One of the most fascinating people I knew in Dothan, AL when I lived there from 1995-2000 was Del Dace (center). A self-made man and nationally-recognized muralist, Dace overcame some pretty big odds in his early life to get on the path to success. And he loved to tell his story!
I will never forget that Del told me how a banker up north (Missouri maybe) loaned him some money for traveling simply because he believed in him. That travel experience impacted him, and that was one loan he gladly paid back. But it was the chance that banker took that stayed with him. Later Del told me that to encourage his daughters to postpone marriage until a certain age and invest in their careers and simply just mature as adults before taking such a big step, he'd pay for them to travel around the world. He said they took him up on his offer. Another time, when I was in his art gallery getting some items framed, he shared a story about a lady living in a huge house that most would envy, crying her eyes out because she was unhappy. He was there to do some paintings in the home, and ended up consoling her. The lesson from that story: You can have material goods and yet be a miserable wreck inside. Once at Del's studio a young kid from a local school came in selling candy for a school fundraiser. Rather than just fork over money, Del got on the phone with a school administrator and asked what percentage of the sales would ever make it to school. Probably the first time they had been questioned that hard. After he gave the student a bit of money and they had left, he turned to me and shared how the schools in the area didn't have arts programs nor funding for them, but would keep the lights on for Friday night football. He had mentioned to some school districts that that they could play games on Friday, not long after school let out, and utilize the natural sunlight rather than pay a light bill they could barely afford. And yet Friday night games stayed on the agenda - not surprising. Lastly, Del was a very popular arts and humanities professor at Troy University. He may still be there. One time he told me how shocked he was when he realized that almost all the students - graduate students even - had not been out of the tri-state area, and how limiting that was to them, in the classroom and out. And yet, he found ways to connect with them and stimulate their minds. They loved him. Del was always an optimist, had a charismatic presence, and a can-do personality.
I just discovered these videos of Del Dace speaking at a church, where he gives a very remarkable testimony.