My Uncle, Rollin Oscar Smith, Jr., died this morning. He was my mother's younger brother; her only brother, and a wonderful sweet man who will be deeply missed. He was 85 years old.
His whole life he was known simply as Bud. Uncle Bud was a good man. He served in the Pacific in World War II. When he was wounded he was sent to a field hospital where one of the orderlies turned out to be Uncle Pete. I imagine it was a bit of a mini-family reunion there in the middle of the war. I'm sure my grandmother and his sisters were grateful to know that a family member was with him during that time.
One of my favorite stories was when he was a small boy. He and my mother were out playing one day, leaning up against a fence trying to imitate an actor they had witnessed in a movie. They probably thought there were very grown-up and cool looking as they leaned there.
Anyway, in the small Nebraska town where they grew up also lived a man who was a bootlegger. Neither of them knew exactly what a bootlegger was, but they knew it was bad, and I'm sure the word probably scared them a little. He had a teenaged son who happened to walk by as they were playing there. He looked at my uncle and said "Hiya, Bud" which scared the two of them to death.
How did he know Bud's name? What should they do? They ran home to their mother, terrified and shaking, only to be told that a lot of people called boys that. There was probably some relief, and also some question as to how other boys had that name. I've always liked that story.
He died surrounded by his wife and children. The room was full of peace and love and his passing was gentle and sweet. And I still will miss him.
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