He was born on the waters of eastern North Carolina, raising horses and cattle and letting them roam the outer banks to feed in the summers. Having moved to the "big city" he worked his dad's dairy farm and spent all his spare time on the beach. His family lived off the land during the Great Depression.
He and Mother first fell in love when she was fourteen - what was my Grandmother thinking to let her date a 16-year old with a driver's license? Life and war intervened and they went their separate ways - each marrying too young, but raising five children between them before divorce left them alone again.
There are too many stories to tell of his younger days. As a merchant sailor he helped break the ice floes to open up the port of Murmansk during WWII and to save the lives of untold numbers of people. Fifty years later the Russian government sent him an honest-to-goodness medal for that. He cherished it and showed it to anyone who would look. Later he joined the Air Force and learned to repair diesel engines - a skill he would later use on fancy European cars.
He was a partyer and a drinker; the teller of outrageous stories. He knew - or was known by - everyone in town, and not always in a good way. In retirement he lived on his beloved trawler - the last of a long line of boats he had sailed. He docked her at friends' piers or in marinas, but was never far from her.
And then he married Mother. In their seventies, they rekindled their love and decided to take the chance. A decade of love and companionship followed and they seemed to relish their time together - until dementia began to rob him of reality. Gone was her love, her companion, the one who shared her memories, the man who had made her laugh off and on for 70 years. The man who never knew she had gone before him.
After six years in a nursing home, he will join her one last time today - lying side by side forever. We were happy to have him in our family - even for a short time. Rest in peace.
2 days ago