Funeral for a Patriot

The American flag had high visibility at Uncle Howard’s funeral in Memphis. The day began for us as we drove by the public school where he was involved with the students and teachers. For years he timed his daily walk to coincide with the arrival of the walkers whom he greeted by name.  He gave his eyewitness account of the bombing of Pearl Harbor over 300 times to school groups in the area.

091415 (1) Sign at Snowden School

The first thing I noticed as we approached the church was the array flags. You could have covered a battleship with them! Not only were flags at the front, but they also lined the side walkway. At the back, where most people entered, the flags had human attachments! Patriot Guard Riders stood there holding large flags from noon until 3:00. These bikers escorted us to the Memorial Gardens and again stood holding flags as the coffin was carried in for the ceremony.

I took a photo of the inside of the church before the crowd came. Almost every picture has a companion thought of “I wish I had taken…” The sanctuary was almost half full, but because I was treated as family, I couldn’t get that shot. A hint to the number of people expected was their having two or three guest books for attendees to sign.   Howard was dressed in his uniform, as requested, and the casket was closed before the service began.

Although Howard was not blood kin of Freddy’s three children, he was their paternal grandfather in every other sense of the word.  These young people are interesting, poised, and articulate. I wish you could have seen how they mingled with guests, talking with them easily, making introductions, and helping the infirm, of whom there were many.  If our country were made up of young people like these, we old geezers would have no worries about the future of the US.

We didn’t expect to see anyone we knew, but our classmate Jan came through the door. There ensued a mini college reunion. Jan had played her violin for our wedding 51 years ago, but more to the point, she had visited Howard every couple of weeks for the last few years. Howard made a point of knowing every Snowdon person who passed the corner of the school, and Jan was the guidance counselor there. Somehow Howard made the connection that we knew Jan, and he invited her to meet us in his apartment in 2004.

091415 (15) John Jan Lowi Horne
John and Jan

Inanimate (in-anne-imate) objects speak to me, how I don’t know. There were roses lined up on a table in the church entrance, and they wanted me to take their picture. In due course, the roses rode the lapels of the pallbearers and were left atop the coffin. They marked Howard’s journey from the church where he spent half his life to his final resting place.

Salute to Uncle Howard

John’s Uncle Howard, 97, died in his sleep last night. As recently as two weeks ago he recognized John’s cousin Harold on the telephone, so he was quite sharp almost to the end.

We met Howard when he married Aunt Kay, both in their mid-60’s at the time. The first thing we noticed was that he loved Kay deeply. They had many years to enjoy each other and travel before she had a stroke, and he took care of her until her death. Howard had no children of his own, but he was a much loved grandfather to Kay’s grandchildren.

He was a man of faith and a man of high principles. Within an hour of meeting him, you’d know that he was dedicated to serving others in his church and that he was a Navy man, through and through. He was a Pearl Harbor survivor, one of the last living ones in Memphis. He was always available to talk about Pearl Harbor to groups, especially school children. He became a pilot in the Navy and a stock broker after retirement.

My children remember Howard as a fun person who insisted on being addressed as sir. He came from Indiana, but the sir came from Navy discipline and years of living in Memphis. You didn’t give him a naked yes or no. It was yes, sir and no, sir. Adhering to standards made the children respect him without lessening their enjoyment of him.

We saw Howard one month ago and suspected we were saying goodbye for the last time. He had a hard time placing us, but he said all the socially correct things. He was caring and disciplined to the end.

I was chatting with college friend Bonnie a few minutes ago and mentioned that John’s uncle had died.

“Was that Howard?” she asked. “I’ve heard about him for years.”

That’s when I knew I should let everyone know that their e-mail acquaintance had gone to his eternal home.

Mission Accomplished

We saw the people we planned to see on this trip, and now we are heading home. John’s Uncle Howard was in great spirits, but we don’t think he remembered we were coming. It took him a while to know who we were and get us sorted out in his mind. He is 97 years old, so he can be forgiven for taking his time. He still has a clear memory of the bombing of Pearl Harbor where he had a ringside seat. There are only two other Pearl Harbor survivors in Memphis.

080815 AM Howard JC N copyI rather liked that photo because I knew when I took it that I was visible in the mirror.

I was embarrassed that I nodded off several times. We brought in ribs and barbecue sandwiches from Howard’s favorite BBQ place, and we were all as full as ticks. In addition, we were facing the sun streaming through floor to ceiling windows. The difference between squinting and sleeping was about 1/8 inch. I apologized to John later for not being able to stay awake. He said, “That’s OK. We all nodded off from time to time.”

We stopped in Jackson to see Mary and Joe. Joe and I grew up in the same town, but Mary is the one I keep in touch with. I asked how she heard about Union University where they met, since she lived 5 or 6 hours away. It seems a good friend from her town went there a year ahead of her. She voluntarily promised her parents she would come back home; she would not fall in love and marry anyone far away.

080815 N Mary Cepparulo
                                                                Nathaniel and Mary

She started college, and sometime later her dad telephoned her and asked how her love life was going. She said, “There is nothing to worry about. I’ve dated this guy a couple of times, but we don’t have the same values.”

As soon as they hung up, her dad said to her mom, “We’re going to Jackson this weekend. Mary has met the man she’s going to marry, and I want to check him out.”

I think Mary said they have been married 48 years.

While I was enjoying Mary, John was talking to Joe. I doubt the two men had ever spent more than a few minutes together. John learned a lot about Joe’s dad in the war and about Joe himself. Nathaniel said he was tired and didn’t plan to talk. He was quiet, but he became animated when Mary chatted with him.

080815 Joe Cepparulo JC
                                                                 Joe and John

It was wonderful to reconnect with these dear people. We will drive hard tomorrow so that John will be home for cardiac rehab on Monday.