Thursday, October 06, 2011

My Last Uncle Redux - Holy Fuck

So my daughter, young Galadriel Tanqueray Onassis and I drove down to Coffeyville, KS today to bury my last uncle.

She told me she would come along, but what really sealed the deal was when my dad asked her to come and she agreed.

It wasn't until after that that I informed her it would be a 4 hour drive. Each. Way. Mwahahahahaha! She couldn't back out.

She had already promised grandpa she was coming. She couldn't back out and disappoint grandpa.

Although I was born in Coffeyville, I hadn't been down that way in a very long time. I decided to take the camera along and allow a little extra drive time on the way down so I could get some interesting pictures along the way.

That stretch of road is as empty as the space between Sarah Palin's ears!

It's as barren as Marcus Bachmann's nut sack!

It's as uninteresting as Herman Cain's foreign policy views.

Just like Rick Perry, there's no "there" there.

I took a bunch of CDs to share with GTO but she wasn't having it. She preferred to listen to her own stuff on her iPod. So the drive down was LOOOOOOOOONG.

There was no funeral for Uncle Joe. Just a graveside service with full military honors.

We get to the cemetery and my dad and his wife were already there, sitting under a wind-whipped blue awning protecting Uncle Joe's flag-draped casket.

Standing at attention, some distance away, were nine members of of the 1st Infantry Division, the "Big Red One" from Ft. Riley, KS.

They were there in full uniform and white gloves to send a fellow soldier off on his final mission with all of the honor and dignity he had earned.

A representative from the funeral home was there and she handed out the little pamphlet that has all of the salient points of Uncle Joe's life in a succinct Cliff Notes presentation. Birth date. Death date. WWII service in the South Pacific. Married twice. Divorced twice. No children, Professional photographer. Night club owner.

WAIT! WTF? Uncle Joe owned a night club? I did not know that! That's an interesting little tidbit! I'll need to add that to my genealogy files!

So my cousins trickle in, the clock hits 2:00 and a minister gets up to say a few words. Blah, blah, blah, God's love, Jesus died, eternal life, whatevies, Amen!

With that, the real show began. I had never been to a graveside service with full military honors. I was very impressed. I'll tell you what I remember, although it may not be 100% accurate.

When the minister finished talking, Sgt. Roman (yes, that was his name) slowly walked from the line of soldiers to the head of my uncle's flag-draped casket. He stood at attention, locked his gaze on a point so impossibly distant only the Hubble Space Telescope could have shared his view, and executed a very slow, deliberate and graceful salute.

He held that salute and locked his gaze while 7 soldiers fired 3 volleys from their rifles.

He continued to salute while a lone bugler played a slow and mournful rendition of Taps, signalling the final lights out.

With Taps complete, the soldiers in the field passed their weapons down from soldier to soldier and they were assembled in a precise, self supporting arrangement, barrels pointed skyward. One soldier was left standing guard over the weapons.

Six of the soldiers solemnly walked to my uncle's casket, removed the flag and brought it into the sun. Carefully and precisely, and with great reverence, they folded it into a very tight triangle. The triangle is an homage to the tricorn hats worn during the American Revolution. Sgt. Roman accepted the folded flag, walked over to my father, bows down, looked my father directly in the eyes, and said the following just loudly enough for my father to hear, not meant for anyone else.

"On behalf of the President of the United States and the people of a grateful nation, may I present this flag as a token of appreciation for the honorable and faithful service your loved one rendered this nation."

After my father accepted the flag, Sgt. Roman righted himself, turned, and strode off in a very deliberate, dramatic and practiced fashion to rejoin his fellow soldiers.

As I said, I was very, very impressed. The Big Red One did my uncle proud.

After the graveside service, there was to be a dinner at a local restaurant. During dinner, many Uncle Joe stories were exchanged. Including his time as a night club owner in Texas.

Turns out, Uncle Joe owned a night club in Dallas, on Commerce Street in the early 1960's and was good friends with Jack Ruby.


This Jack Ruby?

The guy who shot Lee Harvey Oswald?

The guy who shot JFK?


What started as a perfectly normal day, involving a long road trip and awkward familial interactions ended with me only having 4 Degrees of Separation from the JFK Assassination.

My Uncle was a "good friend" of Jack Ruby who killed Lee Harvey Oswald who killed JFK.

Holy Fuck Balls! What else don't I know about Uncle Joe?


Anonymous said...

It's so strange the things we find out about members in our families only after they have passed. The sort of things a lot of the time we would have loved to have shared with them about those things.

So glad the Big Red One Honor Guard did the honors for your Uncle Joe and sent him off with honor and dignity.

You are very right I as well have made the trip to Coffeyville several times and beyond and it is such a very boring drive. Have to stop in Chanute to get a drink or something to least let your mind rest from the boring drive. Great music helps but you’re right have to take your own due to no normal radio stations in that part of the world. Depending on when you lived there may have known an old friend of mine. And Coffeyville has to me anyway some interesting past history. The Brown mansion the Dalton gang and so forth.

Donna said...

We drive in that direction a lot. Cliff's brother lives just past Independence, Ks. I forget whether it's 69 or 169, but one of those is much more scenic than the other. Of course, it helps if we're on the motorcycle. Everything looks better from the Gold Wing.

I Travel for JOOLS said...

I guess you know Jack Ruby also owned clubs. That's probably how they were acquainted.

Interesting read other than that crap about Palin et al. Better be careful as some day you may find out they are kin or something. Come to think of it, you kinda look like Herman Cain.

Faith said...

I teared up reading your description of the graveside service! That's so neat...

I wish his soul peace. I hope you're doing ok with the loss.

Lee said...

Cool story!