While family and friends mourn the unexpected death of long-time Grove resident Richard Ray "Dickie" Mount, his grandson, Dylan Graham tried to put things into perspective for his family.
"My dad is always looking for the positive in things," Graham said. "He said to think of it as the best birthday present possible for grandpa."
Mount, died on Friday, Dec. 30 - his 78th birthday - from injuries sustained in a two-vehicle car accident on Highway 59.
Mount's wife of 42 years, Rebecca, sustained minor injuries in the accident. The couple were on their way to Welch for their weekly visit with her father, Bill Burgess.
"He swung a wide loop," Justin Mount said of his father, whose family roots date back to the earliest days of pre-statehood Delaware county.
Mount's great-grandmother Sabra Fields, came to Delaware county at the age of 10 as a result of the Trail of Tears.
Her daughter, who would become Mount's grandmother, was born in 1877, in what was then known as Peter's Prairie east of Grove. Emma and Ed Mount, Mount's grandparents, married in 1896. His grandfather, they believe based on family records, was the first city city judge in Grove.
Mount attended school in both Jay and Grove. At one time he attended classes at a school in Butler, where his mom taught. But after she "whipped his butt" the young man returned to school in Grove.
Rebecca Mount joked that her husband played football in Grove until he was kicked off the team for smoking.
"So he went out for tennis," she said, adding that he didn't play the sport much after graduating from Grove in 1958.
Love on the dance floor
Mount and his wife met, when the 19-year-old Welch girl ventured to Grove with a friend to check out the Thunderbird.
"He asked me to dance," Rebecca Mount said, adding that it seemed to be love at first dance.
The couple dated for nine months. One day, Rebecca Mount recalled, he looked over at her and said "well, we'll just get married."
"He never did say will you marry me," Rebecca Mount said with a grin. So on July 12, 1974, the couple married. Together they raised his daughters: Lisa Mount-West and Melani Mount-Graham, and her son: Justin Mount.
Rebecca Mount said the couple always looked at their children as "ours" rather than "his or hers" adding that her husband later adopted Justin.
Raising a family
Over the years, Mount and his family raised horses, primarily for calf roping, team roping and other rodeo-related activities on their small farm located north of downtown Grove on Highway 59.
"He loved calf roping and team roping," Rebecca Mount said. "We had at least one horse ever since we got married, and occasionally, he acquired two or more."
Rebecca Mount said one of her favorite memories of her husband came when he asked for her help with one of the horses.
When the horse pulled away from her grip, it "threw mud everywhere."
"When Dick turned around, mud covered the lense of his sunglasses," Rebecca Mount said.
Another favorite memory revolved around a trip Mount took to Decatur, Arkansas for a rodeo.
A friend called after the event, to make sure Mount got home. It was only after the call - and the friend's prodding - Mount remembered he had bought a horse during the rodeo.
The family also raised English Shorthair Pointers, primarily designed to serve as hunting dogs.
"He sold dogs all over the country...for 30 plus years," Justin Mount recalled.
In 1985, Mount began a construction company, Mount Construction Construction. He continued to actively work in the profession until 2014, when he began to slow down.
As a small firm, Rebecca Mount said her husband often did jobs involving footings, septic tanks, yard work, or laying gas, telephone or cable lines.
"If it was anything done in dirt, Dick could do it," Rebecca Mount said.
This past Valentine's Day, Mount managed to surprise his wife.
"I came in [from work] and there were roses on the table with a big balloon," Rebecca Mount said. "I asked who were they from. He looked at me and said ME!.
"Usually, I would just buy a box of chocolates and we would share it - and that was both of our valentines."
Rebecca Mount said her husband was a bit gruff, but once people got to know him, they saw the 6-foot, 2-inch man as a "gentle giant."
In the last few years, Mount was known for his trademark overalls - a clothing choice he made because "he didn't have a hind end," Rebecca Mount said with a grin.
"He couldn't wear jeans without suspenders," she recalled. "He had no hiney and a belly. He couldn't hold up his britches."
Turning point in life
While Mount was often known for his partying ways, things changed approximately five years ago, when he began to get serious about his faith.
One evening, Rebecca Mount recalled, as she was preparing to leave for an evening revival at Crosswired Cowboy Church, Mount made an unexpected decision to join her at the service.
"Dick had come in and I made him his usual Jim Beam and Coke," Rebecca Mount said. "I stopped by the door and he asked me 'what all do you do there?.'
"I told him we pray, visit, listen to songs and listen to the preacher. He said 'I think I'll go with you.'"
Rebecca Mount said her husband went to the service. Sitting in the back of the sanctuary, she said, she knew the minister could smell whiskey on her husband's breath.
"When he came back [to the couple], he didn't skip a beat," Rebecca Mount said.
For the next few weeks, Mount attended church with his family on Sunday morning. Less than five months later, with the help of his son, Mount found the answers to his questions and accepted Christ while sitting in his living room.
"I was in Oklahoma City," Rebecca Mount said. "He called me and said he went out to feed the horses, got a sandwich and 'oh, I gave my heart to the Lord.'"
From that point on, Rebecca Mount said, her husband became a fixture during the Sunday morning and Wednesday evening services at the rural Grove church.
"He walked into church and told [a friend], 'I'm a brand new man," Rebecca Mount recalled. "It was my greatest thing, to see him saved."
Her son agreed.
"He just became more obedient," Justin Mount said. "He started to clean up his mouth, and stop having an evening drink.
"Our church [became] so much like family. Everybody loved him. He touched everybody's lives."
Melani Mount-Graham said her father taught her many lessons - including those of honesty and respect.
She said his work ethic stuck with her - as a 20-year-old starting a new job - and continue to resonate to this day.
Her brother agreed.
"He taught me honor and respect and how to treat others," Justin Mount said. "He taught me the value of hard work, how to take pride in my work and not to cheat anyone.
"He was my best friend. He was a man's man. He was hard and rough around the edges...he might chew you out and tell you what for, but he would do anything for you."
For Kristi Mount, Justin's wife, Mount's love for life - and for the children in his life - became apparent as he interacted with her 14-year-old daughter.
Kristi Mount said her future father-in-law's 6-foot, 2-inch frame scared her daughter.
She recalled how things changed, right before the wedding, as Mount came and sat next to the pair in a pew at church.
"He got in her face and she got stiff, sitting next to me," Kristi Mount recalled. "He said 'I'm going to be your grandpappy whether you like it or not."
By the time they were finished, she said, all three were laughing so hard, tears came to their eyes.
"From that point on, she called him Papa Dick," Kristi Mount said. "This just showed his heart for the kids."
Justin Mount said he was constantly asking his father for advice, when it came to fixing equipment. On Friday, Justin Mount came by his parents' house to wish his father happy birthday - and to ask him how to fix something.
"I could ask him anything," Justin Mount said. "When it came to equipment, that man taught me everything I know.
"Dad was like a legend. If anyone can be half of what he was, you could be better than anyone else on the earth."
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Recalling Mount's Influence
For Emma Hall, Mount was more like an older brother rather than a cousin.
The pair grew up in Grove, with Mount serving as a protective older brother figure when her brothers grew up and left home.
Hall said when she turned 15, Mount would often let her drive his car secretly, before she passed her driver's test.
"He would haul me around everywhere," Hall said with a smile. "There were 17 of us. I was the youngest. He always watched over me."
Mount's niece, Erin Detherage said she will remember how Mount was at the family gatherings.
"I remember the times our family used to go to their house and cookout, play horseshoes, or just get together," Detherage said. "He and my aunt Becky were a great mix of personalities, as he has always been so laid back and easy to talk to.
"I just saw him on Christmas day, sitting in the same recliner he usually occupies, next to his father-in-law, my grandfather, watching their usual western. It's hard to believe that's the last time I'd see him, or the last holiday my aunt would get to spend with him. I don't know that there's anyone that could say a mean word about such a gentle, nice man, and he will be missed by his family and friends."
Arminda Jane Morales was the daughter of Mount's first wife, Patsy.
Raised apart from her sisters, fate allowed her to connect with the family in the late 1980s.
"I was coming to see my sisters and mom for the first time and had stopped to eat at a restaurant in Jay," Morales said. "I noticed this man sitting a couple of tables over and he was staring at me intently.
"I continued to eat not really giving it much thought until I glanced over at his table again, and he was trying to read a newspaper but continued to just stare at me like he had seen a ghost."
Morales said she told her friend "hey this dude is staring at me."
"She chided me saying that I thought all the men were staring away me and to get over myself," Morales said. "This went on during my whole meal, Dick staring and me trying to convince my friend I wasn't imagining it, and Dick looking like he was reading his newspaper."
After their meal, the pair drove into Grove so Morales could meet her mother, sister and Dick and Becky.
"When we arrived at Dick and Becky's and mother introduced me to them, Dick and I realized that we had been eating across from one another earlier, we both just busted up laughing," Morales said. "From that moment on I was no longer a stranger and was welcomed into this family with love.
"He always wanted to see me when I came in to see my sisters. I treasure these times and memories that were made on my visits. I am going to miss his smile, his jokes, and his love, but I know that someday I will see him again and once more he will welcome me in and smile and say, have you heard the one about...."
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About the accident
The two vehicle fatality accident, which claimed the life of Richard Ray "Dickie" Mount took place at approximately 3:44 p.m., Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, on Highway 59, north of downtown Grove.
According to information released by the Grove Police Department, Mount's vehicle left his driveway on Highway 59, going north across the street from Liberty Storage, and crossed into the path of a southbound vehicle driven by Terry Stacy.
Stacy told investigators he was driving in the right hand lane, when Mount turned to go north. Kelly attempted to move into the turn lane to avoid a collision and the left front of Mount's vehicle collided with the right front of Kelly's vehicle.
Mount, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was partially ejected from his vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger, Rebecca Mount, was treated and released at INTEGRIS Grove Hospital for minor injuries.
This is the third fatality accident to take place, within the city limits of Grove since 2011.