DECATUR, Ala. — A memorial service for Shaw Grigsby's father-in-law began Saturday in Gainesville, Fla., at the same time the Bassmaster Elite Series Southern Challenge weigh-in started.
Grigsby, who started the day in third place on Wheeler Lake, will be in Alabama, not Florida. And for good reason.
"My father would have haunted him," said Polly Grigsby, Shaw's wife and the daughter of Air Force Major Ernest "Ernie" Elwood Fivecoat Jr.
"Shaw was not allowed to come home."
At one point, Grigsby considered fishing only until noon today, then catching a private plane piloted by one of Polly's brothers, so Grigsby could attend the memorial service in Gainesville.
"We lost a great one," Grigsby said of his father-in-law. "He was one of those people who made the world a better place."
If you think the $100,000 first prize in the Southern Challenge presented by Advance Auto Parts had anything to do with Grigsby not attending the service, you need to banish that thought from your mind.
Polly said she has already instructed her nieces and nephews that their grandfather was all about living, not about sorrow over his death. They were "threatened with a haunting" as well.
"I told them they cannot be upset, because he wouldn't have liked that," Polly said. "If he's upset, he will haunt you. And every screw you touch the rest of your life will be stripped, and you'll never get another bolt out of anything."
Fivecoat died May 31 at the age of 77. Survivors include his wife of 49 years, Mary Ann, and their three children, Scott Alan Fivecoat, Andrew Lee Fivecoat and Polly Ann Fivecoat Grigsby.
Maj. Ernie Fivecoat retired after 20 years and 19 days in the U.S. Air Force, according to his obituary in The Gainesville Sun. He served as a radar navigator on B-29s, B-36s and B-52s. After his military service, Fivecoat attended the University of Houston and was the first graduate of the Santa Fe Community College HVAC program. He started and operated for 20 years a heating and air conditioning business. He also worked as an instructor at Sante Fe Community College.
In raising three children, Fivecoat made sure they were all "mechanically adept."
"Before I was allowed to get a driver's license," Polly said, "I had to demonstrate changing a tire, changing spark plug wires and basic car maintenance. He said he wasn't going to have me stranded on the side of the road because of something simple I could do."
According to Shaw, Polly's mechanical skills advanced beyond basic car repair.
"When I met her, she could take a carburetor apart and put it back together," Grigsby said. "You talk about independent. She can do brake jobs, you name it.
"When I'm away and something goes wrong, I don't have to worry about it. She handles it. And that's because of her dad."
When asked if her husband might have been exaggerating a bit on her carburetor repair abilities, Polly said, "Take the four-barrel out of the Cadillac? Absolutely."
On Day One of the Southern Challenge, when Grigsby came to the weigh-in stage, the first thing he mentioned was his late father-in-law and how "the world lost a great one" last week. He did that again Friday.
Around the time Grigsby comes to the weigh-in stage Saturday, as Maj. Ernie Fivecoat would have wanted him to, a 21-gun military salute, honoring Fivecoat's service to his country, will sound in Gainesville.
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Southern Challenge, June 5–8, 2008. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 4:00 p.m. ET. On Saturday, catch "Bassmaster University" at 3:00 p.m. ET before the weigh-in. Then on Sunday, get "Hooked Up" on at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. ET, with the final day weigh-in and real-time leaderboard content starting at 4:15 p.m. ET.