This week we have sweet memories of Gary Elvis Cupps written by his brother Stanley Cupps.
We're also reprinting a story I wrote on Mr. Cupps in 2012 so our readers can hear about his love for Elvis in his own words. For the record, I put on some Elvis music in my office while I was getting these two things together. It seemed like the right thing to do.
"On Jan. 8, 2021, the 86th birthday of Elvis Presley was celebrated. On Jan. 14, 2021, the passing away of another Elvis was celebrated. That Elvis was Gary Elvis Cupps, 68 years old, of the Sumiton-Empire area.
"He grew up as the 12th child (ninth boy) of D.D. and Beulah Cupps of the Empire Road area. He attended Sumiton School and graduated from Dora High School in 1970.
"He worked local jobs growing up and learned to have a tremendous love for Elvis Presley and his music. He changed his given name of Gary Wayne to Gary Elvis legally. He visited Graceland in Memphis a total of 22 different times throughout his life.
"In 1996 he had a tragic accident at work and as a result lost both of his legs and lived the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He never let the loss of his legs interfere with his life. He always had a smile and never met a stranger. He loved people and he loved the Lord.
"During his stay at Harbor Chase Assisted Living in Jasper, he met Robert Glass, an Elvis impersonator, and his wife, Pam, a Patsy Cline impersonator. Gary Elvis got to be good friends with them and talked often with them on the phone. He visited several of their shows through the years.
"He liked other singers and entertainers such as Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, Keith Whitley and others, but Elvis Presley was his favorite. At one point, he had some bridge work done on his teeth and had them stencil E-L-V-I-S on the bridge before putting it in his mouth. He loved Elvis.
"During the last year of his life, he defeated COVID-19. Then about two months later he had heart problems and ended up at UAB Hospital for a stint in his heart and on dialysis to help his kidneys shed the excess fluid around his organs. His weak kidneys and dialysis were not able to sustain his precious life.
"Elvis left the building on Jan. 14, 2021.
"A few months before he died, he asked Debbie Cupps to put him a new pair of shoes in his casket when he died. Debbie said, 'Why do you want shoes in the casket? You don't have any legs.' Gary said, 'I don't have legs down here, but when I get to Heaven, I'll have legs and I want to put on my new shoes and walk those streets of gold."
"In planning his Celebration of Life funeral, family members thought what a celebration it would be if 'Elvis' came to the funeral celebration. Robert Glass was contacted and he gladly appeared as Elvis, dressed in a shiny black Elvis suit trimmed in gold and sang three beautiful songs. The first song was a tribute to Gary and his love for people in his life. That song was 'Love Me Tender.' The next song was one of Elvis' greatest gospel songs, 'How Great Thou Art.' The third song was also a great tribute to Gary and his fabulous life, even in a handicapped body. His handicap never affected his love of people. The third song was 'I Did It My Way.'
"After turning the service over to Rev. Joel Cardon that had been Gary's friend for many years, Joel did a fantastic job of celebrating Gary's life with prayer and scripture from the Bible.
"Prior to the graveside service, there was a visitation of family and friends. There was a session where friends and family members stood up and told stories about times each one had with Gary. A good time was had by all present.
"After Rev. Joel Carden finished his part of the celebration at graveside, Elvis put on a tape that went to a very fast drumroll then suddenly stopped and a voice came on and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building!"
"A great time was had by all present.
"P.S. There was a brand new pair of Blue Suede shoes in the casket.
"Walk on, Gary Elvis. We all love you."
We're still accepting submissions for our Sweet Memories column that we started last summer.
I invite anyone who has stories to tell about a loved one to write them down and send them my way.
If you would like to have your loved one featured in our new Sweet Memories column, please email email@example.com or you can reach me by phone at 205-221-2840.