(Click on pic to right to get full flavor of Ralph and Vi’s beautiful church, Central United Methodist.…The church has a kicky website, too.)
Our townhome community is comprised of many ‘age 60+ residents’ from far-flung regions. And sometimes, because we’re older, we find ourselves going to each other’s funerals. That’s where we learn things about one another we never knew.
That happened recently. I knew Ralph F. in two capacities: He and his wife contributed mightily to the aesthetics of our townhome community, by maintaining entryway gardens and border plantings. And he was a funny man who told good jokes (never cringe-worthy) at social gatherings.
In short, they were Good Neighbors.
I never knew he’d been Assistant Postmaster General for the United States who’d risen in the ranks; Or that he and his wife were native Ashevillians who came back to this mountain region, at their retirement. I learned that at his funeral.
He was 86 when he died, following a rich, almost-idyllic life he’d shared with his wife of 64 years, Vi. Together, they have two sons and three wonderful grandchildren.
Because Ralph had a good sense of humor, I know he’d appreciate what happened when my husband and I went to his funeral.
Here’s how it played out:
We got up early that Saturday morning (7:00 AM). Our plan was to go to the funeral home first, pay our respects to the family (this is the practice in NE), and then go to the 11:00 AM service at Central United Methodist church, in downtown Asheville.
As we drove along Patton Ave, in Asheville, before 10:00, I saw a church sign and sang out, “There’s Central United Methodist” (where the service was being held.) I believed the cars entering the parking lot, already, were advance staff from the funeral home.
When we got to Groce Funeral Home, we found an empty lot. A young man dressed in a business suit came over to our car, asking if he could help, to which I replied, “Is Ralph……here?” “We’re paying our respects to the family.”
He told us, “No, I’m sorry, I believe he’s at our Lake Julian facility, but I’ll check.”
He returned, with a man who said: “The family buried Mr…..this morning…It was private.” “The church service is at 11:00 AM, at Central United Methodist.”
We left, thinking, “We’ll grab a coffee and then head over to the church.” It was 10:00 AM.
At 10:45, we went to the church, parked in the lot, and proceeded inside.
But when we came through the doors, the Spanish-speaking congregants all stared at us. Finally, a man at the podium quit his station and came up to us, asking: “Can I be of help?”
“Yes,” we offered, “We thought our friend’s funeral was here, but we realize it isn’t.”
He offered it might be at the other Central United Methodist Church– on Church Street.
Hurriedly, we coursed the back streets of downtown Asheville, looking for a parking spot (not easy on a Saturday.) I finally found one—a disabled meter with a yellow sticker on it.
In desperation, I took the spot. I didn’t even care, anymore, if a Meter Person ticketed me (they’re quick to do that, in Asheville.) At 11:05 AM, we were now, officially ‘Late.’
We went towards a door that looked like a church entrance, but the woman told us “No, the main building is up there, where the columns are.”
I thought, inwardly, “Of course, it is.”
We trudged on up the hill, went through serpentine corridors, heard voices below, followed the stairway down, only to find ourselves right back where we encountered that same woman. This time, she offered: “I’m sorry for all your trouble… Here, I’ll take you.”
She led us back up the stairs and down a hallway where she opened a door. Finally, we saw people we knew. We were at Ralph’s funeral.
That’s where we heard what a Multi-Dimensional Person Ralph was.
But we knew, too: He would’ve loved knowing our Crazy Efforts to find his funeral.
He would’ve enjoyed even more, knowing something else….
In the darkness of early day, my husband took a pair of black slacks from our closet and pulled them on.
Only hours later, he wondered, “Why’s the hook on these pants on the other side?”
When I pulled back the inside waistband, I saw the familiar DKNY ladies’ label. My husband had attended Ralph’s funeral, wearing my slacks.
I guess one could say: In our little family, my husband wears the pants (even if they’re mine.) Worse yet—They look better on him!
I noted to myself: “Ralph would have loved this….”
That’s his picture below…Ralph Feemster: A good man who left a rich heritage. We should all be so lucky.
P.S. This will be the first in a series of Biddy Bytes’ posts on the People of Hamburg Crossing, Weaverville, NC.