I was like 5 or 6 years old at Alafia Rendezvous. Gator had a wooden snake and he slipped it under a blanket it shot out at me and scared me to death. Gator loved his flute. His music was always beautiful. He always played it in the morning at Singing River Rendezvous. Gator and my PawPaw (a.k.a Bobby Lamb) were really good friends. You had to literally pull them away from each other when they were talking and they love to pick on you and make you laugh. They didn't like frowns. Gator was a really sweet, loving, caring and kind person. Gator, I know you and PawPaw are having one great rendezvous in Heaven. We all love you two and greatly miss you two! You all will always live in our hearts.
      -Melissa Sue Lamb
My Friend has left for eternal shinin times. Safe journey, + strong coffee accompany you.
      -From Medicinewoman and The Slave. 
l would like to say that he was always willing to give a helping hand to any one who needed it. he helped those at rendezvous who had reformed from drinking. always had meetings at Alafia and wherever he went. l and Linda spent one summer traveling to the rendezvous out west. what a time we had. him and woodenhawk. the 4 of us. GREAT PEOPLE. he will be missed.
      -Betty Denehy

How can one express Gator? Funny, loving, kind and forgiving. You felt as though you had always known him the first time you meet. A joy in your life, a balm to your soul. True meaning of what being a man means. Thank you
      -Pam Dent

I'll always remember him as the man the chased me around camp with a stick horse an a bamboo bow an arrow huntin the BLUE EYE RINGED TAIL WABBIT, and the man that you could listen to for hours while he was playin the flute. He also was someone that looked mean but had a heart of gold.  
      -Christina Henry
Words can't say how special Gator was to me and many, many others. He will be sorely missed by his friends and loved ones in Branson. May Wonkentonka bless and watch over him.
      -Layne Cain

Gator, I am going to miss you dearly, I will miss our long talks at Bloody Lake, and your great greetings in the morning walking into vous! I am so glad to have had you as a friend, and your wisdom you shared with me. We love you and we will keep your fire burning. R.I.P. my friend, Move and prayers, Penny, Mike and boys, KY. Leather.
      -Penny Wayne

Hey Gator, Friends pass in and out of our lives touching our hearts. You have been a true friend since the first time we met. Lifting our spirits regardless of how our day was going, a friendly smile and hug for anyone that needed it, a kind word or kick in the pants, always ready to lend a hand no matter what you were...(tharr be more) doing. You, my FRIEND and BROTHER have gone on to a better place, with no more pain and suffering. You are welcomed in with open arms by all of our friends that have passed on before you. A part of you lives on in our Hearts and Minds till our time comes and we meet again. We Love You.
      -Thomas Reedy
Drew or Glen, what ever his name was, he was Gator to me. He had a big heart. If you had a problem and needed to talk, he would close the shop and sit down with you and really listen. He had a great sense of humor. I had a picture of him at the Southwestern dressed in his finest with a lovely lime green paper umbrella. I looked forward to seeing him and Holly every spring at Saukville, WI. He will hold a special spot in my heart and he will be missed greatly.
      -Shirley Ann

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