I Was Asked To Say A Few Words At His Funeral

My name is Andrew Joyce. Ellis knew me as Billy. However, that’s another story. I’ve been asked to say a few words about Ellis. But what can I say that you don’t already know? He was one of the cheapest sons of bitches I ever ran into. But then again, he was one of the kindest and most caring human beings I ever had the pleasure to know.

I don’t want to make this all about myself and my relationship with Ellis, but that’s all I have. Allow me to start at the beginning.

I’m no slouch, I’ve been around the block a few times. I’ve had a few best-sellers on Amazon. Won an award or two for my writing. But then I moved my boat into the same marina that housed Ellis and, from day one, I was in awe of the man. At that point, I didn’t even know him. But there was something about him. The way he held himself, the few words he used to convey what he had to say. His entire attitude, like he didn’t give a fuck.

I have to tell you, I was afraid to approach him. I thought, this guy is so damn cool, he’s not gonna want to know me. It was probably two or three years before I finally worked up the nerve to speak to him.

That was the day he invited me to have dinner with him. It was as though Willie Nelson had invited me onto his tour bus. We went to a favorite haunt of his—a Kentucky Fried Chicken establishment—where they had an all-you-can-eat buffet. And I gotta say, Ellis got his money’s worth.

So, let’s fast forward a couple of years. A few people who knew Ellis got wind that I wrote books for a living. They came to me saying, “You gotta write a book about Ellis. He’s had such an amazing life.”

My response was always the same, “Yeah, yeah … I’ll get right on it.” Of course, I had no intention of writing about Ellis or anyone else. I write fiction, not biographies. Then that fateful day came to pass. I was in the middle of a novel and the story had bogged down. I needed a break. So what the hell? I went to Ellis and said, “I’m gonna write a book about you.” He took the news in stride (as he did with everything), and that’s when I got to know Ellis for real.

To paraphrase William Shakespeare … I come to praise Ellis, not to bury him. The evil that men do lives after them, The good is oft interred with their bones. But not so with Ellis. In all my research about his life, I could find not one person who had a bad word to say about him. I’m sure that won’t be the case when they inter my bones.

This is what I learned about Ellis while writing the book. First of all, this guy was a real man in the strictest sense of the word. He was tough, he was fair, he was honest. He never—as far as I could tell—took advantage of anyone.

From the strength and grit he showed when, at only fourteen years of age, he went out to land his first tuna (outweighing him by six hundred pounds), using nothing more than a hand line, to the horrific accident that almost killed him, to his last days battling his failing health, he showed nothing but class and courage.

I not only interviewed Ellis for the book. I made the journey up North to talk to the people who knew him back in the day. To a man, they all said the same thing: He was a man to be reckoned with. He never hurt anyone and he kept his word. If he told you something, you could take it to the bank.

Nothing impressed Ellis. Not movie stars, not big-time directors, not being a male model, not being the premier fisherman of Cape Ann. And most of all, he was never impressed with himself. I think, after all is said and done, my one takeaway of Ellis is this quote from Hamlet:

“This above all: to thine own self be true …” That was Ellis in a nutshell.

As I was interviewing people for the book, a narrative slowly emerged: Everyone I spoke with loved Ellis. The book ends with me asking him two questions.

“Why does everyone like you so much?”

“I treat people with respect.”

“Okay. Now tell me, Captain, how would you sum up your life?”

“I’ve lived a very enjoyable life pursuing endeavors that were legal and that rewarded me well. I have been able to enjoy my lifestyle—which was not extravagant—to its fullest.”

Rest in Peace, dear friend.

14 thoughts on “I Was Asked To Say A Few Words At His Funeral

      1. No problem. I’ve read Mahoney (my favorite) and Yellowhair. I often like to ask authors if they have a favorite book they’ve written. What’s yours?

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        1. When I tell my editor that I am ashamed of all my books except “Mahoney,” it drives her crazy. But it’s true. I cringe if I open one of my books (other than “Mahoney”) and read a page or two. So, I don’t do it very often. And when I read a page or two of “Mahoney,” I find many places where I could have said it so much better.

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  1. Andrew, who could not feel your loss in this post about Ellis. I can see you were very much alike & had a true friendship. So sorry for your loss. You leave your thoughtful words to remember him. 📚🎶. Christine

    Liked by 1 person

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