He made us laugh; it’s time to make him smile

Published 12:03 am Saturday, June 11, 2016

Two weeks ago, Chuck “Bubba” Bailey sat at a picnic table and watched as a group of men he considers his children washed cars.

“I’ve lost about 90 pounds,” he said wistfully.

His appetite is gone. Grits and eggs are his go-to meals, but sometimes he eats applesauce, he said. In the week that followed, he was to see doctors in three cities for a PET scan, his first chemo treatment, and to have the stitches removed from his new chemo port. In the fall, perhaps September, after the chemo has done its work, doctors plan to operate.

The cancer is in his pancreas. The diagnosis came after his retirement, and before his Medicare kicked in. He has no health insurance.

“My fault,” he said.

But the former Andalusia police lieutenant known for his sense of humor and his funny dance moves perfected while directing traffic was still his sunny self.

Chief: You can’t replace someone like Bubba

Turning his attention back to the men in blue, he said, “I just can’t believe they’re doing this for me.”

Members of the APD raised more than $2,500 for him by washing cars that day. One by one, they also stopped to wish him well. And before the day ended, Bubba got each one of them, too. As the former training officer for the APD, his “thing” has always been to give the officers who worked for him a kiss on the head, much like a father sending a child to school. He explained it once, this way: “You never know what’s waiting around the corner. These fellas are willing to put their lives on the line every day,” he said. “I want them to be safe and relaxed and go home to their families every night.”

Humor helped, he said. In the myriad of responsibilities he had over the course of his 34 years with the APD, negotiation was once his responsibility. He’s even responded to a standoff situation in his pajamas, he said.

“They called me and said, ‘Come now. This old boy knows you.’

“I told them I wasn’t dressed, but I went on. There I was in my pajama bottoms and T-shirt. I didn’t have my belt or anything.”

Sans uniform, vest or holster, he got between the armed officer and the armed subject. It was when Bubba pointed out to the subject if they shot at him and missed, he’d probably be hit that the subject surrendered.

Bubba told me once that he learned a lot about dealing with the public by watching Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor. I told him on that recent Saturday that a lot of his fellow cancer patients were about to have easier journeys with him among them, brightening their days.

Bubba and Brenda have had a tough week. Friday, Bubba was in the hospital. But this afternoon, a whole lot of people are working together to help him, with a fundraiser at Springdale. His brother, Mike, is bringing his Celtic band, the Krooked Kilts, to perform at Springdale, and about 500 tickets have been pre-sold for barbecue plates.

Stop by and pick up a plate, a baked item, or put a little something in the bucket. It’s our turn to put a smile on Bubba’s face.


Michele Gerlach is publisher of The Star-News.