If there ever was someone who lived up to their name, it was Wilden E. Lovin, Jr. Family and friends of the late Willie Lovin, Jr., are determined to keep his legacy of love alive.
"He wasn't perfect. No one is. But his love for people and his acceptance of people was perfect. He gave freely. He trusted and loved," said friend Diane Burnett ...including the man who allegedly ended Lovin's life, in his own home, on Jan. 26, 2019.
"Willie met Marlin McQueen at (Johnson) reservoir behind his house. He saw that Marlin was homeless and had a small son," said Burnett. "He let Marlin live there, fed him, clothed him, vouched for him and found him a job. He also told him he needed to be a better father."
Andy Seamons, another friend of Lovin's, said Willie "would do anything for anyone, anytime."
"He taught me the value of friendship, to be nice to people and treat everyone as if they were your friend," said Seamons. "He tried to put a smile on everyone's face. If you see someone having a bad day, try to make it better."
"He was a phenomenon - extraordinary," said Burnett.
Burnett, her daughter, Charity Jeppson, and some of Lovin's friends have organized a "Taco bout Willie" evening for Feb. 8, from 6-9 p.m., at the bowery in Benson Park, Preston.
"It is a family friendly event to talk about Willie," in Lovin's honor - right down to a bonfire, hugs and free tacos - all things he introduced in a big way to his large circle of friends.
"Willie would have taco parties - it was an effort to help a man (who made) street tacos that he knew and to have a gathering with friends," said Burnett. Sitting around a campfire, eating tacos, as many as 120 people would gather to just talk about life, said Seamons.
Burnett also invited anyone with an outdoor heater to feel free to bring it. "We're having this outside because that was Willie."
"Willie was all about the outdoors," said Seamons.
Lovin was also all about helping others. He was a mentor to Charity, said Burnett, when Charity was trying to decide what direction she wanted to go in life.
"He watched out for her, steered her away from people who weren't a good idea to date," said Burnett. "My relationship with my daughter improved because of who he was," she continued.
That willingness of Lovin's, to "take care" of people, earned him the nickname "Papa Willie."
"He treated us like his kids - he always wanted to love on us. He was the peace maker of our group of friends," said Seamons.
"Lovin wouldn't let people drive drunk, letting them sleep at his house so they were off the street, said Burnett. He cared and he wanted people to know that he cared.
Lovin's hugs were "legendary," said Burnett.
"We want to 'continue the hug,'" said Seamons. "He never would just say 'good bye.' He always gave a hug, and he always said, 'I love you' to everyone."
Seamons said he and others of Lovin's friends hope to reflect Lovin's character, and "make the world a better place."
Burnett said she hopes even people who didn't know Lovin will feel welcome to attend the event.
"We'd like them to know who he was," she said, because who he was and "the impact of his love on others" is exactly what is helping his family through the trauma of loosing him.