Friday morning we got word that Uncle Don died. He had been in the hospital in Macon for several weeks, after having fallen and sustaining serious head injuries. He died on Thursday. The funeral was to be in Eastman on Saturday (yesterday) and a memorial service is to be held to day at Wofford College in Spartanburg. He was Professor Emeritus at Wofford, where he had taught biology for 40 years before retiring, having started his career there at age 22, while working on his PhD at Emory. (The link has a good photo of Don.)
We knew that he was desperately ill, and as soon as we got word, Carol made arrangements for us to fly to Jacksonville Friday evening, stay in a hotel near the airport, and then get a car for us to drive to Eastman the next morning. We arrived at Ann and Don's church Saturday morning a little after 11AM, in time for the visitation that had just begun and the service at Noon. After the service, we drove in the caravan to the cemetery outside of town, and then came back to the church for lunch, where folks there had laid out a marvelous meal.
Ann and Don's children and grandchildren were there, of course. Their children are Donna, Mark, and Philip. Donna has four children, all daughters. Mark has three children, a son and two daughters. Philip has two children, a son and a daughter. But there were a lot of other people there, a lot of kinfolk, some of whom we had not seen in many years, some since my mother's burial in Atlanta three years ago this April, and still others since Ann and Don's 50th wedding anniversary celebration at that same church in 2002 or 2003. My cousin Butch Hemperley and his wife were there from Atlanta. My Uncle Asa and his wife from Hutchinson Island, Florida, were there, and many others. Among the most interesting among them all were the younger people, mainly the grandchildren, and I regret that I did not have the opportunity to visit with each one of them. Our short time there was quite structured - it was only about 5 hours - for we started back to Jacksonville about 4PM, arriving at our hotel after 8PM.
I want to post more about Uncle Don and Aunt Ann later. They meant so much to me, as a model of a loving couple, fine parents, as community and professional leaders, very, very hard workers and people who helped and supported me directly, especially when I was at Duke and they showed such hospitality to a lonely boy. I was there at the beginning of their marriage, at their wedding in East Point in 1952, and now I am there at the end of their marriage in Eastman. I find myself profoundly saddened, but very thankful for them both.