A Tribute to My Great Friend, Rusty Eastep

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Rusty Eastep (right) and I posed for a photo at the North Rim of Arizona’s Grand Canyon the night before we started our rim to rim backpacking trip in 2001.

 

On March 25, 2016, my best friend passed away. I was returning from a camping trip at Death Valley, and when my phone was back in cellular coverage I noticed that I had several messages from old friends in Arkansas that I hadn’t been communicating much with lately. A few minutes later, I learned the terrible news and spent the next several days crying. Thankfully, I was able to cancel a couple classes and fly back to Arkansas for the funeral to pay my respects to this very unique and special person. His mother, Gail, asked me to give the eulogy, and while at first I didn’t think I would be able to make it through it, I am very honored that I was asked, and I tried to do the best that I could. I decided to post it on my blog as a tribute that will stay on the internet. My intention was to keep the eulogy as positive as I could.

 

Hello everyone, my name is Beau Rogers, and I have been a friend of Rusty’s since I was about 17 years old. We were roommates for a while, and we ventured out together during a lot of fun and exciting times. His death has been very difficult for me to handle, but I am honored that Gail asked me to talk about him, and I sincerely hope that I do a good job.

There are a few things that I want to praise Rusty about, and the first one is how he could easily make more friends in a minute than anyone that I’ve ever known. He was always the life of the party, and people who didn’t even know him were quickly drawn to his charisma, humor, and wit. A few of you who are in the crowd today are people from my family or people that I know from high school. The rest of the people in this room that I know are people that I met thru being Rusty’s friend. If it were not for him, I would have less than half of the friends that I have today. I would bet that for many of you here today, it is the same. Rusty had this magical ability to bring people together, and that was one of the most impressive things about him in my opinion.

I’ll never forget when he and I were 18 years old, and we went to New Orleans for spring break. Neither of us had ever been there before, but we basically acted like we owned the town while we were there. Within a few hours of us being on Bourbon Street, Rusty found two blondes, which were twin sisters from Austin, Texas to hang out with us throughout the week. Rusty was always hearing classic rock music while riding around with me in my car, and later that night, while we were hanging out with the twins on one of those famous Bourbon Street balconies, Rusty gave his public street rendition of The Beatles’ “I am the Walrus.” He stood up on the balcony and raised his arms up into the air and shouted, “I am the walrus. I am the egg-man, Koo Koo KaChoo, Koo Koo Ka Choo.” Thousands of people were below on the street, and after two or three times, everyone on Bourbon street was chanting along, “Koo Koo KaChoo, Koo Koo KaChoo.” He was not the least bit afraid of leading the party at the age of 18, and he continued to do so throughout his life. When he was there, it was fun and exciting. There were things to remember and stories to tell. Without him, something was missing, just like there will now be something missing in many of our lives.

Another quality of Rusty that I think was second to none was his ability to work hard. One time my parents asked him, Justin Williams and I to help them do some landscaping before we went to an Ozzy Osbourne concert, and Rusty worked circles around Justin and I. We weren’t going to leave until it was finished, and I don’t think we would have ever finished the job with out his laborious effort. I also remember during our senior year of high school, Rusty would always leave after lunch to participate in the work release program with the Sherwin Williams Paint store in Rogers. Several times, I would stop by the store after school, and he would be mixing paint like a champ or making deliveries or sales. Speaking of sales, Rusty was a terrific salesman. I talked to Chad Fisher on the phone a couple days ago, and he told me that he worked with Rusty for about 13 years, and he was consistently blown away by his ability to BS and sell whatever needed to be sold to anyone. He could sell bibles to athiests, T-bone steaks to vegans, or propholactics to nuns. It really didn’t matter. He was a brilliant salesman, and I bet that there are many people here today who bought a vehicle from Rusty when he worked as a car salesman in Pineville, Missouri. My Ford truck came through Rusty, and while it doesn’t really do all the things that he said it would, I absolutely love it and want to try to put a few hundred thousand miles on it before getting something else.

The last positive quality that I want to elaborate upon is that Rusty had a golden heart. I remember him often trying to help people through doing the right thing. In 2001, he and I backpacked from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to the South Rim. It was a 27 mile hike that was the favorite hike of my life. Most of the people we were hiking with on the trail were from Asia or Europe, and we ended up saying BonJour to hikers as we passed them instead of hello. We visited with a couple from France during part of our hike along the canyon floor, and the man had a fancy, decorated knife that was a family heirloom. We had seen it when they were cooking food at a campsite next to ours, but later that day I noticed it on the ground along the trailside. I picked it up and put it in my backpack, and we decided that we needed to do whatever it takes to get the knife back to it’s proper owner. Rusty decided to double his hiking speed and caught the couple before they crossed the bridge over the Colorado River. He didn’t speak French, and they didn’t speak English, but he convinced them to wait for me as I was a slower walker than they were. Later that afternoon, I saw Rusty trying to talk to the French couple on the side of the trail, and they were all laughing. I gave them back the knife, and they were very relieved to have it back.

I also talked to Dan Arrington a couple days ago, and he told me about The Founders Group, which involves, Dan, Shane, Brent, Keith, Jeff, Kendrick, Reggie, Chad, Justin, and some other guys that I don’t think I’ve met. The group started through a horrific tragedy when Reggie’s 4 month old son, Dominic, was killed. The group decided to try to work to together and to do something about this awful incident, and they started an annual crawfish broil on Dickson Street as a charity fundraiser for the Children’s Safety Center. I was a little surprised to learn that Dan was the cook because I have always considered Rusty as being the greatest cook that I have ever known, but every year while Dan broils the crawfish, the guys would get sponsorships with local businesses and bring people in to eat the crawfish and donate money to their charity. Dan said that this has been happening for about 5-6 years, and on average they raise 3-4 thousand dollars for the cause. He also said that Rusty was the king of mingling with the attendees and making sure that they signed in and donated the money. He also said that he thinks it is going to be really tough to do it without Rusty this year for their event on June 4th.

In closing, I would like to encourage everyone here today to remember the positive qualities that Rusty had. We know that there were some negative things, and that is the reason why we are here together today. But deep down underneath his struggles with addiction and his daily battles, was a hard-working young man with a golden heart who really cared about all of you. I am sure that he is honored to see us all here today celebrating his life, and he loves knowing that this was paid for by his family and friends in about 24 hours. Now that he is gone, and we all no longer have this special friend for the rest of our time on this planet, I would like to encourage all of us to try to bring some of these positive qualities of Rusty into our own lives, so we can share them with others.

Thanks for taking the time to listen to me, and I would like to thank Gail, Krystal, Diedra, and Kevin for allowing me to speak.

 

A few nights before our Grand Canyon backpacking trip, we had an overnight backpacking trip as a warmup in New Mexico's Pecos Wilderness.

A few nights before our Grand Canyon backpacking trip, we had an overnight backpacking trip as a warmup in New Mexico’s Pecos Wilderness.

 

Rusty sitting on an overlook of the Grand Canyon's North Rim.

Rusty sitting on an overlook of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim.

3 Comments

  1. Ross Bailey April 5, 2016 at 6:40 am #

    Thanks for posting this Beau. I was the operations manager at the Rogers Sherwin-Williams store for a time. I was lucky enough to work with Rusty. He was a free spirit and a very hard worker. Thank you for honoring him with the positives.

    • Beau April 5, 2016 at 11:31 am #

      Thanks for the nice reply, Ross. I really appreciate it.

  2. Emma Eastep April 24, 2016 at 9:55 am #

    Thank you for sharing this. My uncle was an amazing man and he will be missed. I’m sorry for your loss.

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