Goodbye to a friend

Yesterday we said goodbye to Duane Puckett, one of the best and most honorable men I know. I don’t know if Duane was ever a Boy Scout, but he lived all of the principles of the Scout Law: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Though in his case, reverent would be first. Duane was a quiet man with a rock-solid Christian faith that shaped the way he lived. He was unassuming and modest about his accomplishments which were many. He was a listener, a servant, a friend.

Duane lived next door to my parents in Emerald Bay for over thirty years, and I’ve known him more than half my life. Duane and Daddy had something special. They were two years apart in age and on the surface didn’t have a lot in common except golf. But both were thoughtful, patriotic men who interrupted their college years to serve our country during and just after World War II. They married, had children, and planned out their careers in completely different types of work. They were both active in Emerald Bay after they retired, and both served as club presidents in different years. For at least 10 years if not longer, Duane and Daddy had a visit on the back porch late in the afternoon. They talked golf and politics and family, Bible study, kids, and travels, and the challenges and rewards of caring for wives with long-term medical conditions.

When I moved to Texas, I was also included in some of those visits, but mostly it was just the guys. My dad told me about a year before he died that I should take care of Duane when he was gone, because Duane would need me, and that I would find him to be the most discreet person in Emerald Bay. He was. After Daddy was gone, I picked up the visits next door at least every other day if not more often, and I joked that the “Cone of Silence” came down as I entered the house. I so appreciated having a place to talk out some stress from trying to live, worship, and work in the same small community. We continued to visit frequently by phone after I moved two years ago, and I talked to him and his daughter while he was in the hospital and in hospice care just before he died.

His funeral yesterday was very powerful, and I was so glad my brother and sister-in-law were there with me. Duane was practically a member of our family; we needed to be there to say goodbye. The Navy presented military honors and a flag to the family, which is always something special. The many veterans seated around us were in tears during that and other parts of the service. They were also friends of my father, and it was bittersweet to see them for what will probably be the last time.

Thank you, Duane, for your friendship and your leadership by example. I loved having you as a part of my life, but take comfort in knowing you are in Paradise, reunited with your beloved Betty and playing a round of golf as a foursome with Mom and Dad.

Rest in peace. May your memory be for a blessing.

More Goodwin Finds

For a genealogist, happiness is sometimes finding an obituary, especially for people who died before official records were kept. Newspaper archives such as and (both require paid accounts) are great sources. Actually finding the person you look for can take a lot of time and creativity in spelling and truncation, but older papers (and older issues) are being digitized and added all the time, even for smaller jurisdictions, and I periodically continue to search for people in my direct line that have holes in their history.

A few weeks ago I wrote about finally finding an obituary for my g-g-grandfather Lemuel S. Goodwin, who died in 1907 in Suffolk, Virginia. I’d been trying to find that information for 45 years. His wife Mary Jane Thach Goodwin (well, his second wife – he had three) was my g-g-grandmother and she was another who died without any records that I could find. He was listed as a widower in the 1900 census, living with his daughter Beulah. Nope, couldn’t find her either, although I did find unsourced family trees at Ancestry that indicated she died in 1901.

Until this week. First I found Mary Jane’s obituary (above) which told me her maiden name and that, though she lived on Market Street with her husband of 42 years, her funeral would be at Bethel Church in Perquimans County, NC. I already knew that both she and her husband Lemuel were born in Perquimans County and had lived there for at least half of their married life. I knew that they had two married daughters living in that county at the time she died. But it was a big surprise to see that the funeral was there, and gave me a clue to look for burial also in the county, probably in a family cemetery (because I haven’t found it yet).

Then I found Beulah’s obituary in a different paper but also from Norfolk, VA. This one made me so sad because it described Beulah as a consistent member of her church, “bright and winsome, young and pretty and had many friends.” She died of consumption, which today we know as tuberculosis. It was was the leading cause of death in the United States, and one of the most feared diseases in the world. It was also the cause of death for Beulah’s brother William, who died in 1899. I still can’t find Beulah’s burial information but am hoping that eventually I’ll find her with her parents somewhere in Perquimans County, NC. For now, I’m happy to know where they died and to give them some closure, at least on my tree.

I waited a long time for this

Lemuel S. Goodwin Obituary, 1907

This morning, after researching this family line for at least 45 years, I found the obituary for Lemuel S. Goodwin. He was my grandfather’s grandfather, born in Perquimans County, North Carolina in April 1833. He moved to Suffolk, VA at some point between 1880 and 1892, when his daughter Josephine married William Myers. The last we knew of him was the 1900 census when he was a widower living with his daughter Beulah.

But wait, there’s more!  I found a tiny newspaper clipping from Dec. 1903 with news that he had obtained a marriage license with widow Mrs. Martha Elizabeth Spivey. He’s not in the 1910 census, so he had to die in there somewhere. She died in 1930 and is buried next to her first husband with no mention of Lemuel. So maybe he died before they could get married?  Mystery!

This morning I found his obituary at GenealogyBank, a newspaper database that I was thinking I might cancel. Ah, maybe not.  No wonder I never found it, with one name truncated and one name misspelled. But this is the guy. Lost but now found.

Lemuel was married three times. His first wife, Sarah E. Long, died one day after the birth of their daughter, within a year of their marriage in 1856. Ten months later, on Christmas Eve 1857, he married Mary Jane Thach, my great-great-grandmother. They were married for 43 years and had eight children that I know of. At some point between 1880 and 1892, they moved from the farm in Perquimans County to Suffolk, Virginia, where Lemuel worked in the City Market. Their son William died of consumption in 1899 and Mary Jane followed in the spring of 1900. Lemuel was listed as a widower in the 1900 census, living with his daughter Beulah.

But that was it. It was too early for state death records in Virginia and I found no property or probate records and no cemetery records for any of them. Maybe they returned to North Carolina for burial but I found nothing there either. All of the family trees I found on Ancestry and FamilySearch have Lemuel’s death date as “after 1900”. I was determined to find him, but it took a very long time.

Last year I located a tiny notice in the Norfolk Landmark newspaper from December 1903 that a marriage license was issued for Lemuel S. Goodwin and Mrs. Martha Elizabeth Spivey. Hmm. Who was she? Where did she come from? And who was Mr. Spivey? I did some poking around at, one of my favorite sites, and found a fascinating article about Peter Spivey’s burial in 1899 at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Suffolk, VA with his elaborately carved tree memorial. His wife Martha Elizabeth was buried next to him on her death in 1930.

So what happened to Lemuel? Why isn’t she buried next to him? What was he, chopped liver?

Not exactly. Lemuel and Martha were widowed within a year of each other and were neighbors on Morgan Street in Suffolk. Martha had small children – her youngest child was only a few months old when Peter died – and she was 25 years younger than Lemuel. We don’t know for certain but it is probable that they married for companionship and to help Martha raise her young family.

In March 1906, Lemuel was “confined by illness to his home on Morgan Street” [Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), Thursday, 15 March 1906, p.7, col. 3; digital image,, accessed 5 August 2020). A year later he was agained confined by “serious sicknesss” to his home; his obituary ran in the Virginian-Pilot on Sunday, 20 October 1907. It mentioned that a service would take place at the Christian Church the afternoon after his death, but a burial spot was not indicated nor has one been located. We know his widow Martha was buried next to her first husband; Lemuel quite probably is buried next to Mary Jane, his second wife. I haven’t found her grave yet either. But I haven’t given up.

It’s Been a Year

Bill Myers, Emerald Bay, 2012

Daddy died a year ago tomorrow. I’ve been marking the days this month of where we were a year ago – not crying, not anguished, just aware. I’m remembering how difficult his last month of life was, with diminished mobility and speech, increased confusion, and his confounded stubbornness that he was getting up even though his legs couldn’t hold him, that he was going home even though I couldn’t care for him here.

He ended his life in one of “those places” that he swore up and down he would never be in. When we explained to him that’s where he was, and that if he didn’t like it, he should have seen the places we didn’t take him, he wrinkled his face, saying, “Pffffffffft.” They took good care of him there, though the sight of the mattress around the bed in case he fell out in the night really threw me.

Daddy asked me in a window of lucidness where his grandparents were buried, and what did his will say, and was it finalized. He wanted to know things were in order, and he told me that it had been a good life and that dying wasn’t a bad thing. He went downhill from there.

Holding Daddy’s hand

I’m grateful to Hospice. Whenever I see Hospice nurses in blue scrubs out and about, I want to run up and hug them and say “Thank you.” Sometimes I do, which they may find odd, but especially now I have excess emotion and they made such a difference. They spoke gently but with blunt honesty about what happens to the body when it starts to shut down, about how our perception of it was just that; his body was doing the business of dying. That meant it was hot, that breathing changed, that he probably wouldn’t talk much. But that he wasn’t in pain and would at some level hear us even when he couldn’t respond. I sang “Amazing Grace” and “You Are My Sunshine” to him, and was with him when he died.

Today I spent time with someone in my community who is facing the same situation with a parent who probably doesn’t have a lot of time left. Because of my experience with Daddy, I was able to talk about convening a care coordination meeting with the facility staff, and bringing Hospice in early to help the transition, because Hospice staff bring additional skilled eyes to evaluate and support both patient and family. We also talked about cremation, and what services a funeral home provides, and how obituaries get to the paper. Things to get in order BEFORE there is a death, because so much happens then that it’s hard to keep track of details.

Daddy gave me that present of understanding this end of life stage, and the ability to talk about it calmly and with compassion. I miss him every day, though I don’t miss having the house climate be too hot for me or the TV volume up so loud I can hear it anywhere in the house. He was a kind man who loved his family with all his heart. People here speak so fondly of him that it sometimes brings tears to hear about random acts of kindness done that made a difference. That’s a pretty good legacy.

I’m holding on to the image that was on the prayer chain when he died, that “Bill is driving around the golden streets of heaven in a golfcart with his beloved Peg.” That’s Daddy. I love you, Daddy. And I miss you.

Bill, Anne, and Tom Myers
T-Bar-C Ranch, 2012

Requiem for my parents

Saturday night I sang the Durufle Requiem in concert with about 80 other people plus orchestra. It’s gorgeous music and is based on chant motifs that move lyrically from voice part to voice part. I sang it once before in Boston with the Trinity Choir, which served me well with this new performance.

I realized on Friday, as I sang along for the eleventy millionth time to a recording, that I could let go of that and just sing it. It’s in my bones now and I barely need the score to know those weird notes to pull out of the air after 8 bars of time signature changes. Being able to just sing it freed me to feel it and realize that I was singing this Requiem for my parents.

Mom’s birthday is this week and Daddy’s was two weeks ago. Mom died in 2014 and Dad passed away last May. We had memorial services for both, of course, but their ashes have been sitting on the dressers at my house waiting to move to their final resting place at Cathedral in the Pines. Dad wanted Mom’s ashes nearby and since it was a comfort to him, that’s where they stayed. He would talk to her sometimes, as would I. Last spring he was finally ready to let her go so we bought the plaques for their “condos” as he and Mom termed their niches in the columbarium, but he passed away before we could actually inter the ashes. And it was too hot and logistically complicated to do it when Daddy died.

We are finally seeing them to their final rest next Friday, and my brother and I have cooked up a service from elements of the Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Methodist traditions. I mostly just want them to be at rest and not in my closet (I moved them off the dresser when I got my baby kitties, since nothing is safe with them around). But I feel like I’m back in the limbo time between the death and the service. I want to get this done. I want it to be over, for them to be at rest. It’s the last thing I can do for them, other than just live my life well.

So keep them, keep us, in your prayers.

Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord;
And let light perpetual shine upon them.
May their souls, and the souls of all the departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

And from the Durufle Requiem:

IX. In Paradisum
In Paradisum deducant Angeli,
in tuo adventu suscipiant te Martyres
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.

Chorus Angelorum te suscipit
et cum Lazaro quondam paupere
aeternam habeas requiem.