P.T. Staples was talking about getting back on a bulldozer up until the day he died.
Hard work is what drove the dirt and gravel contractor, remember both family and friends. It was one of his great loves.
“He didn’t fish. He didn’t hunt. He didn’t go golfing,” said Tyler Staples, who worked with his father in the family business, P.T. Staples Contracting. “He just worked. On his day off, he’d go work some more.”
Mr. Staples died Sunday at Greenwood Leflore Hospital from multiple health problems.
He was 71.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at North Greenwood Baptist Church, with visitation in the church parlor from 9 a.m. until service time.
In 1977, Mr. Staples had been working as a dockhand loading trucks in Memphis when he decided to return to his hometown of Greenwood and go into business for himself.
He started modestly with a backhoe and a dump truck that he bought on credit, said Tyler Staples.
It was a one-man operation at the beginning. Mr. Staples would haul a load of dirt to the work site, dump it and spread it himself, then go back and get another.
He would grow the business to about 10 dump trucks in the late 1980s, before scaling back to half that size.
His company, which primarily hauls dirt and clay gravel, has a dozen employees today.
Mr. Staples was still operating the company’s bulldozers until his declining health sidelined him about a year ago. He had started dialysis five years ago to deal with renal failure but then had to have open-heart surgery. The complications just cascaded, including a blood infection and liver failure, until his body gave out.
Tyler Staples said that in addition to his father’s incredible work ethic, he was known for being a straight talker who dealt with people of all economic classes the same.
“If he liked you, you knew it. If he didn’t like you, you knew it, too,” said Tyler Staples. “He didn’t care if he was talking to the richest man in Greenwood or the poorest bum, he was going to treat you the same.”
One of Mr. Staples’ longtime employees, Chuck Morgan, said Mr. Staples “was just like a second daddy.”
Morgan, the contractor’s shop foreman and job foreman, has worked on and off for Mr. Staples for 40 of Morgan’s 60 years. Even when Morgan tried his hand at farming or other pursuits, their friendship didn’t waver.
“If I ever needed him for anything, he was there, no doubt,” Morgan recalled.
Mr. Staples gave Greenwood City Councilman Johnny Jennings his start as a property owner downtown.
About 20 years ago, Jennings bought from Mr. Staples three adjacent properties in the 300 block of Howard Street. Mr. Staples financed the transaction at a rate of interest better than the banks would offer, recalled Jennings.
“He kind of helped me get a toehold on some of my property downtown,” Jennings said.
Jennings was fascinated by Mr. Staples, whom Jennings described as a “big guy with a big heart.” Jennings said Mr. Staples was generous with his time and advice, had a knack for making money and was remarkably resourceful.
“He was the kind of guy you could take to Phoenix, Arizona, give him a pair of pliers, some baling wire and a roll of duct tape, and in a year he would be in business and standing on his feet.”
Mr. Staples is survived also by his wife of 49 years, Wilma, as well as two daughters, one other son and 11 grandchildren.
Greenwood Delta Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
•Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or email@example.com.