Family Story Friday – When Dad Died

This blog post is one in the series, Family Story Friday. I hope it inspires you to begin saving family stories one-at-a-time. After all, if you don’t save the stories, who will?

This family story and photo is by Shirley Crampton and published with her permission.

Shirley’s Family Story

Tuesday, December 6, 1977

Mom called me in California at about 6:00 a.m. when I was getting ready for work, to tell me that Dad died. He was driving his truck from home toward Main St about a block away, probably to get it out of the way of the snowplow, and collapsed at the wheel just before he got to Main Street.

John Moore found him since the truck was by their driveway. He ran to the fire hall to get oxygen although it was probably too late to do anything and his family called Mom. Mom or one of the Moores called Vera, my sister-in-law who is an R.N. Don had already left for work so she called her neighbor to tell her she was going to help Dad and asked her to take the kids to her house. Kristy was three and Brad was one. Vera or someone before her started CPR but they were unable to revive him. They called an ambulance which took him to University Hospital in London, so the place of death is listed as London and the cause of death as massive circulatory collapse.

After Mom called me I called work to say that I would not be in, called Air Canada to get a flight, packed, woke my roommate Gail who worked at Los Angeles Airport so that she could leave for work early to take me to the airport for the 9:00 a.m. flight. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in a short time with poor concentration if you have to.

When we arrived at the airport it was fogged in and no flights were taking off. I ended up sitting in Gail’s office for the morning while we waited for the fog to lift. I was able to get out on an American Airlines flight to Toronto around 1:00 p.m. Because of the three hour time difference it was evening when I arrived. There were usually several flights a day from Toronto to London but the last one was at about 10:p.m. I just made it since I had to go through customs and the gates were at opposite ends of the airport.

As if the fog in L.A. wasn’t bad enough there was a heavy snowstorm in London. My flight was the last one to get in to London for a few days. In fact, the snowstorm was so severe that my cousin Bob who had driven from Ilderton to London that evening called my brother to tell him not to try to drive to the airport to pick me up. Of course Don and Mom drove there anyway. Don had never met a snow storm that would stop him and he wouldn’t leave me stranded at the airport.

That was the last time we drove anywhere for a few days. The next morning Dad’s pickup truck was almost completely buried in snow in the driveway.

Dad’s sister, Aunt Edith, arrived in London the next day by train from Chicago. Nothing was moving in London so Aunt Rena walked from her house (about two miles) to the train station to pick her up. I don’t remember how they got to our house but they came in time for the funeral.

We debated about postponing the funeral because of the weather but thought that people around Ailsa Craig would probably be able to get to the funeral home, so we went ahead as planned on Friday, December 9.

Burt Bice, Mom’s cousin’s husband, offered to take us to the funeral in Ailsa Craig in his construction van. It was a heavy van with shelves roof to floor along both sides, loaded with tools and other supplies. He said that the weight would help to keep it on the road. We were able to fit two rows of folding chairs down the center aisle. About twenty of us, including Aunt Rena and Aunt Edith as the only members of Dad’s family, Mom’s family from Ilderton and the minister started out on the eleven-mile trip to Ailsa Craig.

Most of the side roads had still not been plowed so Don and another man dressed in snowmobile suits over their suits took turns walking so that Burt would know where the center of the road was. It was snowing at the time so visibility was terrible. A few other people were able to get to the funeral home. Of course we did not even try to go to Poplar Hill, thirteen miles from Ailsa Craig, to the cemetery that day.

Last fall (2016) Leanore Paisley, Vera Henderson and I were reminiscing about the events surrounding Dad’s funeral. Leanore said that Uncle Arnold Paisley was adamant about his feeling that women should not wear pants to funerals but that day he said that no woman was leaving his house without wearing pants. I agreed with him about not wearing pants and so I had borrowed a dress and coat from Nancy Paisley because, after seven years in Southern California, the only heavy winter clothes that I owned were ski clothes and casual sweaters and pants. I think that I probably wore pants under Nancy’s dress.

We had the burial on Monday after Aunt Edith had gone back to Chicago. By that time all the roads were open and they had been able to dig the grave.

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