We, as a community, have experienced tragic losses recently, heart-wrenching tragedies that have taken the lives of far too many, and way, way too soon. The deaths of Andrew Warren, Meredith Nordin and Ricky Armwood immediately come to mind — individuals who have walked among us, shared church pews with us, gone to high school with us or whose families we are close to in some way.
It seems we’ve barely caught our breath from one heartache before another sucker punches us, leaving us feeling a tremendous void and an overwhelming sadness.
That’s how we feel today as we continue to wrap our collective minds around the loss of Mike and Vicki Bass, two stalwart community members who have touched so many lives in the course of their 67 short years on this earth that the void their passing leaves feels more like a cataclysmic divide.
Vicki Bass died just over a week ago, on Oct. 26, in the tragic three-car accident that also critically injured her husband, their daughter, Kristy, and left two others with non-life threatening injuries. Mike died a week later, on Nov. 2, from injuries sustained in that same accident. Kristy remains hospitalized with very serious injuries.
Vicki Bass’ death knocked the feet out from under many of those in this community, including those of us at the newspaper; her husband’s death only added to the painful heartache. The losses are palpable and extremely hard to comprehend.
But today, as the two are laid to rest surrounded by the family that loved them dearly, it is not their deaths but their lives that we remember most. For both Mike and Vicki Bass left an indelible mark on a community they loved, and they touched countless lives both directly and indirectly, setting an example of genuine kindness, heartfelt joy, a fun-loving spirit and a solid faith that many others can only hope to mirror.
It’s hard to talk about one of them without immediately mentioning — and thinking about — the other. The two were so close and their lives were even more intertwined than most married couples. They worked side-by-side in the family agriculture business, raised remarkable children and doted on the grandchildren that followed, cheered their Union Spartans at ever turn and supported their church and community with an unwavering loyalty.
They believed in education. Vicki worked as a teacher assistant at Union, and we recall her smiling face as she walked down that hall, children often in tow, greeting visitors, parents and fellow staff members. She never knew a stranger, and you never felt like one in her presence. Witty and with a love of life that was absolutely infectious, Vicki Bass was simply a jewel.
Her husband Mike, a farmer by trade, also loved life, his family and his community.
As a member of the Sampson County Board of Education and for a time its chairman, Mike Bass had an opportunity to have a positive influence on the lives of the children across the county. And while he was a huge Union supporter, one never knew it when he sat at the board table. There he was a man for all children, working to ensure that children from all walks of life had the same opportunity at success, good buildings and good teachers.
But Mike was most comfortable on the farm, high atop a tractor, working the field, or among friends sharing a laugh, working elbow to elbow for a good cause or just meandering wooded areas of his property with Vicki by his side.
Those fortunate enough to call Mike and Vicki Bass their friends have richer lives today because of them.
We count ourselves among that group, having been touched by them in countless ways as we’ve watched them make a difference in the lives of others in innumerable ways.
Their deaths have devastated their family, friends and a community of acquaintances, but we believe it is their legacy, which starts with their remarkable children, Brad and Kristy, and continues through the footprints they’ve left across this county that will allow them to live in our hearts forever.
We can honor their memories by living life as they did: with a strong faith, a love of family, a loyalty to community and a determination to help their fellow man.