A Texas man whose next-door neighbor helped raise him in the absence of a father is sharing his story with the world. Now grown up with kids of his own, he is welcoming this beloved man into a brand-new role as an honorary grandfather.
“My story truly shows that a successful Black American man truly inspired and educated a little white kid next door,” Cody Shugart told The Epoch Times via email. “He did not have to be a part of my life, he chose to and I am thankful to God every day that he chose to help me.”
Cody and his wife, Aubrie Shugart, share four children: Colt Griffin, who was stillborn in 2014, Bob Wayne, 3, William West, 2, and Miles Jefferson, 4 months. Together, the couple runs the oldest dance studio, called the Aubrie Shugart School of Dancing, in Victoria, Texas.
Cody is also the corporate sales manager for a tractor dealership called Scherer Kubota.
“My mother, Yvett Shugart, raised me and my brother, Adam, by herself,” said Cody. A court reporter, Yvett moved with her children to Victoria when Cody was only 2 years old. That’s where they met “Mr. Chip.”
“Mr. Chip’s real name is Milton West and he is married to Shirley West,” said Cody. “The connection I had with Mr. Chip was started with our admiration and respect for him.”
Mr. Chip owned multiple vehicles, a boat, and a nice home. He loved to entertain friends and family in the garage, and would always make sure Cody and Adam were included.
“I always saw Mr. Chip as a mountain of a man who had a mountain of personality,” Cody recalled. “As I got older, I found out how funny he is.”
Mr. Chip, a Vietnam veteran with the U.S. Marines, played college baseball after returning home from deployment and worked as an operator for DOW Chemical Plant. Additionally, he left a profound influence on the Shugart boys.
“When I started cutting our lawn at my house I thought I did a good job until I looked at how beautiful his yard was,” Cody regaled. “I would ask advice and he would tell me what I did wrong.”
Prone to getting in trouble, Cody found himself sitting in Mr. Chip’s driveway time and time again, receiving life advice from the kindly veteran. “He would always remind me how important it was to respect my mother and to behave,” said Cody. “I got a man to fill a void in my life.”
Cody also credits his outgoing personality and fearlessness to Mr. Chip. “He taught me that the color of a man’s skin means nothing,” he said. “The only color that matters is the color of our heart, and how we choose to use it.”
Since Cody became a father, Mr. Chip has become “Pop” to Cody and Aubrie’s three children.
Mr. Chip got the name of “Pop” after Bob Wayne was born and said that it was his grandson.
“When Mr. Chip and his wife Shirley saw him they fell in love,” Cody shared on Facebook in 2018. “They babysit him sometimes … The last time we were over there Mr. Chip said he wants to be called ‘Pop.’ So we had to come up with a name for his wife. We decided on ‘Lolli!’”
“Bob Wayne and Pop are tight,” Cody told The Epoch Times, reflecting on the bond Mr. Chip and the young boy share. “I am certain it’s from all the cookies, candy, and bananas they have shared together.” When Mr. Chip looks at his children, said Cody, “you see the pride and love in his eyes every time.”
The Shugarts’ next son, William, was even given the middle name “West” in honor of his Pop.
Mr. Chip is currently on dialysis, so the Shugarts have scaled back their visits to protect his health during the pandemic. Yet Mr. Chip, said Cody, calls him and pretends to threaten him with police action for not letting him see his grandbabies. “Once the rant is over we have a great laugh together,” he added.
Cody hopes that prayers from far and wide will reach Mr. Chip, Shirley, and their son Quinten, an active duty member of the U.S. Army, during these difficult times.
As Cody’s homage to a great man continues to circulate, he marvels at how many people his story has touched.
“I wanted people to see this great man I have known all my life,” said Cody, adding a personal message for Mr. Chip himself: “If I become a fraction of the man you are, I will know that my kids will be on the right path. I loved you then, I love you now, and I will love you forever.”