I’d known Roy since the mid 1990s. I couldn’t tell you where, when or how we first met, exactly. But I immediately knew he was one of a kind. Over the years our paths crossed more and more. In recent years we shared a tight group of friends, and a professional link — Roy wrote a wildly popular gardening column for the Times News.
“We were lucky to have had Roy as a columnist and we’re going to miss him terribly,” Times News Content Director Stephanie McClellan said Friday afternoon. “We received nothing but positive feedback from our readers about Roy over the years. When his column didn’t appear, we’d get calls and emails asking why and wanting to know when it would return. He wrote in a way that shared his expertise with all sorts of gardening enthusiasts, from novice gardeners to longtime devotees. We were very proud of Roy. Our condolences go out to Roy’s many friends, fans and to his family. We share your grief.”
His official Times News bio, attached to all his columns, reads: “Roy H. Odom II of Kingsport holds a bachelor of science degree in ornamental horticulture and landscape design from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. With an interest in all aspects of gardening from soil amendments to floral design, he is familiar with the challenges and rewards of gardening in this area. Herbs and vegetable production are his favorite subjects. He is a member of the Creative Thymes Garden Club and Keep Kingsport Beautiful.”
To me, and I believe I can safely say to many others, Roy was the very definition of a “bon vivant,” per Merriam-Webster: “a sociable person who has cultivated and refined tastes especially with respect to food and drink.”
Roy was devoted to those he loved. Sweet. Kind. Generous to a fault. And loyal (especially to Duke’s mayonnaise). Roy was thoughtful and creative. When I invited him to join a small party for Mom’s 85th birthday, to share cake and ice cream, I didn’t expect him to bring a gift. But of course he did, and it was handmade at that. She treasures it to this day.
Roy did not, however, suffer fools gladly, and was perhaps best known for his acerbic wit.
There wasn’t a mean-spirited bone in his body. But he could and would give as good as he got. And that was doubly true if he saw a need to defend a friend — or really anyone he felt needed someone to have their back. Especially if they seemed cornered or were being defamed behind their back. He just wasn’t havin’ it. No, ma’am. Not havin’ it.
Roy loved Kingsport and had for years volunteered in many capacities for various events, especially downtown. From presenting gardening seminars at the Farmers Market, to directing entrants along the route of the Christmas Parade, to manning the beer taps at Halloween Bash, to helping decorate for and help event goers navigate Santa’s Workshop, Roy was always giving to the community. He believed in Kingsport. He embodied the Kingsport spirit.
And that’s why I think Randolph Cupp hit the nail on the head with a suggestion of a fitting tribute to Roy: “He ought to have a public space named for him.”
As far as I can tell, Roy’s last post to Facebook was at noon on Tuesday. He shared a post of mine about social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines.
Last Sunday, Roy posted a meme on Facebook that read, “At my funeral if one of my friends starts saying ‘there was this one time ...’ y’all cut their mic off ASAP.” But Roy had added a personal note: “Leave the mic on and remove anyone under 30.”
I think Roy made the right call, based on comments from social media posts as news spread about Roy on Friday. Here are just a few:
“We will miss your joie de vivre.” — Lucy Giesler Fleming.
“A bright light has left this world ... I pity anyone who missed out on knowing such a one in a million friend.” — Donna Cooper.
“He was always true to who he was! I will miss my friend as I know so many will! He LOVED to arrange flowers at our church.” — Cindy Turner Lemons.
“I will miss his sassiness ... and his hilarious stories, (that were mostly true)! I will miss the way he watched Hocus Pocus with childlike wonder. I will miss spending Halloween with him dressed up as something secretly scandalous and telling me stories on everyone we ran into! I will miss his hilarious texts and our Instagram messages to each other! Everyone needs a Roy in their lives and I’m so glad that he was my friend! I am so thankful that you chose me to be your friend! Roy H Odom II you were one of the good ones and I will hold all of our fun memories close! Our gang will never be the same without one of your funny stories!” — Angellette Lambert Richardson.
“I am so very sorry! He was one fun loving guy! He always amazed me with so much knowledge about everything. I just know that he is at peace in heaven and buttering biscuits with Bea. I already miss him and his wit!” — Laura Duke Marcum
“I can't express how dear you are to me. Though we’ve only met a few years back, we became fast friends. We may not have been cut from the same cloth, but we were bound together with a strong common thread. I thank you, Roy, for being my friend and I will miss you.” — Cathy Boyd Nance.
“I’m going to miss you so much Roy ... love you my friend.” — Robin Davis Cleary.
“Those who knew him, many far better than I, will always remember he was absolutely unique, hilarious most of the time but able to be serious and cut directly to the heart of a matter. You will be missed. Kingsport’s loss. May his memory be a blessing.” — Randolph Cupp.
“Hated to hear of Roy H Odom II passing today. I got to know Roy when I started managing the market and he rarely missed a wed or sat morning. He was a huge supporter of the market and of me and I appreciated that. He spoke at our gardening series every season. I’ll miss his visits, humor and encouragement. Fly high Roy.” — Kristie Breeding Leonard