Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Everyone should have an Uncle Ed

This is what we wrote for my Uncle Ed's funeral service. It was a collaborative effort from all the nieces and nephews who were gathered around my parents dining room table.

Uncle Ed Memories from the people who called him Uncle - or as he would have called us, a bunch of "hahn-yacks".

Because he never married or had his own children, we all became his children. While our parents were boring responsible adults, Uncle Ed always had time for us.

When he was younger Uncle Ed was fun. He had a camper. He had a boat. He had the outdoor gene. He loved to hunt and fish and go camping. As a kid, nothing was more exciting than getting to sleep in the camper… in the driveway.

For a couple of summers, when Barb and Ted went on their summer vacation, they took Gary to stay in Yakima. How do you entertain a 12 year old boy in the summer in Yakima? If you were Ed the answer would be, go to the auto supply store, visit other Aunts and Uncles, go fishing and hang out with retired friends. As a kid, it was fun to be included with the adults.

It showed a point that Uncle Ed wanted to make. He used to say, "If you want to learn something, go to where the old people hang out. Ask them a question, then shut up and listen."

Uncle Ed was a window into our parents that we didn’t have. He told tales on them that they would shout and tell him to stop telling. He was willing to pull back the curtain of perfection that our parents hung up and reveal all the rotten things they did as kids. They were human once, and we really loved knowing they weren’t so perfect after all.

Gary remembers once when Ed was over visiting from Yakima. He was upstairs in his room and all of a sudden he heard Ed and Ted laughing hysterically. They were watching the "Odd Couple" on TV and laughing at the scene where Oscar hit Felix with the newspaper. Karen’s Dad, Kenneth used to say that "Ted & Ed weren’t really twins, they were just born at the same time." In many ways they were the original Odd Couple.

The first wave of kids grew up and they had children of their own. A new group of nieces and nephews got their own Uncle Ed. A new group of children discovered what is was to have an adult ready to tell tales on how rotten their parents were. A new group of kids needed their own Uncle Ed.

He took his great-niece Ashley to the park and kept her entertained giving her divorced parent Karen a break. He sat with her and read her stories without Ashley discovering that due to bad eyes, Ed couldn’t actually read the story in the book. Instead of saying I can’t do that, he sat and made up stories to match the pictures in her books. His great-nephew Sam would ask, "Is Uncle Ed going to be there? Because then I‘ll have someone to play with."

You didn’t have to be born into this family to have an Uncle Ed. Marry one of us, you’re in. Get adopted, you’re in. Wander a little too close to the family, or stay a little too long, you’re in. He took an interest in what you did, and was pleased for your success. For a cranky guy, he still knew how to show you that you were loved.

Uncle Ed injured his back when he was 42. Because of the constant pain his mood understandably changed. He wasn’t able to continue working. He had to give up his camper. He couldn’t keep his boat. When Ed was sitting in the hospital looking back over his life, he told us, "I have no regrets. I’ve done everything I wanted to." Then he added, that he actually had one regret. His one regret in life was giving up his boat. Out of all the things in life someone could regret, that was his only one.

As many relatives and friends made their way in to visit him, the staff at the nursing home told Jim that Ed must have been a very special man. At first he was going to correct them and say he was just an ordinary man. But we’ve realized that even though Uncle Ed never built a town hall, donated money to a college or won an award at ceremony, being an "ordinary guy" is what made him extraordinary. He was ours and he was there for us.

Though he was getting weak, he told us over and over again, that he was so happy to have everyone come together. At the end of the day, what you have is your family. If this had to happen to him, at least we got a chance to remember how much we mattered to each other. As the end came closer, we all came together to surround him and return the love he gave so freely.

We want to extend a special thank you to the staff at Alderwood Manor for taking such great care of Uncle Ed and all the family that sat with him. It was impossible to explain to someone on the outside the unique place that Uncle Ed holds in our hearts. When the world was busy, and the adults had too much to do, at the end of the day Uncle Ed was there. He was the adult who was always available.

We’d like to thank all of you for coming. Ed always said he never had any friends. He was humble, didn’t like to draw attention to himself and he might have been pulling our leg. By the evidence here, we feel, he was mistaken.


Carol said...


What a wonderful legacy. We all should be so lucky to be remembered so fondly.

Anonymous said...

"If you want to learn something, go to where the old people hang out. Ask them a question, then shut up and listen." Which is why I spend October - April with my grandparents and their snowbird friends and play bingo with them twice a week. I have learned uses for goose grease and monkey butt powder, what kind of gravy goes with squirrel and whether or not something is "fuller than a tick" or "drier than a popcorn fart". People think I am crazy (which I am) but I learn a lot of wisdom from those people!

Anonymous said...

hi.. just dropping by here... have a nice day!

"Just David!" said...

that's beautiful!

Jason said...

Jason, Gary's bike partner:

I was lucky enough to meet Uncle Ed in person the last 2 years during our bike trip up to Vancouver. I'm so lucky I did. What a nice compliment to the Barb and Ted dynamic.

Great write up Jim. I hope to actually meet you in person as well.

My prayers are with you and the rest of the family.


Cheryl said...

Hi Jim, thanks for calling me & bringing me up to speed. It all happened much too fast. I'm deeply sorry for your loss.

jason said...


Stephen said...

What a lovely post to a man who had such an influence on your family & others. I am sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...


Rachel V. Olivier said...

That was beautiful.