Dietrich delights with story, song

Published 12:08 pm Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sean Dietrich was born to tell a story. The author, singer-songwriter and humorist  with an ever-growing following spun many a tale Sunday afternoon as he performed on the front porch of Nanny’s Fine Dining.

Dietrich, known as Sean of the South, shared stories of his life and the people who inspired and impacted him. There was that 5th grade teacher with the 10-foot-tall beehive hairdo who told the aspiring writer he had no talent (“She was a holiness preacher’s wife and a godless Christian woman”). And his friend’s grandmother, Miss Myrtice, who provided the world’s best cheese sandwiches and Campbell’s tomato soup, and told her own stories of life before television, running water and electricity, of playing outside and getting the “ground itch” from racing barefoot through the woods. 

There was his construction worker dad, from a long line of hard-working blue collar men, who took his own life when Dietrich was a 7th grader. Suddenly this boy was the man of the family. Dropping out of school to go to work helping a drywall installer, Dietrich’s muscles were young and untried.  Still, he was willing to do whatever it took to help take care of his mom and sister.

When his boss paid him almost double what he was promised for that first day’s work, Dietrich didn’t want to take it. But the man assured him he’d done 65 dollars worth of work and to learn to accept others helping him along his life’s journey. The boy turned the money over to his mother and continued to do so for a long time afterwards.

Dietrich admits he felt pain as time passed and he missed out on all the things a typical teenager enjoys: prom, football, the excitement of graduation (“I missed everything but the wild stuff, I did some of that”). One day a co-worker encouraged him to consider going back to school.

Dietrich went to a local community college and asked to be admitted. When he said he had neither a high school diploma nor a GED certificate, they more or less laughed at him. He took the GED exam that day and much to the community college lady’s amazement, Dietrich passed it.

What most people didn’t know was that Dietrich, even after leaving school, was still reading voraciously. That a kindly librarian gave him stacks of books, mixing the adventure and western stories the boy loved with books on science, botany, history and other academic subjects.

“I was told I could get a good education from just reading,” Dietrich said.

Dietrich’s story of the mother who came faithfully to his college science class to sign the lessons to her deaf son—just as she did for all his classes—brought some tears to the eyes of his listeners.

His own mother, after initially turning into a recluse when his dad took his own life, “wore many uniforms over the years,” Dietrich said, from working in fast food to “throwing newspapers” with her son (“One time I pitched one so hard it broke a plate glass window. She did what any good mother would do in such a situation. She kept on driving”).

And she always believed in her son’s writing talents.

“One day she was reading Lewis Grizzard’s column in the paper . . .

and she told me, ‘I want you to write something like that about me one day,’” Dietrich said.

And one day he did. And a great deal more.

Mingled with his stories were country and gospel songs such as “I Believe in Love,” “In the Garden,” “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “Amazing Grace,” with some of his audience members softly singing along. After his performance, Dietrich stuck around to talk with fans, sign books and pose for photos.

“That was really, really good,” said Steve Norman of Greenville. “I read his blog every day. It’s just part of my morning, Sean and my cup of coffee.”

Another attendee, Leesa Massey of Honoraville, said she was excited she got to attend Sunday’s event. “I wanted to go to another performance of Sean’s but I had to work. And when I saw this was happening, I said, ‘I have GOT to go.’”

While she has some of his books on her Kindle, she got a paperback copy on Sunday with Dietrich’s autograph inside. “It’s nice to have a ‘real’ book signed for me,” Massey said with a smile.

Both Rebecca Duncan and Linda Johnson Daughtry, the co-hosts for the event, were pleased with the good turnout in spite of the somewhat blustery weather.

“I didn’t do a rain dance, I did a lot of praying the rain would hold off and it did,” Duncan said.

“This was just so much fun,” said Daughtry. “I am so glad everyone really seemed to enjoy it.”