My Great-Uncle Harry died yesterday late afternoon at the age of 95. He was blessed with a sound mind right up to the end. Only his body has failed him, gradually and surely.
The long-legged man who spent his adulthood tramping through the woods as a timber cruiser for Crown Zellerbach could no longer move about without a wheelchair. His preternaturally brown hair turned slowly to gray only in the last ten years.
E and I alway made sure to visit Harry when we went to the coast. We took him to lunch at his favorite restaurant where he had one of his favorite meals: oyster stew and hot chocolate. This always brought out the story of the man who rented an oyster bed, borrowed a boat to check on them and ended up getting stuck in the mud.
Harry would tell us stories from when he was a boy, growing up on the farm when there was only the river for transportation. And he kept us up-to-date on the local controversy over the planned development of a liquid natural gas storage facility.
Afterwards we would take a drive through the country. Once we went all the way to Saddle Mountain. Harry couldn’t walk well at that time, but back in the day he could hike up and down the mountain without breaking a sweat. He told us about the spring at the top of the mountain. Scientists had no explanation for it, he said; it was evidence of God.
Harry was the most religious person we knew who did not go to church. He like the preaching of Rev. Billy Graham. One Christmas I gave Harry and Aunt Helen, who was still living then, a “boom box” so they could listen to a casette tape they had received in return for sending money to the Billy Graham ministry.
Harry was the last of his generation in my family. Even of my dad’s generation there are only a few members remaining. Not very many people to call with the news. I don’t know whether we’ll have a service, but if we do it will be small. Harry will be cremated and his ashes interred with Aunt Helen, in our family plot on the hill, looking out over the tidelands and the river.