Writing an obituary is something I was trained to do. I remember being a journalism student at the University of Alabama and writing a mock obit for the tap dancer Ann Miller. Now I sit here trying to think of the words to say to give life to a story about my father, and every word I’ve ever learned seems empty and a cheap replacement for the feelings in my heart about this epic person who shaped my life. Ed Bierley was not loved by everyone, and he taught me that that was okay. He had a life that took many turns, some of them better than others. In the end, though, he had a family that loved and respected him and surrounded him with that love in his final days.
Anyone who knew Ed could attest to two things: his temper and his charm. You haven’t lived until you’ve been yelled at by Ed Bierley. Heck, I grew to see that as a sign of affection. My father had a charm that could light up the darkest day. It was so rich and so tangible that just a smile and a hello could take a day from bad to good. His approval was something so valuable, and when it was given, it did not disappoint. He wasn’t stingy with kindness, either. I’ll never forget sitting with him at a doctor’s appointment. He was so weak that he was in a wheelchair, and he felt awful. Regardless of his misery, he was making friends, speaking to another man in the waiting room about his own troubles. Daddy asked the man for his name so he could remember him in prayer, and I have no doubt he did.
Another quality of my father’s that could not be denied was his brilliance. His mind worked like none I’ve ever seen. He was the smartest man I have ever known. Even when he was in his last days, he was still working. He taught me the importance of dedicating your life to something you love. He had the ultimate entrepreneurial spirit, creating many businesses in his lifetime. He was supportive of every crazy idea I ever had, and yet no matter what I set out to do, he always made sure I knew that my family should always be my number one priority. He told me once that he knew that if I put my focus on my husband and kids that focus would be the key to my happiness in life.
Our relationship was never perfect, and it was pretty unconventional at times. We would go months without seeing each other, but we talked every day and sometimes multiple times a day. He was my go-to guy. He was my best friend. He was my mentor. He was my prayer partner. He was my heart. He was a man who would go to work and build amazing machines and come home and play hair salon with me, going into great hysterics when I’d get the imaginary shampoo in his eyes.
He had so much love for his family, especially his grandchildren. He was quick to pass out nicknames: Brooker, Sophie, Tank, Double A, and, most recently, Princess and T Model. My little boy has Edmond in his name, but Papa decided to call him “T Model” after the 1929 Model T Ford. I will always remember hearing him yell “29 T” as my little man scurried under his Papa’s feet.
Ed was a graduate of the University of Alabama with a degree in electrical engineering and even shared breakfast with the Bear once. He was a member of the Chi Phi fraternity, and he was a Navy man. He served with great pride on the U.S.S. Canberra.
He was a devout Christian and a self-proclaimed “Pauline” with a great respect for the disciple Paul. He volunteered for several years at a local assistant living facility, conducting Sunday morning services for the residents.
My dad was a thinker. He loved to listen to talk radio and audio books. Art Bell will always conjure memories of my father. I can close my eyes and see him sitting up in his bed with his arm behind his head, his beautiful blue eyes gazing out into nowhere, and the sound of that radio filling the room.
He was a strong, undeniable force on this earth. He didn’t have an ounce of fake in his body. You knew instantly where you stood with my daddy. I always felt I could stand a little taller when I was by his side. To say he will be missed is truly where the words become empty. There aren’t words to describe the gaping hole left by his exit. I told him the day before he died that I was so glad he was my daddy, and he said, “Can I get that in writing?” He filled my life with exactly that kind of laughter and lightness and until we are together again, a piece of me will be missing.
Ed passed away Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011. He is survived by his former wife and best buddy, Peggy Cost Bierley; best friend, Stanley Davis; his wonderful family; his four children, Dana Bierley McCranie, Rev. Steve Andrews, Matt Andrews and Mark Andrews; and his beloved grandchildren, James Andrews, Justin Andrews, Amber Mwaura, Brooke Andrews, Ashlea Andrews, Amy Andrews, Austin Andrews, Christian Andrews, Aybra McCranie and Thomas Edmond “T Model” McCranie.
I would like to personally thank Mark and Matt Andrews and Stanley Davis for helping daddy, especially in his last days. What you did for him was a blessing to us all and I’ll never forget your kindness.
Funeral services were held in the Alabama National Cemetary on Feb. 21, 2011, at 10:15 p.m. Arrangements were under the direction of Charter Funeral Home.