When Larry Honeycutt of Willow Spring felt well, he often fired up his pig cooker and invited friends over for a barbecue. A few weeks ago, three friends went out of their way to return the favor.
Until recently, Honeycutt, 59, was a patient at the SECU Hospice House in Smithfield; he is now receiving care at home. While the former landscape-business owner had a steady stream of visitors at the hospice house, none attracted more attention than Steve Rimbey, a church friend who rolled up the driveway one recent morning with Honeycutt’s beloved pig cooker in tow.
With permission from the Hospice House, Rimbey and two other friends from Willow Spring, Keith Parker and Tim Ruffin, parked the cooker just outside Honeycutt’s room and fired up the grill. Through his open window, Honeycutt could see and smell the cooking spare ribs every time someone lifted the lid. And he was close enough to listen in and join the conversation.
It’s no ordinary pig cooker, said Anne Honeycutt, who has been married to Larry since 1985. It was handed down to him from his father nearly 30 years ago, she said. And over the years, it’s been at the center of many neighborhood get-togethers and barbecue chicken dinners at White Memorial Presbyterian Church in western Johnston County, where the couple married and have been faithful members.
When the UNC men’s basketball team won the National Championship in 2005, the men of the church surprised Honeycutt by refurbishing the pig cooker, painting it Carolina blue and attaching a commemorative plaque, Anne said. “That’s made the pig cooker even more special,” she said.
Ruffin says it was Honeycutt’s wish to see the pig cooker in action one last time. He and Parker met and got to know Honeycutt and Rimbey at their favorite breakfast spot, Jus’ Enuff Home Cookin’ on Main Street in Fuquay-Varina.
In August, Honeycutt’s friends and the restaurant hosted a barbecue and raised nearly $5,000 to offset his medical bills. Rimbey, who helped with the cooking, said more than 600 people turned out for the event.
Kristin Lassiter, the coordinator for hospice volunteers, says the barbecue gathering thrilled the staff and volunteers, who try to grant as many wishes as they can for patients. “It was such a wonderful thing to do,” Lassiter said. “He has such good friends.”
Anne Honeycutt said her husband has been humbled by his friends’ efforts to help out. “He has a gentle spirit, and he’s fun to be around. I think he would have done the same for them,” she said.