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Hook, Line and Sinker

By Tony Hooker
Disclaimer:  This will probably be the most self-indulgent thing I ever write.  I’m frankly struggling to put any words down on paper, and I hope this will help me get through it, and maybe, just maybe, help someone else who is suffering from loss, during this terrible time.  Please get regular checkups.  Take whatever steps are necessary to maintain your health and the health of your family.  Too many lives have been snuffed out too soon.


1.the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.

“music is a means of catharsis for them”

Most of you all never got to know her, and that’s a danged shame.  Truthfully, through circumstances that were not of our doing, we didn’t get to know each other well enough, either.  She was my sister, and the shining light of my dad’s world, even though he too had her taken away from his life for too many years.

The stories came fitfully, whenever we were together.  How she would have to stand in as a surrogate mom for her younger sister at times when their mother was incapacitated by her demons.  In retrospect, it’s a no-brainer that she became a nurse, or that she gravitated to a field of nursing that allowed her to protect and serve one of the most vulnerable demographics, the elderly.  She would have been a superb neo-natal  or pediatric nurse as well, I suppose.  The kindness and unwavering love and empathy in her heart is something that kiddos of all ages seemed to innately recognize.  This lady was a NURSE! 

She was also beautiful and funny and loved her family with every fiber of her being.  This love extended to just about everyone  who entered her world, and it was reflected in the literally hundreds of folks who took time to comment on her Facebook page, send “hugs from home” messages to the funeral home or personally call or text her family.  

Roni and I tried and failed to plan a weekend getaway to Holiday World or to Garden of the Gods for our families, but with active kids, we never got it done, to my everlasting regret.  I would have loved just to sit and visit with her while her young sons ran around doing active boy things that I miss now that my sons are grown up.  I love you, sis.  You were the best thing that my dad ever did, and I truly believe that you two are together now, pain and worry free.  Roni Hooker Sisk of Princeton, KY was 47 when she passed.  

About an hour after I heard of my sister’s passing came the news that my classmate, Greg Gulick,  had died the same day.  

Greg and I were friends in the way that people from small towns who go to high school together are friends.  We weren’t besties, but we weren’t in any way enemies.  We had common interests including music and the types of distractions that ornery small-town dudes had that tended to bring us together at times.

Frankly, I’ve never admitted this before, but I was pretty envious of Greg.  He was growing up in a happy, nurturing family with his mom and step-dad, while my home life was quite a bit more turbulent.  He was the starting Guard on the football team, while I was relegated to scrub status.  He went out on dates with the pretty girls while I got the friend zone phone calls when the pretty girls were upset with their boyfriends.  He was a talented musician while I could barely tune a stereo. I didn’t hold any of this against him and we had some pretty wild times together, including one memorable post-football practice dash in the Way-mobile to an AC/DC concert in Normal that took us through a tornado.  Here were Greg and Steve, two of the smartest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, using the rationale that there was no reason to pull over due to the weather because “everyone else has, so the road is ours!”  Of course, I totally concurred with that judgement, which again makes me wonder how male humans ever reach adulthood.  

Over time, I came to realize that any issues of envy I had were my deal and not Greg’s, and that he worked hard and practiced for everything that he earned.  He was smart and caring and a good person, and his life ended way too soon for all of us who knew him, especially for his amazing wife, Tish, and their awesome children,  Joe, Jake and Matthew.  I can picture Greg right now, tapping’ on the cans in an epic Jerry Garcia jam session in heaven.  He was one of the few people I’ve met who were cool enough to pull it off.  Joseph Gregory Gulick was 56.


  1. Anonymous on March 5, 2021 at 8:42 pm

    This is an amazing piece. Thank you,Tony!
    Michelle Osborne

  2. Anonymous on March 6, 2021 at 8:31 am

    Well said Tony! My condolences on the loss of your sister. She was an awesome lady who also loved her brother.❤️
    Greg was my late husband’s nephew. I didn’t know him well, but always enjoyed him at our family gatherings. My heart goes out to his beautiful family. ❤️
    And yes, the two of them were taken entirely too young. When our loved ones leave, they take a piece of us with them. But within our heart is a special place where we can go and remember. ❤️

  3. Anonymous on March 6, 2021 at 10:43 am

    Beautifully written. It shows your heart, and that’s something more men could do. Our families can be like good jazz or abstract art. It may not make sense to everyone, but it is OUR divine mess and we love it. Blessings to you and all who loved these two. May their memories continue to be dear and shared with others. -Billie

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