Sunday, August 20, 2017

Tribute to my Uncle Leland

They buried my Uncle Leland Walsh two days ago.

He was 100 years old.

Had led a good, fulfilling life as a member of “the Greatest Generation.” That’s what noted journalist Tom Brokaw has written of those—such as my Uncle Leland—who endured the tribulations of the Great Depression and then gone on to selflessly serve our country in World War II.

Leland Walsh was my dad’s sister’s first husband. Dad always liked visiting him at his residence in the Stoney Creek community of Carter County, Tenn.

“Come back. Don’t stay away so long,” I can still hear Uncle Leland saying as we’d head up for home.

Uncle Leland loved for people to visit him. He loved his family. He had long been divorced from his first wife—Novella Timbs Peters (who passed away late last year)—and he had remarried.

But he never forgot my “Aunt Vell”; and I’ve heard tell that he still loved her after all those years of being remarried and then losing beloved second wife Ethel to death.

As recently as a few years ago, after he’d lost Ethel, Uncle Leland wanted one last kiss and hug from Aunt Vell. I urged her to go up to Stoney Creek and give it to him.

She never would do it.

At his graveside service Friday morning—at a pastoral cemetery in rural Butler, Tenn.—Brent Nidiffer, minister, recalled how Uncle Leland had been a veteran of the U.S. Navy and served as an elder in his church.

He always put his faith and family foremost in his life.

A gentle mountain breeze caressed the little cemetery where Uncle Leland’s flag-draped coffin was laid to rest. It happened under a cloudy sky that threatened rain. But the rain held off.

A military honors color guard stood at attention, then fired three shots into the air.

A crisply dressed U.S. Marine corps private sacredly and carefully folded the flag and presented it to my first cousin Larry Walsh “on behalf of the president of the United States.”

The graveside service—simple but profound—ended with a solemn prayer—thanking the Lord for Leland Walsh’s life and requesting comfort for Uncle Leland’s grieving family and friends.

Farewell, Uncle Leland (pictured as a strapping young man with this blog post).