Harold Clayton Van Meter
Harold Clayton (Van) Van Meter August 24, 1936- August 10, 2005 BUENA VISTA, GAŚ
Harold Clayton (Van) Van Meter of Buena Vista, GA. and Hilton Head Island, South
Carolina, died on August 10, 2005 at his home in Buena Vista after a long
illness. Van was born on August 24, 1936 in Columbus, GA, the son of Edmund
Baker and Johnnie Martin Van Meter. He graduated from Columbus High School in
1954 and from North Georgia College in Dahlonega, GA. He was commissioned a 2nd
Lieutenant in the United States Army on June 6, 1958 and retired as Colonel,
October 31, 1981. Key positions included tours in Vietnam, Commander, 2nd
Battalion, 1st Infantry Training Brigade, 9th Infantry Division (Ft. Lewis, WA),
Commander, 1st Infantry Training Brigade, Ft. Benning, GA., Director of Training
Developments, Infantry School; Director of Leadership Department, Infantry
School, Ft. Benning, GA. Awards and decorations included: Distinguished Service
Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit (3 Oak Leaf Clusters), Distinguished Flying
Cross (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart (Oak Leaf Cluster), Combat Infantry
Badge, Master Parachutists Badge, and Ranger Tab. During his military career, he
completed his Masters and Doctorate Degrees from Pacific Lutheran University in
Tacoma, WA. Upon retirement from the military, he founded the Cardinal
Management Company, a consulting firm representing many national and
international defense contractors. He was a past member of the Downtown Columbus
Rotary Club, member of the first Leadership Columbus, Director of Boy Scouts of
America, President of Fort Benning Chapter of Association of the United States
Army and then served at 3rd Region President, AUSA, President of the US Army
Ranger Association. He is a member of the Country Club of Columbus, Sea Pines
Country Club and South Beach Racquet Club of Hilton Head, SC. During the course
of his life his most faithful service was to his Lord. He served as a Deacon,
Finance Committee Chairman, Sunday School teacher, Columbia Baptist Church,
Falls Church, VA, and as a Deacon in the First Baptist Church since moving to
Buena Vista in 1988. He was active in sports throughout his high school and
college years, his main loving being the game of basketball. But it was his love
for the game of tennis that he was most noted for in the years that followed.
His passion for the game was evidenced in the many years that he spent both
coaching and playing the game. In 1992, he was a member of the Seniors 3.5 USTA
National Championship team and in 1997, he coached the Buena Vista, GA Mens 3.0
USTA National Championship Team. He was a member of the Professional Tennis
Registry (PTR) for twenty years and was a Certified Tennis Professional. In
1998, he received the Jim Verdick International Coach of the Year Award. He is
survived by his wife, Julia Herring; his daughter, Dana Pigford (Steve) of
Fayetteville, GA.; his daughter, Connie Wilkes (Mark) of Columbus, GA.; his son,
Clay Van Meter (Kristy) of Senoi, GA.; his sister, Judy Parris (Chuck) of
Huntersville, NC.; his nine grandchildren; his sister-in-law, Burgin Benson
(Sims) and four nieces and nephews. Funeral services will be Friday, August 12
at 3 p.m. at the First Baptist Church, Buena Vista, GA with burial following in
the Buena Vista Cemetery. The family will receive friends at the First Baptist
Church and Pastorium on Thursday, August 11, 2005 from 6 until 8 p.m. according
to Tante Funeral Home in Buena Vista. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made
to First Baptist Church of Buena Vista, GA., P.O. Box 84, Buena Vista, GA or the
Georgia Baptist Children's Home, P.O. Box 329, Palmetto, GA. 30268.
Published in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Columbus,
Georgia on 8/11/2005.
Please let me tell you why I'm going to a funeral today.
It's for a Buena Vista man I spent only parts of two days with 13 years ago. I
haven't seen him since then --- but he gave me a motto I recite every day:
"Make it a good day."
That's how Harold Clayton Van Meter, also known as Hal or just Van, ended his
answering machine greeting when I called him during my first year at the
Ledger-Enquirer. My assignment: Write about this tennis coach who gives free
lessons on his backyard court made out of some weird material resembling a
I also made sure to ask him why he says, "Make it a good day," instead of "Have
a good day," like most folks. He said his version reminds us that we have a lot
more control of our lives than we often realize.
Turns out, Van taught people more than tennis.
He was a mighty man with a soft touch. He was commanding but not overbearing ---
a look-you-in-the-eye, firm-handshake, remembers-your-name kind of guy.
He oozed life.
No wonder this 1954 Columbus High grad retired as a colonel in 1981 after 23
decorated years in the U.S. Army. No wonder the defense contract consulting firm
he founded, Cardinal Management Co., was internationally renowned, and phone
calls sometimes caused him to zoom to the airport. No wonder gobs of groups gave
him prominent positions, such as president of the U.S. Army Ranger Association,
Boy Scouts of America board member and Leadership Columbus inaugural class
participant. No wonder he played on a senior United States National Tennis
Association championship team and coached another one to a USTA title. No wonder
the four-year scholarship Harvard awarded one of his prodigies was for
And no wonder I gasped when I saw his obituary in Thursday's L-E. Van died
Wednesday at his Buena Vista home after a long illness. He was 68.
My mind gushed, connecting the dots:
I didn't know he was ill.
It's smart to read obits.
A few days ago, for some reason, I thought about him.
Despite our fleeting meeting, I know I'll remember him forever, because I
learned enough to wish I knew him more, and I feel blessed to have known him at
all. Now, I'm sure glad I shared those feelings with him in December, the last
time we talked, when he called to say hey and give me a story idea.
Wednesday, my wife e-mailed me the transcript of a guest commentary she heard
Monday on National Public Radio. It was one of those "This I Believe"
testimonials. It was from Deidre Sullivan of Syracuse, N.Y. She told the lesson
her father taught her: "Always go to the funeral."
For her, that means doing "those things that represent only inconvenience to me,
but the world to the other guy. You know, the painfully under-attended birthday
party. The hospital visit during happy hour. . . . In my humdrum life, the daily
battle hasn't been good versus evil. It's hardly so epic. Most days, my real
battle is doing good versus doing nothing."
Van's funeral is 3 p.m. today in First Baptist Church of Buena Vista, where he
was a deacon. That's prime time for a newspaper journalist, so it would be
inconvenient for me to go.
All of which is why I'm going.
From: The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Columbus,
Georgia. August 12, 2005.