(This post has been written for the next Carnival of Genealogy. The topic is: Uncle, Uncle! This edition is all about our uncles. Have you got a favorite or interesting uncle? Tell us about him! Maybe you had a older cousin, neighbor, or friend you called “uncle”… that works too! No uncles in your life? No problem. Write about any gentleman on your family tree who was an uncle to somebody.)
My Uncle Dick was my favorite uncle, though not an uncle at all. Not mine, anyway.
James Richard Wright was the best friend of my grandfather Miles Francis Stanley II. They went to high school together at old Central High School in Fort Worth, Texas, graduating in 1932. After graduation, Miles got married and Dick Wright…joined the Navy!
Even though separated, sometimes by thousands of miles, Dick and Miles remained close. When Miles’ first child Maryland Sue (my Mom) was born, Dick was there to celebrate. When Miles’ only son, Miles III, died at age 15 only 3 days before Christmas 1954, Dick was devastated when he was at sea and could not be there for his best friend.
Dick Wright never married. As a young man, he fell in love with a lady named Merry. It seemed a match made in heaven. But it was not to be. I don’t know the whole story, but Dick and Merry never married. And Uncle Dick never fell for another woman. I think he was heartbroken over losing his soul-mate.
Dick finally retired from the Navy in 1958 and returned to the North Texas area, settling in Dallas. Dick was a frequent visitor to the Stanley home, closer to us than blood kin might have been. He was always invited to family get-togethers, holiday celebrations, weddings, everything.
Of Miles’ 4 children, Dick was closest to my mom, the oldest. That sentiment extended to me. I loved being around him, he was so much fun! And he certainly seemed to understand me, as well.
When I was a child, I was very much a tomboy. I’d definitely rather be playing baseball or football, or helping my dad in his mechanic shop. Dolls didn’t appeal to me at all, and dresses, well that’s another story entirely! My grandmother and my aunts would fuss at me for my lack of ladylike ways, but Uncle Dick always just smiled and winked at me.
For Christmas 1971 (I was 12 years old), while everyone else gave me dolls and dresses, Uncle Dick gave me… A NEW BASEBALL GLOVE! It fit perfectly, was soft, had that wonderful new leather smell, a great glove. I was out playing ball the next day with my new glove. It didn’t even need to be broken in!
As I got older, Uncle Dick, my mom and I stayed close.
But time was running out for my Uncle Dick. He had heart disease and began having frequent bouts of chest pain.
The last time I saw Uncle Dick was Christmas Eve, 1974, at the family Christmas party. Dick was laughing and joking and having a good time with the family, as he always did. But I was struck by his pale color and his face. His temples were sunk in and he didn’t look well. I knew that he had heart problems, but at age 15, I didn’t understand much about it. I just knew he didn’t look good and I was worried.
A few days later, we got a phone call. Uncle Dick hadn’t shown up for work, so his boss (knowing of his episodes of chest pain) sent the police to his house and called my mom, as she was listed as his next-of-kin.
My Uncle Dick was found dead on Dec 29, 1974. An inquest was held and the cause of death was given as heart disease. I remember my mom and I going to his house to get his Naval uniform for the funeral.
As Dick has no close blood kin, no wife or children, he listed my mom as his next-of-kin on all of his Naval paperwork. She was his adopted daughter.
After the funeral and all of the legal and government red tape were completed, Mom received a box from the bank that Uncle Dick used. It was from his safety deposit box and contained a folder full of legal papers, mostly having to do with his mother’s funeral. The box also contained an old leather-bound photo album. Inside of the album were hundreds of old photographs of Dick as a child, pictures of his parents, and ooldes of photos he took while in the Navy. From all over the world! She also received Dick’s Naval papers, including orders, training certitificates, and his discharge papers.
When my Mom died in 1999, my Dad gave me the box of goodies from Uncle Dick. I put it in a drawer and never really paid any attention to it. I dug it out a few years ago, when I got interested in genealogy, and found several old snapshots of Uncle Dick with my mom and grandfather.
When I got home from work this evening, I dug that box out again. There is so much great stuff here: photos, birth and death certificates, Naval papers, newspaper clippings, cancelled checks, a Bible… My Uncle Dick’s entire life in cardboard and old leather!
And do you know what? Uncle Dick was a genealogist, too! I also found in that box a hand-drawer pedigree chart, documenting his mother’s line.
Wonderful as all this is from a family history standpoint, the item that I treasure the most is that baseball glove!