Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dia De Los Muertos

Today is Dia De Los Muertos - the Day of the Dead - in Mexico, a day for celebrating and honoring the deceased.

And it seemed fitting that this would be the day that my grandfather was buried.

The service was graveside; in a small church graveyard on a hill overlooking the autumn trees...the minister the same family friend that married my husband and I.

After the usual psalms, family members eulogized the man the two dozen or so people had gathered to honor.

The words "gentle" and "gentleman" were used by all.

The stories ranged from the amusing to, well, tear-jerking.

My brother told one my grandfather had often repeated, usually prefaced by a "How I decided it was time for me to leave college":

He was pursuing his master's degree at the University of Penna in the early 1930s. He had spent the good portion of a semester boiling/distilling the entire body of a horse (just why one would be doing so was never mentioned!) until the equine had been reduced to the contents of a single beaker.

It was at this point that my grandfather knocked the beaker over and watched helplessly as all of its contents spilled out onto the floor. And that was why he decided it was time for him to leave college.

My dad spoke of all the moments through his life that his father had been there for aunt of how her dad had planned out the details of his funeral and chosen that exact spot to be buried because of its beauty.

My mom told not only of how much he meant to her, but also of all the strange spray forms of foodstuffs he brought home for them to try out -- and that the one that repulsed her the most was the sprayable cheese (she just couldn't fathom that cheese could be squeezable, I guess.)

My cousin, who was with my grandfather when he died, spoke of how my grandfather was trying to comfort him,...saying "I'm okay, I'm okay"...and that even though his "Pop" was frightened, he was so incredibly brave at that moment.

And there was so much more...too much to mention here.

The graveside service lasted about 45 minutes or so, which evidently is longer than they usually take -- because I overhead one cemetery worker say to the other, "I almost fell asleep back there."


At lunch afterwards, I had a nice long chat with my aunt, who has lived in Mexico for, oh, about 40 years now. So I rarely get to see her, although we have done a good deal of e-mail corresponding when I was working on the family genealogy.

Between salad and quiche, my aunt told me a story I had never heard before -- of a night in the late 1940's when she was of elementary school age. There was a knock on the door of her family's house late one evening. Although she was in her bedroom, something about the sound of the voices downstairs made her creep to the top of the stairs to hear what was going on.

Seems some men from that warm and fuzzy group the FBI were paying a visit to my grandfather. Asking him if he had any affliation with the Communist party. Asking him to name names. Which he refused to do.

Of course.

We speculated on a FBI file with his name on it, and I am going to use that little thing known as The Freedom of Information Act to see if such a file exists.

In the meantime, here's the obit that ran in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer:

Posted on Wed, Oct. 31, 2007
W. Earl Graham Sr. Research chemist, 99

W. Earl Graham Sr., 99, of Phoenixville, a research chemist who helped develop the aerosol can, died of pneumonia Monday at Manatawny Manor in Pottstown.

Mr. Graham joined Crown Cork & Seal Co. in Philadelphia in 1937 and eventually headed the firm's research department. In the late 1940s, he modified a seamless beer can to create an aerosol can. From 1957 until his retirement in 1968, he was vice president of sales for Clayton Corp., a manufacturer of aerosol valves.

In the 1970s, he co-owned a bookstore in St. Peter's Village in Chester County and also started a mail- order business dealing in books from Mexico, where his daughter, Dorothy Jean, lived. He closed the service in 1992 to care for his wife, Viola Crowell Graham. She died in 1996.

Mr. Graham graduated from Darby High School and earned a bachelor's degree from Pennsylvania State University.

He and his wife married in 1934. They had met when he worked for a food company in Landisville, N.J., and rented a room in her mother's boarding house.

The Grahams marched against the Vietnam War and were founding members of the Pottstown Unitarian Church.

Mr. Graham loved the Phillies; golfed in his younger years; and played bridge through his 80s.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by a son, W. Earl Jr.; four grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

A graveside service will be at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Peter's Church Cemetery, Route 23, Knauertown, Pa.


At November 05, 2007 10:26 PM, Blogger Tom said...

These posts about your grandfather are really beautiful. You've done a terrific job painting a picture of man whose life was well lived. Thanks.



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