A kiss on a good Friday

Published 1:22 pm Saturday, September 19, 2009

These days, Jackie Peters works selling real estate in the Nashville, Tenn. area and doting over her six grandchildren. She carries with her the aura of a classic performer, thanks to the years as a baton twirler through middle school, high school and on through college.

Born in Pensacola, Fla., Jackie met her future husband in her early days at the University of Southern Mississippi while trying to park her car.

It was her first few moments at the school, while it was his final moments there. You see, he was leaving campus headed off to the Navy’s flight school in Pensacola.

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It was a happenstance meeting like that one that made my flight back to my hometown this weekend both memorable and enjoyable.

After a series of weather delays, missed connections, long layovers and additional flights Friday, I found myself on a Delta flight into Pensacola.

As I settled into my seat for what thankfully was the final leg of my trip, Mrs. Jackie, as I now refer to her, sat down somewhat hurried and flustered. She had just made the flight without a minute to spare, her ultimate destination a wedding in Mobile, Ala. — a mission we both shared.

The flight from Atlanta to Pensacola is all of 50 minutes, but the conversation Mrs. Jackie and I had made the trip much shorter and my days of travel tribulations all the worthwhile.

I learned how her husband, Ben, served a number of years in the Navy before kidney stones shortened his career. And, how a passion for twirling helped take her from poor beginnings in Pensacola through high school and on to a full-paid scholarship to Southern Miss.

The stories of how, while stationed in Pensacola for flight training, that Ben would visit Jackie’s parents and actually told them he loved her before he even told her.

After the Navy, Ben worked multiple jobs to take care of the family while she pursued a career in songwriting – a passion that drove nearly everything he did.

And, after years of hard work, countless rejections and dead ends, they broke through to become one of country music’s most prolific and popular songwriters.

When he died in 2005, the obituary that was published in the Independent in London, England, it described Ben as, “one of the most successful country songwriters of his era, Ben Peters wrote a clutch of chart-toppers, including Eddy Arnold’s ‘Turn the World Around’ (1967), Freddy Fender’s ‘Before the Next Teardrop Falls’ (1975), Johnny Rodriguez’s ‘Love Put a Song in My Heart’ (1975) and ‘Daytime Friends’ by Kenny Rogers (1977).

Artists as diverse as Dean Martin, Ray Charles, Alan Jackson and Westlife covered his songs, but it was Charley Pride who emerged as Peter’s foremost Champion. Pride, a prolific country hitmaker, cut over forty of Peters’ numbers and took four of them – ‘Kiss an Angle Good Mornin’’ (1971), ‘It’s Gonna Take a Little Big Longer (1972), ‘More to Me’ (1977) and ‘You’re So Good When You’re Bad’ (1982) – to the No. 1 position.”

It was their daughter, Angela, who inspired the song “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin.’”

In fact, the obituary says the song stemmed from his daughter Angela’s nickname of “Angel” and his wife’s reminder one day that he should “Go kiss your Angel good morning.”

I am one that truly believes in divine intervention when it comes to moments in my life. There are just too many instances, such as meeting my wife, that to me prove such an Godly interaction.

Based on the day I had traveling Friday, I could not now be happier that I had an extra flight, an extended layover and less-than-friendly ticket counter assistants.

Thanks to a 50-minute flight and conversation with Mrs. Jackie, I can look back and place a kiss on a good Friday morning.