Thursday, June 29, 2006

"This Is The Last Of 'Em"

(The above title comes from the words my husband spoke last night)

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This past week, we lost Walt, our last close friend who was a member of “The Greatest Generation.” In many ways, Walt was a second father to both my husband and me.

The following is an excerpt from Walt’s obituary:
“Born in Kentucky…[h]e served in the U.S. Army from 1941 until 1945 as a Sergeant Major. After military service, he was a budget analyst for the USDA for 37 years. He was an avid sportsman in hunting, fishing and competition skeet shooting. He was lifetime member of the NRA. His wife…preceded him in death. He is survived by his son…,several grandchildren, two sisters…”
Walt’s obituary doesn’t begin to communicate what a wonderful person he was! Obituaries never do. As part of the American death-ritual, they are impersonal and formulaic.

Take the phrase “budget analyst.” If you asked Walt what he did at the USDA, he’d invariably reply, “I was in charge of SWAGS. Silly wild-ass guesses. In other words, I was a statistician.” Walt knew thousands of one-liners and jokes, and he was the life of every party he attended. Nothing in the obituary communicates how alive he was.

Or take this phrase: “an avid sportsman in hunting, fishing and competition skeet shooting.” Those words don’t begin to communicate how superior a sportsman Walt was. He kept our freezer stocked with venison, fowl, and fish. And he provided the recipes, too, so that I could cook up a savory feast. As for competition skeet shooting, I’ve never seen a better shot. Well into his 80s, Walt was a force to be reckoned with at the range as he defeated competitors many years his junior. He was a modern Daniel Boone!

My husband and I had four friends who were members of “The Greatest Generation”: Earl, Charlie, Danny, and Walt—all of them with whom we made acquaintance through my husband’s work and coin business. We lost Earl to multiple sclerosis, Charlie to a heart attack, Danny to liver cancer, and now Walt to complications following surgery for gall-bladder excision and hernia repair. Those four friends were both Republicans and Democrats. What they shared was their unabashed patriotism and the highest sense of integrity. We’ll never again have friends like that group of four.

As I wrote in another tribute,
“We're going to miss those chats around the kitchen table—and Walt's wonderful one-liners. He could always make us smile.

“Walt is the last of our friends from ‘The Greatest Generation,’ and his passing is the end of an era for us on a personal level. We'll miss him!”
The next few days will be devoted to the funeral rites for a dear friend. This Fourth of July will be the first in some three decades without Walt.


At 6/29/2006 8:26 PM, Blogger Gayle said...

Absolutely beautiful tribute. You both were lucky to know him. He reminds me of our friend and gardner who we lost on May the 8th. Great at one-liners, and many interesting stories around the table.

These sort of people will never be replaced, but we can carry their memory in our hearts. In so doing, they are still alive.

My sincere condolences for your loss.

At 6/29/2006 9:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AOW, I offer both you and your husband -- and Walt's family -- my most sincere sympathies. In spite of the rituals you spoke of, remember that Walt will continue to be with us for as long as anyone can remember him. May God bless him, his loved ones who remain behind, and of course, both you and "D".

Semper Fidelis, my friend

At 6/29/2006 9:11 PM, Blogger Freedomnow said...

You were blessed to know such a man. He had a good long life and that is a cause for happiness for those who wish to see people reap what they have earned.

Life isnt always fair and we should take notice when it is...

At 6/29/2006 9:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, AOW. He sounds like a wonderful man. And I totally aggree that obituaries are so lifeless and dull.

What awful thunderstorms, don't you think? I hope your basement isn't too flooded. My dog is scared to death over thunderstorms. He's taken to hiding under my desk when it's thundering. No leg room...sigh...

Stay safe!


At 6/29/2006 10:55 PM, Blogger LA Sunset said...


You have my heartfelt sympathy in your loss of what sounds like a special man that had a special plce in your hearts. My thoughts and prayers are most certainly with you.

May God grant you the strength and the wisdom to endure this grief. May the true peace of God be upon you both.

At 6/29/2006 11:06 PM, Blogger beakerkin said...

An excellent tribute and it is important to learn from the earlier generations. I remember sitting as a young boy listening to my uncles tales of WW1 and anothers experiences in the Holocaust.

At 6/30/2006 12:22 AM, Blogger Dardin Soto said...

the term "greatest generation" is not a moniker brandied about for nothing. I have lost many family mambers and friends who were Americans at a time when in spite of social changes and chaos, we were of a softer spirit, simpler desires, and longer longing for the ideals of America.
My condolenses, ... He is truly in the best fruited plane ever...

At 6/30/2006 6:49 AM, Blogger The Merry Widow said...

AoW- I understand, my folks were both "in" that war. Their outlook on life was simpler and more grateful, it is an honor and priviledge to know any of them! I am still wrestling with being the "terminal" generation in my family, I think they carried it with better grace!
G*D bless you, you hubby and Walt's family!


At 6/30/2006 7:14 AM, Blogger Brooke said...

AoW: Mine and my husband's condolences to you and your family, and to Walt's.

Walt paved the way for the greatness that our country currently enjoys, and it sounds like he also paved the way to great experiences and memories for your family.

At 6/30/2006 7:23 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Walt's family is having a difficult time finding enough pallbearers who personally knew Walt. My husband will, of course, serve in that capacity; it is an honor to be asked to be pallbearer.

I hope that some more of Walt's friends will be available to serve.

At 6/30/2006 7:45 AM, Blogger Old Soldier said...

AOW, my heart felt condolences to you, your family and Walt's family.

At 6/30/2006 8:48 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

As mentioned by several commenters, Walt lives on in our memories. Right now, there is a certain amount of pain in reliving those memories. But with time, the memories will become less painful and tributes in and of themselves.

Walt will be buried in the same cemetery as my parents. He often placed an American flag on his wife's grave (She died in a house fire a few years back, when she went back inside to get the dog), and my husband and I will try to do the same for the graves now.

At 6/30/2006 8:50 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

My cats have no fear of thunderstorms. Cameo, our boldest one, bushes herself up and actually runs to the window to see what all the noise is--after a brief moment of startlement. Our oldest one (Sheba, age 18) can't hear the thunder, now that she's almost completely deaf.

But the cats weren't happy about that basement seepage. They stood on watch, just like sentinels.

How is that Latin review going? ;)
Don't forget to read Edith Hamilton!

At 6/30/2006 10:42 AM, Blogger elmers brother said...


Hooyah! to Walt and all the Greatest Generation. I will be praying for you and Walt's family.

At 6/30/2006 1:31 PM, Blogger nanc said...

powerful tribute, aow - not to lessen the life of walt, but i'm sure the Lord will see fit to put more great people in your life as He knows how much you and your husband love and appreciate them.

Hopefully, the Lord will put walts into all our lives if for no other reason than to show us just how others are far more important than ourselves.

go with G-d.

At 6/30/2006 1:41 PM, Blogger WomanHonorThyself said...

So so sorry for your loss AOW..u say unabashed patriotism and the highest sense of integrity....where do u find pple like that nowadays?..sigh. You were blessed to have one another.

At 6/30/2006 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is very sad to see members of such a great generation leave us, one by one. Our prayers go out to their family, friends and you and your husband.

At 6/30/2006 7:13 PM, Blogger citizen_us said...

Walt, by your description, was a great human being/friend/man.

It sounds like your life was enriched in many ways by him, and the world will be less interesting without him.

I mourn your loss.

At 7/01/2006 2:31 AM, Blogger Dan Zaremba said...

It is sad.
They are leaving us one by one.
Sorry about your loss.
I must've been great knowing this kind of person.

At 7/01/2006 8:45 AM, Blogger cube said...

I'm sorry for your loss. Walt sounds like a heck of a man. I think he's looking down and feeling very pleased about your loving tribute to his life.

At 7/01/2006 2:20 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I'm very sorry to hear about your loss. Walt sounds like the kind of friend each of us hopes to have.

I've had the honor of knowing several members of the "Greatest Generation". Sadly, most of them are leaving this World for the Great Beyond. We owe so much to them for the sacrifices they made for us. God bless them all.

At 7/02/2006 5:38 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Thanks to all for your kind words! Yesterday was a long day--and a sad one for those who knew and loved Walt.

The services were dignified, as befitted this fine man. I didn't quite have the nerve to get up in church and read this tribute, but it got some circulation at the house after the services.

MDW (Military District of Washington) showed up at the cemetery to fold the flag and to pay taps. The weather was perfect, too--a small thing, really, but a comfort. Once back at the house, many of us took time to walk down to Walt's garden, which is beginning to bear right now: tomatoes and cucumbers. Walt always put in his garden as early as possible.

Flowers, along with a small American flag, were on Walt's wife's grave at the cemetery. Those were probably the last flowers Walt placed there. He was so faithful about visiting his wife's grave.


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