Nancy's Good-bye to Uncle Bill

I wrote about my Uncle Bill’s recent death here . Unfortunately, I have no picture of Uncle Bill to grace this post with. Here’s my sister Nancy’s remembrance, which she kindly consented to let me post here.

My Uncle Bill
By Nancy Myers Robrecht
September 28, 2007

My father, Ira Myers, grew up in Addy, a small town in north eastern Washington. He was the second oldest of five children and the only boy. Lenice was his older sister and married Bill George. Thus came into my life my favorite uncle, my Uncle Bill. Although I had other uncles and he had other nieces and nephews, including my seven siblings, we never had any qualms about identifying ourselves as “my favorite uncle” and “my favorite niece”. Uncle Bill and Aunt Lenice settled on a dairy farm in Chewelah, Washington. As a child, Uncle Bill’s farm was my retreat, my haven, one of my favorite places to go.

I remember driving, as a family, from Richland, Washington, where we lived, up through Spokane and into Chewelah, several times a year, usually once in the summer and again for Thanksgiving. I would get more and more excited as we got closer to my Uncle Bill’s. Often we would pick up my grandmother, Bessie Myers, in Pullman. When we first started going to Uncle Bill’s farm, he lived with Lenice and my cousins, Butch and Kara, in a small house without running water. There was a pump for water and an outhouse, also an apple tree. I loved my Uncle Bill: how he smelled of cow’s milk and alfalfa, the gentleness with which he took me on his lap and held me, how he teased me, how he took me with him to feed the chickens, milk the cows, and harvest the alfalfa. I loved his smile, his laugh and how glad he always was to see me; there was a special bond between me and my Uncle Bill.

After some years, Uncle Bill built a bigger house up on the hill. One summer when I was about seven, my mother and father decided I was old enough to go up to Uncle Bill’s all alone. They put me on the bus in Richland and my aunt and uncle came to Spokane and pick me up. How grown up and special I felt. I stayed a week or two, being spoiled and loved by Uncle Bill and Aunt Lenice. Thus began a ritual I continued every summer until we moved when I was fourteen.

I had another uncle in Chewelah, Bill’s brother Jack, who had married another of my dad’s sisters, Joyce. Together they ran a big dairy farm. I was fascinated with the way the cows came into the milk house, were hooked up to the machines and the milk ran into the big tank in the next room. I was thrilled when my Uncle Bill finally deemed me old enough to drive the tractor to pick up the bales of hay. And he was very patient with me when I drove the tractor over one of the bales of hay. I also loved riding in the alfalfa wagon, with the reaper blowing the alfalfa over my head into the wagon.

Another favorite memory is playing in big barn full of hay bales. My cousins, Jackie and Linda, and I would remove some of the bales to make tunnels and play tag and hide and go seek. We would also swing from a long rope out over the loose hay and drop down into it. I loved all the animals on Uncle Bill’s farm, the kittens, the rabbits that I was always devastated when he butchered, the dog, I think he was a spaniel, named Taffy, and the chickens. I remember the first time Uncle Bill took me fishing. I was scared to death and hid under a tarp in the bottom of the row boat.

Eventually I became braver. Once my cousin Jackie and I rowed the boat out into the lake and got stuck in the water lilies. My cousin Butch had to come and rescue us. Thanksgiving on the farm was memorable too. Aunt Lenice would make the most delicious pecan pies. We would go sledding down the long driveway to the road. The one thing I did not like on the farm, was Uncle Bill’s mother, mother George. She was old when I was young and lived alone in a dark little house. She scared me.

When I was about twelve years old, I got my hair cut. Up until that time I had never had it cut and wore it in two long french braids. The hair dresser cut these off in tact. I gave one to my Uncle Bill and kept one myself. He hung his in his gun cabinet.

When I was fourteen my family moved east to Cleveland, Ohio, and I was no longer able to spend time each summer at my Uncle Bill’s. This was a great sadness to me. Some time after that Uncle Bill moved to Petersburg, Alaska, where Lenice died and he married my Aunt Marilyn. After I married, we lived in Tucson, Arizona, and Uncle Bill and Aunt Marilyn visited us and our six children there. It was so wonderful to see him again. We went on a great hike into the Tucson foothills and my Uncle Bill identified many plants for us. After we moved to Alaska, I was able to visit them several times in Petersburg where we always enjoyed fishing and visiting together. After we moved to Portland Aunt Marilyn would often visit us and we grew to love her too. Since he has been sick in Idaho my husband Terry and I have been able to visit him several times. Hugging him there, sitting and holding his hand while he slept, and joining them for meals, always brought back memories of happier times on the farm.

I am glad for his sake that he is gone now, gone to a happier place where he can walk without pain, where he can be reunited with his wife Lenice and his daughter Kara, and where the sorrows he experienced in this life are softened and understood. Just as he brought happiness to me and many others while he lived, I am quite sure he is bringing happiness to many souls on the other side. I will always treasure my experiences with my Uncle Bill and I am very grateful that he was a part of my life.

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