We got word on Sunday evening that Hal's uncle had passed away that morning. It was no surprise, and somewhat of a relief to those near him that had watched his slow deterioration. Uncle Gene was the one extended family member of Hal's that I had gotten to know. I considered him a friend.
We "met" when Gene bought a computer and became a rover of the Internet. He also became an AOL member giving him Instant Message. That is where we would spend our time together. He, like myself, would just be on all day long, and our IM box would be open. We talked about genealogy, and he shared stories, and we talked politics. We'd swap jokes, and political cartoons. And spend hours "together".
Then he had some small strokes and he could no longer manage the keyboard. I lost my buddy.
The one thing he wanted to make very clear to me as I did the family tree, was that his name was GENE... not Eugene.
Funny thing was, he'd grown up believing his name was Eugene. In his youth at Parochial schools, a formal or proper name was required. He had always been listed as Eugene. He grew up believing his name was Eugene and he HATED the name!! His high school diploma had Eugene Fields printed on it. But when WWII caused him to enlist, he found himself for the first time in his life needing a copy of his birth certificate. When he picked it up, lo & behold he found out his name was GENE FIELDS. (*If the man ever had a middle name, he sure didn't tell anyone*)
The folks down at city hall let him know that he could correct it to read Eugene, but instead, he went back to his high school and had them amend their records. Never again would he be called Eugene. EVER!!
Hal, his sisters Marian, MaryJane and I rented a Malibu on Wednesday night and drove until 2AM to Dallas. We had a wonderful 5 hours worth of sleep and then off to the funeral mass. The viewing had been Wednesday evening and we were in Arkansas taking the "scenic tour" to Dallas at that time. (I still had toll road avoidance's programed on Garmin). The mass was actually very nice. Along with what the priest said Gene's son's spoke and shared personal stories. I now know Gene's nickname at GM where he work for over 30 years was Foots. My favorite uncle wore a size 15 shoe. He smoked Chesterfields cigarettes, was a stern disciplinarian and was always there to bail an in trouble kid out.. (but boy.... wait until you get home).
Hal and his sister got to visit cousins and had a great time at the brunch served between the Mass and the Internment, to which we did not attend. Then we changed clothes at the church, and headed for home, with Garmin taking us this time straight north to Wichita then on to KC. That path was not the one the sisters wanted but Garmin swears it was the fastest route. I have since found that about 50% of the people believe that true, the others agree with the twins that the road through Tulsa is faster. Oh well, ya can't please everybody.