The Dart: Friends form strong bond through trials of life

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 5, 2017

By Christian Coffman

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — Eddie Smith, Willie Turner and Chris Litt are living testaments to the power of friendship.

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When The Dart landed on Alabama Street in Vidalia Thursday, Smith, Turner and Litt were sitting on the porch of Litt’s house, cracking jokes and eating lunch.

The light-hearted afternoon gave no hint of the life-changing experiences each man had faced in recent years and how their friendship pulled them through.

Turner and Litt have been friends since childhood. Turner worked for Concordia Construction when he met Smith.

“We ran up on Mr. Eddie, he’s a good character, always keeping us laughing,” Turner said.

“It’s the best way to live; if you’re going to be neighbors, be neighbors,” Smith said. “I can get along with anybody.”

“It doesn’t matter what color you are: black, white, green, you never know when you’re going to need somebody,” Turner said. 

Litt worked as a pharmacist at Riverland Medical Center before an incident 13 years ago in which Litt said he thought was going to die.

Litt was diagnosed with brain cancer when he went to his doctor after feeling strange.

Litt said the last time he received chemotherapy was last summer.

“It’s hard for me to talk about this kind of stuff,” Litt said. “I’m with my friends, and it’s over for now. You never know though.”

Turner said Litt was living in Natchez at the time, but once diagnosed, Litt moved back to Vidalia near his friends.

Soon after, Smith had his own brush with health problems.

“I was working at the Coca-Cola Company at the time,” Smith said. “I was working in the back and one of the lights broke.”

A sudden stroke caused Smith to fall while trying to fix the light. Two more strokes followed, forcing him to retire in 2009.

“Sometimes it’s difficult for me to remember stuff, but when I first had the strokes, I couldn’t remember anything,” Smith said.

For Turner, his own health challenges came as a result of a fall at home two years ago.

As he fell to the floor, Turner said he remembers hitting his neck as he fell against his bedroom dresser.

“I couldn’t get up, I laid in that position for a long time,” Turner said. “When (Smith and Litt) got here they put me up in the bed, and I told them I couldn’t move my legs.”

Turner remembers when Smith discovered him and lifted him back up.

“For a man that’s 75 years old, with the strength that he’s got … they say when you’re scared you can do anything, and thank the good Lord he picked me up,” Turner said. “He was laughing so hard he told me I’d put him back in the hospital.” 

Doctors eventually discovered that he had chipped a bone in his neck.

Despite not being able to walk at the time of the accident, Turner said he now walks on the Vidalia riverfront seven days a week.

“Now I can do just about anything that I want to do,” Turner said. “I go out to the convention center on the riverfront where they have a long rail and I push my hands on that rail and I take off walking.”

The walk went from impossible to eight minutes, thanks to three months of rehabilitation and his determination.

“They had to teach me how to use my hands again also, because I’ve got diabetes nerve damage,” Turner said. “I just got through with (rehabilitation) this year. It’s coming back slowly. … I might limp funny, but I’m going to get it back.”

The friends all agreed that they were lucky to have each other, even if they sometimes bicker.

“We might get on each other’s nerves some days, but then we’ll turn around and eat ice cream together,” Turner said. “It’s my turn to buy it next. … We all treat each other.”