WARNING: This post is going to basically be a diary entry about my Grandfather’s funeral and the events surrounding it. While this will probably only be of interest to family members, I just wanted to record it somewhere. I’ll make some other posts about historically-interesting things soon.
As I suppose people do, our family went into planning mode when we found out very early Friday that my grandfather had passed away. The funeral was scheduled for Monday morning, and we had to make the family come together in Lewistown, PA.
My immediate family – including my wife and son, my parents, my brother and his wife, all made plans to go up Sunday and spend the day with whatever other family members were there. As it turned out, there was quite a lot of company – my Uncle Dave and Aunt Dawn had driven from Illinois. My Aunt Marty made the trip from New Jersey. Uncle Rob and Aunt Faye live in town, and of course so does Grandma.
We all met up at Grandma’s house, and after a brief visit, went over to the funeral home for a 5:00pm private viewing for the family. I suppose the people at the funeral home want to make sure that everything is set up the way the family likes. I didn’t take any pictures at this stage, but it was very well done, as usual – both of my grandma’s parents, as well as both of my maternal grandparents, used the services of this home, so we are very familiar with their work – sad as that may be.
The whole family went back to Grandma’s house to make sandwiches and just visit for a little while. It was a really nice time. Isn’t it a shame that you never get together with family from all across the country until there’s a death? We just don’t make enough time for things like that. Since we all wanted Grandma to try and get some rest, we left around 8:00pm and went over to the hotel.
In the morning, we got ready and met up in the lobby. It turns out that Aunt Holly and Cousin Kyle had made the trip down from Canada and arrived late Sunday night. The whole family left together so that we could get to the funeral home by 9:30am. Once we got there, we met up with my cousin Michele (Uncle Dave’s daughter) and her husband Tim who had driven up from the eastern shore of Maryland.
We got our cars in order for the procession to the gravesite, and then went inside for the public viewing. There were pictures of Grandpa set out, and some flowers that family members had ordered were displayed near the casket. It was as nice an atmosphere as you can have for an event like that, I suppose.
Lots of people showed up for the viewing – more than I was expecting from the way Grandma talked about it anyway. My Grandpa had quite a full life, and that was represented by the folks who came to see him. There were friends from his days in the local police force, people he knew from church, and representatives from the VFW (as my Grandpa had served on the USS Alabama during the closing days of WWII).
The service itself was very nice. Rev. Robert Zorn, the pastor from my Grandparents’ church, did some readings and had some nice things to say about Grandpa. He regularly spent Monday mornings visiting with him out at the Malta Home, so he had a few stories to tell. My Uncle Dave eulogized Grandpa, and while he announced that he was nervous about his ability to get through that experience, he didn’t waiver at all. A friend of my Grandpa’s, Tom Gross, gave a lively and entertaining tribute – if a funeral can have such a thing, Tom was the life of the party.
Finally, it was time to go to the graveside. We wound through Lewistown, and out to Juniata Memorial Cemetery where the VFW representatives, and Grandpa’s flag-draped casket were waiting for us.
Rev. Zorn said a few words and then turned it over to the VFW honor guard who performed a flag-folding ceremony. My Grandma was given his flag and a few words of kind gratitude – an all too familiar scene. There was a rifle salute (which scared little John to the point of tears), and the playing of Taps (which seemed to soothe my son).
Dismissed from the graveside, we all met back at the church for a fried chicken lunch and some time to relax and share memories. I think we’re all grateful to the church ladies for making that happen.
Eventually, we found our way back to Grandma’s house to visit some more and to start going through the things that Grandpa left behind. Grandma wants to get his old office cleared out of books and miscellaneous papers, and in the process of starting that, we stumbled onto a treasure-trove of family history that we’ll have to go back up and start to catalog. I’ll share my initial impressions of that family history in a follow-up post.