Mid South Honors Derr With Library
It was Wednesday afternoon and John McDougald was on the phone. “This is short notice,” he said, “but just wanted to let you know that we’re holding a little surprise for John Derr at Mid South Club Sunday and wondered if you’d like to be here.”
Are you kidding me? There aren’t a lot of places I’d rather be these days than in the company of John Derr, one of the Sandhills’ greatest treasures.
So I showed up at 4 o’clock sharp, having no idea what the surprise was, but clutching my reporter’s notebook and my trusty Nikon camera. One thing I’ve learned over the past 40 years or so — when you’re going to be around John Derr, make sure you don’t miss the chance to scribble down a quote or snap a picture.
Derr was lured to the occasion by fact that it was his daughter Cricket’s birthday and she insisted that she be treated to one of Mid South’ s infamous cream sodas.
So McDougald and Mid South members played it to the hilt. They had a birthday cake ready, and when John and Cricket and her husband, Rick Gentry, came in a few minutes past four, the place lit up with birthday congratulations and happy hugs all around.
But Derr is a nosy guy, so when he spied the entrance to a small room shut of by a red ribbon, he naturally raised the ribbon and walked right in … to the John Derr Library.
No one seemed to mind, though, and a few minutes later McDougald broke out a huge pair of scissors and joined Derr in a ribbon-cutting ceremony while camera flashes went off and I scribbled down everything I could hear. (Which actually isn’t much anymore.)
“This whole deal was set up for Cricket to get a cream soda,” Derr said with a smile. “Yeah, I’m a little surprised.”
Actually, the room wasn’t a surprise as Derr had been involved in contributing the books and memorabilia. But he hadn’t seen the completed project and was obviously impressed as he was beaming from ear to ear.
“John has spent some time with us since we took over Mid South in 2004,” McDougald said. “This is something that’s been six or seven years in the making, and when John decided he wanted to get rid of some things from his home, we kicked the idea around with Cricket.
“We had this small meeting room that wasn’t being used very much, and we decided to use it. But a lot of things had to come together for it to happen.”
McDougald and the 95-year-old Derr have become good friends over the past few years, and the men hold each other in high regard.
“One of the nice things about living in Pinehurst is having the opportunity to be around people like John Derr,” McDougald said. ‘He’s such a nice person, and we get along well. He dishes it out and I dish it right back. We just like each other’s sense of humor.”
“I was totally in the dark as far as the opening of the library,” Derr said. “I just had a lot of books and some other stuff that I didn’t know what to do with, and Cricket has no place to put them.
“There are abut 400 books in there with some good writers, and I’m glad that they’ve been accepted and appreciated. I didn’t want Cricket to have to worry about what to do with them later. At my age, you never know when that bell is going to ring.
“We’ve moved a lot of stuff here, but now I’ve got about 20 pairs of old shoes that I have to give to the garbage men.”
McDougald marvels at Derr’s stamina and wit.
“John turned 95 in October and he’s still the same person,” he said. “His memory is so sharp and it’s amazing to listen to him talk about who he has known and the places he’s been.”
Gentry marvels at his father-in-law’s golf game. “The guy is unbelievable,” he said. “He’s got a great swing and still hits the ball about 200 yards. In fact, if he swung at the ball the way he takes a practice swing, he’d hit it more than 200.”
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