THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE IN MY LIFE
My Uncle John and Aunt Toni
I think everyone can point to a couple of people, or at least one, who had a major impact on their life and ultimately shaped who they have become. Besides my wife Dianne, my parents, and even my children, two people who were, and still are, a great influence are my uncle John and aunt Toni. I’m thankful for all the time I’ve been blessed to spend with them and for all the ways they have influenced me. For my entire life, John and Toni have lived in Seneca, South Carolina, right on Lake Keowee. They bought the land before the lake was created, a shrewd business move. Uncle John was a forester for the state of South Carolina. He’s retired now but still does consulting work for private landowners. Uncle John loves the outdoors and he shared that passion with me as I grew up. When I was in high school, he got me a job working for a timber company and I lived with John and Toni that summer. Physically, it was the hardest job I’ve ever done. I worked on a five- man crew in the mountains, and I was the only one who worked through the summer without quitting. We came across copperhead snakes every day. We wore snake leggings that covered us from our feet to our knees. Thankfully, no one ever got bit. “While he always had his job as a forester, he was also someone who often had a few different irons in the fire at once.”
John also taught me a lot about fishing and showed me many good spots to catch bass in the lake. He actually built
his own bass boat one time, and I can remember many pleasurable times fishing from that boat. He also knew all the best trout fishing spots nearby and was always eager to stoke my passion for trout fishing. To this day, trout fishing is one of my favorite pastimes. I used to be a pretty picky eater, but Aunt Toni cured me of that. You either ate what she cooked or you didn’t eat. Toni cooked differently from my mother, and it took some getting used to. She also would engage me in friendly arguments. She’s very smart and a little tricky, too, and has a way of letting you stick your foot in your mouth and then pointing out you might not be so smart after all. Then she’ll give you a little sideways half smile that says, “Gotcha.” Along with his love for the outdoors, my uncle was also very entrepreneurial by nature. While he always had his job as a forester, he often had a few different irons in the fire at once. He raised cows for many years and developed a subdivision and sold off lots. He built a big boat dock and leases out boat slips. I know my own entrepreneurial spirit has its genesis with my uncle John, so in a way, he’s at least partly responsible for me becoming a business owner. John and Toni are two of the most selfless people I know. They are not only family; I consider them close friends. I have so many stories and memories of the times I spent with them, from the time my brother and I water-skied behind his boat for about 10 miles, to the time he bailed my buddy and me out of a ticket we got for fishing without a license. Many people have helped shape the direction of my life for good; Uncle John and Aunt Toni are near the top of the list as far as forming my character and business acumen.
–Pa u l Little
BILL, HUGH, JOHN
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