People I write about here may or may not be personal friends. I chose them because of something unique in their lives, their ministries, their walks with God.
I would have chosen Kent Puckett even had I not considered him one of my dearest friends for many years. He died nearly a decade ago at age 64, so if I tend toward superlatives, rest assured they are tempered by time.
In thumbnail, Kent was a southern gentleman, a John Belushi lookalike, a loving husband of Pat, and proud father of Steve and Scott. He was a graphic design genius, a marketing and advertising guru.
Kent had a great sense of humor and a warm, easy smile. What set him apart, however, was that he was genuinely an others–oriented person. His interest in and questions about one's family were not part of some motivational seminar list of tips on how to win friends. He was a quick study, learning and really knowing your loved ones' names, their triumphs and challenges, and he always, always insisted on updates.
When our three sons were little, Kent often visited us from Atlanta while working with Moody magazine and Moody Press on graphic design. He loved our family embrace when I got home from work and joined in what the boys called "the best whole family in the world" hug. Our kids often asked, "Have you ever met anyone anywhere as nice as Mr. Puckett?"
When Kent fell ill with colon cancer years ago, his countless friends called and wrote and visited to encourage him. I can't count the stories of those who came away encouraged themselves. Suffering during the latter stages of the disease, he would pray for those who called to pray for him.
Kent was unendingly curious and fascinated with God and His place in a man's life. He was "in the Word" every day, eager to share some new nugget he had mined. He annotated his Bible for his son Steve, barely outracing the cancer to finish it. His wife Pat, now a cancer survivor herself, painstakingly copied it by hand for Scott. She says she often wept at the insights she found in his familiar handwriting on every page.
One of Kent's most endearing qualities was his penchant for using almost the right words to express himself. What resulted were unintentional malapropisms that became known among his friends as Puckettisms. We attributed these to the fact that his thinking was so visual that often some form of grammatical dyslexicism crept in.
Kent was such a good sport about this that if he detected a smile or saw me surreptitiously jot a note, he'd ask, "What'd I say now?"
Once he told me, "I like a magazine with good, objectionable reporting."
Another time he said, "We need to challenge the church to get off its feet."
He called a woman friend "a prince of a girl."
His best employee was "an important clog in our wheel."
Kent said of his son Scott, when he was attending seminary, "Spiritually I think he's second to just about everybody I know."
Once Kent was "up to my eye lobes in work."
He was toiling on an advertising campaign he was confident was "doomed to succeed."
He took me out for Chinese food once and ordered, "Chop suey, but hold the LSD."
Over the too few years it was my privilege to know and work with Kent, I collected more than a hundred Puckettisms, and I often shared my favorites at speaking engagements. Kent knew this but also was aware that it was never my intention to make fun of him.
He had as good a sense of humor about it as anyone, but he also knew something else. Any time someone told him they had heard my list of Puckettisms, they also shared that I preceded the litany with comments about him as my friend.
I never wanted anyone to wonder what I truly thought of Kent Puckett. This was hardly an unintelligent man. More than that, Kent was unfailingly a tremendous and convicting example to me of a dedicated husband and father.
I still grieve the loss of one of the sweetest men I have ever known, and yet a smile invades as I recall congratulating him on his 64th birthday.
He said, "Yeah, I'm trying to take care of myself. Who knows, I might live to be a centurion."
I only wish he had.