Editorial: Giff Basham handing out tomatoes in heaven

Published 6:39 am Tuesday, July 25, 2023

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Armfuls of homegrown tomatoes are being handed out in heaven these days.

And the only price is a smile, a hug and a thank you.

Giff Basham is doing his thing.

Vegetable gardener extraordinaire, Basham died last weekend. He and wife Barbara – and their children, Amy, Kathryn and Brian – are all well-known in Davie County. Stories about their husband and father could go on for days, and keep you on the edge of your seat.

Giff Basham was an interesting man.

I got to know him well in the last couple of years. We were both Wednesday morning regulars at the Deep Roots Community Garden. Of course, Giff was usually there when I arrived. And yes, he was usually still there when I left, too.

But he was dedicated. He was dedicated to the cause, and to his own garden plots. At Deep Roots, gardeners “rent” raised beds to grow their own veggies.

Giff loved tomatoes. He told me he could eat them at every meal.

But more than that, he loved giving those tomatoes away. He liked seeing the smiles the gifts put on the faces of others, usually those who were unable to garden themselves. He appreciated the occasional hug a female recipient would give him.

When I had appenciditis one summer, Giff, without being asked, tended my garden beds. He even picked and brought us our own tomatoes. Without being asked.

That’s the kind of guy he was.

His story is even better. Giff grew up in West Virginia, a contemporary of Jerry West on the basketball court. Yes, that Jerry West. The Zeke from Cabin Creek.

It’s how I first met Giff Basham.

I was part of a bunch of weeknight pick-up basketball players who met at South Davie. One evening, this old guy showed up. It was Giff Basham.

I was kind of glad, because before that, I was one of the older players. It would be nice to be able to run around someone for a change.

Well, it didn’t work out that way. Giff had game. Then someone said, “You know he’s an FBI agent, don’t you?”

Instant respect.

And while that title as an agent for the FBI pretty much demands instant respect, Giff didn’t expect it. He treated us all the same. He played hard, but fair. He talked about basketball and asked about our lives on breaks, just like the rest of us.

Giff Basham earned our respect.

Fast forward 20-something years, and he was back in my life again. Gardening. It’s like we had seen each other daily for those years, but hadn’t. It’s a good feeling to have a rapport that smooth with someone. I have a feeling that I wasn’t the only one who had that rapport with Giff. Actually, I am probably one of many.

Even as his health started to fail, Giff wanted to be in that garden. He made it a couple of times this year, but still had squash and tomatoes. Teresa Johnson made sure he got those tomatoes when they were ready. Now, she’s harvesting those tomatoes that will be extra special as she brings them to his family.

And why not?

It’s what Giff would have done for any one of us. Because it’s the right thing to do.

– Mike Barnhardt