Memorial Day Remembrance

Posted by MNAngler On May - 31 - 2010

In the journey of life, you’ll meet all kinds of people. Some you’ll like, some you’ll dislike. Some you’ll respect, others you won’t. Then there’s the rare person you’ll meet that you’ll respect so much that you’ll stumble over yourself to gain their respect. My wife’s uncle, William “Bill” Henry Harrison was such a person.

Bill Harrison was one of the smartest people you’ll ever meet. Not only was he intellectually smart, but having grown up in the wilderness of Northern Minnesota, he also had common sense smarts. The combination could be very intimidating had he not been so disarming with his demeanor. He was very genuine.

Bill was my (pay attention, now) wife’s father’s sister’s husband. Essentially, my uncle-in-law. As a result, we only saw each other a couple of times a year. We would exchange our normal pleasantries and inquire about recent happenings in each others’ lives since we last saw each other. I’m sorry to say that he did more of the inquiring than I did. It was few and far between that we would get to sit down to talk more in depth about various subjects. I always enjoyed those conversations as they were interesting and engaging.

In all those conversations, I never found out about his passion for veterans and what they sacrificed for this country. I never understood that he never took his freedom for granted. He was a Marine in Vietnam and both his boys followed in his footsteps, so he understood those sacrifices firsthand. All survived their tours of duty.

Memorial Day is a day to remember loved ones that have passed on. But specifically, it’s a time to remember fallen veterans. Bill didn’t die in a war. He was one of the lucky ones. Bill died of a heart attack in the jungles of Brazil. He was there helping to build a hospital. One night, he and his wife and daughter, who were also on the trip, went to visit a remote village. He had just finished dancing with a little girl when he sat down and collapsed. When we heard, it was no surprise to us that he was out on another grand adventure when it happened. Bill wasn’t one to die in his sleep.

At his funeral, both his wife and daughter separately went out of their way to tell me how much Bill liked me. That meant a lot to me. But I already had a sense of that several years ago when he drove 2 1/2 hours with his wife to come to my mom’s funeral that started at 9am. I was completely surprised to see him there. Being the frugal type he was, I know he didn’t stay in a hotel the night before. It was a 5 hour round trip for a one hour funeral. I never forgot that gesture.

And I will never forget him.




4 Responses to “Memorial Day Remembrance”

  1. Heidi says:

    Norton,

    Thank you so much for your thoughts of Dad on Memorial Day. It would have meant a lot to him. I printed this out and read it today to mom when we were putting a flag on his grave. I know he would have been happy that you thought of him and then I am sure he would tell you to get out there and catch some fish! =)

    -Heidi

    • MNAngler says:

      Heidi,

      It was my pleasure. Your dad was one of the most amazing and coolest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. I do wish we had had more time to chat. Every time we saw each other seemed too short of a time.

      I’ve had this “eulogy” in my head for a while. Today seemed like an appropriate day to put it down in writing. I’m glad your mom got to hear it.

  2. Rebecca says:

    He sounded like a great man who will continue to live on in your memories and posts like this. Thats the thing about some people, they leave an impression that never goes away. A good thing to strive for.
    Thank you for sharing his memory with us~

    • MNAngler says:

      Indeed, Rebecca. A good thing to strive for. I hope I can make such an impact on somebody’s life before my time is up.

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