Here’s the one thing I knew best about Dan Pitts:
He was like a dog with a bone.
When he got something in his head, an idea or a goal or a plan of some sorts, he wasn’t letting go. I’ve lost count of the times he approached me asking for help with a project. I learned early on that it was easier to just say “yes” rather than hem and haw, because I’m telling you, this man was persistent. (All of you who knew him are nodding your heads in agreement right now.)
Those who worshipped with him at Anniston First United Methodist Church can attest to his eagerness to get involved. He served as head usher for more than 20 years, and chaired one committee after another.
Within the local community, if you were an agency director lucky enough to have Dan on your board, you had a true missionary at your side.
Just ask Maudine Holloway, executive director of Community Enabler Developer. “Dan was the wind beneath our sails and brought so much joy to our lives,” she said. “When he joined our board, he took us to a level where we had never been before.”
Alyson Mims agrees with that sentiment. During her tenure as president of Anniston Kiwanis, she was impressed with Dan’s selfless nature. “He was not afraid to get in there and work to get things done,” she said. “He wasn’t just a thinker, but also a doer.”
Dan was just as relentless when it came to raising funds for charity. His “Bosses Bussing Tables” event set a fundraising record for Community Enabler. And if you ever saw him heading your way with Pancake Day tickets in hand, you knew to go ahead and get out your wallet. It’s one of the many reasons why he was named Kiwanian of the Year in 2014.
Not long after receiving that prestigious award, however, Dan fell ill and was diagnosed with liver disease. It was serious enough to put him on the list for a transplant, but first he underwent a procedure called transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt, or TIPS. Doctors at Emory University in Atlanta hoped that this procedure would delay the need for a transplant and ease his discomfort.
For a good while, all seemed right with the world as Dan regained some of his strength and got back to business, tending to tasks and organizing events. When I’d run into him around town, I could see that he was moving at a slower pace. For a man like Dan, with such boundless energy, that just seemed wrong in so many ways.
But there was nothing about his wit that slowed. He was as quick as ever with quips and comebacks, greeting friends by made-up nicknames and offering words of support and encouragement to anyone who needed it.
As dedicated as he was to his church and community, Dan was even more so to his family. His wife, Cathy, and their sons, David and Stephen, meant the world to him and everybody knew it.
Years ago, when Stephen was very young, I directed a play at Anniston First Methodist that told the story of Abraham and Isaac. Stephen played Isaac and did a fantastic job, especially considering he was just a little kid and had a lot of lines to memorize.
The production was presented during worship service on a Sunday morning. I hung back in the empty narthex, behind a wall of glass windows, to observe from a distance. When the play was almost done, I took a seat on a side staircase leading up to the balcony.
I leaned forward and peeked around the dividing wall. In the distance, I could see the two actors leaving the stage up front. At that moment, I noticed Dan coming through a door, from the sanctuary into the narthex. He didn’t see me in my hiding spot and I was just about to call out to him and say something like, “Hey! Our boy did great, didn’t he?” — something like that. But before I could say a word, Dan reached into his pocket, pulled out a handkerchief and buried his face in it, sobbing. I jerked back behind the wall and stayed out of sight, so he wouldn’t know that I had seen him. To this day, my heart is still touched by what I witnessed: the tears of a proud father, overcome with emotion.
I’m going to hold on to that memory because I think it speaks volumes about the kind of man Dan was. A man whose heart was so full of love, he just couldn’t keep it inside.
Rest in peace, dear Dan. Anniston’s loss is most assuredly heaven’s gain.
William Dan Pitts
June 30, 1946-June 30, 2018
Donna Barton’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.