July 13, 2002 - Fayetteville Local News: RPCV Author Tim McLaurin dies at age 48

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RPCV Author Tim McLaurin dies at age 48

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Author McLaurin dies at age 48*

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Author McLaurin dies at age 48

By Greg Barnes Staff writer

A few days before his death, author Tim McLaurin sat beside a pond where he used to fish.

His best friend, Dave Williamson, sat with him and listened as Mr. McLaurin talked about his family, his wife of two years and the two children he adored. He asked Mr. Williamson to take care of his dog and his turtle.

Mr. McLaurin sensed the end was near, Mr. Williamson said, but ‘‘he never complained once.’’

Mr. McLaurin died Thursday, finally unable to beat the cancer that he had conquered twice before. He was 48.

‘‘Tim was hungry for life and lived a full life,’’ said his wife, Carol McLaurin. ‘‘His motto was to pack as much living into his 48 years as he could, and he did.’’

Those years included a stint as Wild Man Mac in a traveling snake show. Marine veteran. Peace Corps volunteer. Cancer survivor. Recovering alcoholic. Professor at N.C. State University. Devoted husband and father, and author of eight books, including “The Acorn Plan,” “Cured by Fire,” “Keeper of the Moon,” and the yet unpublished one he finished two weeks before he died.

Mr. Williamson, research news director at UNC-Chapel Hill, tells this story about Mr. McLaurin:

One day, a copperhead snake lay in the road as Mr. McLaurin approached. He stopped his car, grabbed the snake and started driving again, one hand around the snake’s neck, the other on the wheel.

The snake managed to squirm out of Mr. McLaurin’s grasp and bit him on the finger. Mr. McLaurin kept driving, looking for a safe place to release the snake before seeking medical attention.

The story gives a sense of the man. Friends say Mr. McLaurin was quiet, caring, gentle and, at times, wild and impetuous. He was a man who loved nature and life, they said.

‘‘He was magnificent,’’ Mr. Williamson said.

Family history

Mr. McLaurin grew up in a close-knit family on a small farm near Beard. His late father, Reese, was a part-time farmer and machine operator at a bakery. His mother, Darlene, raised six children under sometimes trying conditions.

When Tim McLaurin died, he and most of the family had gathered for an outing at Emerald Isle. They worried it might be their last together.

Bruce McLaurin said he and his brother talked on Wednesday about what they planned to do the next day. But early Thursday, he said, his brother had trouble breathing and was taken to a hospital in Morehead City, where he died after surgery.

Twelve years ago, Mr. McLaurin had a rare bone-marrow cancer, and his chances of living longer than five years were estimated at 20 percent. He received a bone marrow transplant from Bruce McLaurin and beat the disease.

But a few years ago, cancer struck again, this time in the esophagus.

“The cancer, it’s no big deal,’’ Mr. McLaurin told a reporter in April 2000. ‘‘I learn from everything thrown at me.’’

Two months earlier, he had met Carol Quaine, a healer trained in the Oriental technique of Reiki. She says she felt called to offer her healing touch, although she didn’t know Mr. McLaurin or his work.

She said she went to his home expecting to a find a short, fat man. Instead, she said, she found a skinny, bald man with deep radiation burns on his chest.

‘‘I just looked at him and he had the most beautiful, radiant look,’’ she said. ‘‘I thought he was the most beautiful person I had ever seen.’’

‘‘(Author) Lee Smith was there, bringing him soup, and I could see this loving exchange and sweetness and thought this man is really loved by a lot of people. This is just a really good man.’’

One night, she said, she began to realize just how much she was falling for him. Mr. McLaurin was sitting in a chair when his daughter, Meghan, curled up next to him and snuggled under his chin. They said they loved each other.

‘‘I almost burst into tears, it was so sweet,’’ she said.

With the cancer heading into remission, the two married on July 11 in an impromptu ceremony before a magistrate and two friends. One was author Clyde Edgerton.

Mr. Edgerton said people often thought of Mr. McLaurin as a tough guy -- the snake handler covered in tattoos.

‘‘He was different once you got to know him,’’ Mr. Edgerton said. ‘‘Calming and gentle, sly and a quiet sense of humor. A very peaceful person.’’

A role model

Mr. Edgerton said he last saw Mr. McLaurin early this week. He said his friend was hoping to get another chance to see his son, Christopher, who was on a month-long trip in mountains near Seattle.

Mr. McLaurin died before getting the chance, on the morning of his second wedding anniversary.

He did get the chance to finish his last novel, two weeks ago. Mr. Edgerton said it will be called ‘‘Another Son of Man.’’ It’s about the relationships of three people who are in the wilderness to spread the ashes of a friend.

Mrs. McLaurin said her husband loved his life to the end. In January, he had to be persuaded to take time off from teaching at N.C. State.

‘‘Tim taught his students more about life than he did about writing,’’ Mrs. McLaurin said. ‘‘Writing is about life, and unless you live your life you can’t really be a good writer.

‘‘Tim lived a life worth writing about.’’

Mr. McLaurin is survived by his wife, Carol; his children, Meghan and Christopher; their mother, Katie Early; his mother, Darlene McLaurin; brothers Bruce, Keith, and Danny McLaurin; sisters Karren Jernigan and Kelly Petzel; and 10 nephews and neices.

Arrangements are being made by Rogers and Breece Funeral Home. A memorial service will be announced in two to three weeks, family members said.

Staff writer Greg Barnes can be reached at 486-3525 or barnesg@fayettevillenc.com

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