As he long requested, 89-year-old Norman Boyd will be buried in his Liberty overalls.
He hated to go, but his lungs gave out. He lay in a hospital bed for several weeks, talking through his oxygen mask to his wife, Connie; his children, Timothy, Jeff, Robert and Betty, his grandchildren; and the friends he collected over 50 years as the owner of Boyd Electric.
He worked right up until he was hospitalized. Customers could count on him showing up in an emergency, whether their central air faltered in the August heat or a toilet overflowed on New Year’s Eve.
He always wore one of a dozen pair of those overalls with a blue cotton work shirt, buttoned at the wrists.
Connie Boyd tried half-heartedly to talk him into retirement more than a decade ago, as he inched toward 80. He sold his company van and bought an extended-cab pickup. Turns out he could and did fill that pickup with tools, too.
He just didn’t believe anyone was going to take care of his customers the way he did. He cleaned up behind many a bad and over-priced job, and he didn’t mind telling his customers so. His heart was also bigger than his desire to make money.
Plus, he had been working since age 12, when he started shadowing the school janitor during lunch and recess.
Boyd checked in with his wife several times a day. He would call from a female customer’s house and say, “Mama, I can’t come home right now. I’m sittin’ here with a good-lookin’ woman.” His wife always laughed and so did the customer because both knew who had his heart.
He drilled into his children, through action more than words, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
He loved to deer hunt. He took his children hunting as soon as they were old enough. His youngest, Betty, showed him up by managing to kill 12-point and 9-point bucks.
His grandchildren later accompanied him on hunts, snapping photos of him dozing in a deer stand and sending them to amused family members.
He said he wasn’t going to take her hunting anymore unless he bent her gun barrel first, a threat belied by the look of pride on his face in a photograph from the hunt.
He loved animals and brought home more than one stray. Two of his three dachshunds visited him in the hospital.
One day, Robert Boyd said, he stopped by the Gulfport shopping center his father maintained. His father brought out a snack-size box of cereal.
“Are you eating breakfast at 11 a.m.?” his son asked.
No, it turned out, his father was feeding his pet mouse.
Norman Boyd’s work ethic amazed everyone. “What amazed me was that joker was climbing a 26-foot ladder when he was 84 years old,” his friend Carl Woods said.
Norman Boyd died as he lived, secure in the love of his family and friends. He was the last survivor of 10 siblings, including three older brothers, all of whom served in the military during World War II. Norman Boyd served in the Korean War and retired from the Navy after 21 years.
Robert Boyd said, “He has told me on many occasions that he has lived a long life, a happy life, and that he was proud of all his kids.”
In the end, Connie Boyd said, her husband wanted to make sure all of them knew just how much he loved them.