This year, the anniversary of Grandpa Gale Muir’s death falls during Memorial Day Weekend. He died on May 23, 1957, sixty-three years ago. A stroke five years earlier had restricted his speech and movement and Grandma Bessie had cared for him at home.
When he died, they were a few months short of celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. They had eight living children and 29 grandchildren.
What was Grandpa Gale like? His son, Wallace Muir, described him as “generous to a fault with his time and talents.” He was a skilled craftsman and a carpenter. Wallace also said that he enjoyed playing with his older grandchildren and telling them stories he learned from his grandfather. By the time I came along, he could no longer speak, but, oh, how I wish I’d heard some of those stories.
On May 27, 1957, the day of Grandpa Gale’s funeral, the adults decided that the younger grandchildren should stay at the house during the funeral. Only Judy, who was about nine, attended the service.
Why would they exclude the grandchildren from an important occasion like this? My guess is they expected an overflowing crowd at the small Presbyterian Church. Gale had a wonderful dry wit, enjoyed hunting, and came had a large family. Likely, everyone in town turned out to pay their respects.
Leaving a dozen squirmy kids at Grandpa and Grandma’s house simplified things. For the record, it was a beautiful May day. We were strictly told not to leave the yard, and not to go into the house unless we had to go potty.
I have two memories of the day. During the funeral, we cousins forgot our sadness and began playing together in the yard. We were running and screaming with abandon when we suddenly realized a parade of cars was slowly driving by. We stopped and stood as silent and solemn as statues to watch the hearse that carried our Grandpa Muir from the church to Rosehill Cemetery.
The second memory happened toward the end of the day when I was ushered into the living room to meet Grandpa’s siblings. As Grandpa Gale was the youngest in their family, many of them must have been in their seventies. They had traveled over 350 miles from Jackson, Minnesota. I had never met any of them before. I remember the ladies holding my hand and peering at me.
Of course, at seven I didn’t understand the significance of the moment. Now having lost my own siblings, I get it. They wanted to meet their brother’s offspring. Perhaps they were looking for some of Gale in the young faces brought before them. Some of my cousins have the Muir eyes, chin or red hair. I don’t, but I was named after him.
Today, Gale and Bessie have six or seven generations of descendants. Happily, Gale’s red hair still shows up randomly when a new baby is born.
Gale and Bessie’s love story is the topic of my book, Secrets of the Dark Closet. I recently republished it, which means it is less expensive! However, it also means there are no Amazon reviews for it. If you order a copy from Amazon, please write a review. Even a short one helps with the algorithms. The book is available online, through your local bookstore, or contact me for a signed copies.