Thursday, December 8, 2011

Family is important and life really is short....

Last Visit with Uncle Dee   by Mike Adams

On the Thanksgiving weekend 2011 Cindy and I with  our exchange daughter
from Mexico, Geny, were touring the sites of southern Utah. On Saturday
morning, November 26, we were heading to Parowan Gap to see the
petroglyphs before heading to Bryce Canyon. I had the feeling that we
should stop and see Uncle Dee. Having written down his phone number from
the motel phonebook, I called him as we headed towards Enoch and it was
busy. I tried a few minutes later although it would have been so easy to
just skip it and  this time he answered and invited us to visit. He guided
us by phone to his address and met us in the front yard inviting us in. We
passed through the kitchen where he had been working on a wood turning
which hadn't developed as he wanted. He then invited us to sit down in the
living room and commenced showing us some of the projects that he had
done. He explained his sawing, gluing, shaping, and finishing technique,
most of which went over my head.

A day or two before he had been at a high priest group service project
pulling some would paneling from a pilefor an elderly widow  and now he
was complaining of some pain in his chest whenever he took a deep breath.
There was no chest wall tenderness and so considering his description of
the pain, I suggested that he monitor it closely and it should gradually
resolved if this was a muscle strain as a sounded. This was bad advice as
it turned out.

Conversation turned to family stories and he told us of his shipboard
experiences in World War II and courting his sweetheart, Cleone, for three
years by mail. Glancing at a photo, he said "I never realized how
beautiful she was."I had told him that we were sorry that we hadn't had
enough notice to be able  to attend her funeral when she died last year.
It was obvious how much Uncle Dee loved Cleone and how much he missed her.

He then told us a story about his father George Q. Wilken from his service
in World War I with an infantry unit that fortunately, avoided battlefield
action. They were coming back on a ship and his lieutenant said that
everything he had assigned to George had turned out easy. He was therefore
going to assign him the dirty job of night shift, shoveling of coal into
the ships boilers. George found that by patching a steam leak he was able
to harness the steam and make an excellent heat source for brewing an
excellent coffee. In addition he had access to Navy chow which was
considerably better than the Army's chow. His lieutenant found him with
his feet up drinking coffee, smoking a cigarette, and eating much better
than his buddies. Again, George's assignment turned out to be a gravy
train. Others, including the leutenant,  begged George to share his
assignment after that. I had never previously heard that Grandpa Wilcken
had a Word of Wisdom problem in his younger days.

Uncle Dee brought out a ceramic crock with unit number and insignia of his
father's unit containing a German military belt buckleand other
memorabilia from his grandfather Charles Henry Wicken including a ribbon
attached to a metal with the inscription, "veteran Indian wars". (If I
remember correctly, his name is on the veterans memorial in Heber Valley
under Echo Canyon War and Black Hawk War.) There was also a badge which
was star shaped and inscribed "Salt Lake City Sheriff". I took pictures of
these two badges. Uncle Dee then told us a story of Charles Henry who was
entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding a black prisoner who
evidently had gunned down a well loved law enforcement officer in Salt
Lake City who had been in the process of arresting him for being drunk and
disorderly. There was no need for a trial since there were plenty of
witnesses and the dead officer was well liked. Great Grandpa was
transferring his prisoner to a more secure facility when a cowboy rode up,
threw his rope over the prisoners head, and dragged him off to the crowd
who lynched him.  There was not much that Great Grandpa Wilcken could have
done at that point. (This is a somewhat different story from the printed

I asked about the home in Abraham which Charles Henry built for "Little
Grandma"and Uncle Dee said that there had been a reunion last year in
Delta and they had time to look around for both of his grandparents'
homes. Uncle Dee remembered spending considerable time there as a child in
both of these homes and had previously found remnant foundations. All
trace of these structures are now gone and he couldn't remember exactly
where they had been.

I asked him if he had ever written down these memories and stories. He
stated that he never learned to spell well and his building principal,
when he had worked as an industrial arts teacher, had embarrassed him
considerably. Therefore he never attempted to write very much. He did say
that Jay and Annette had some oil stained writings by Cleone that they
were trying to interpret. He again encouraged us to choose one of several
wooden goblets that he had made from particularly attractive samples of
wood. I took pictures of uncle Dee and the ceramic crock containing the
historic treasures. I asked him to record the stories so that they could
be transcribed. I was impressed at how clear and sharp his memory was and
how much he continued to enjoy handcrafting beautiful projects and his
lifelong appreciation for wood. I had also asked if he knew anything of
the music conductors stand made by his father for the Salt Lake Tabernacle
which was used by the Tabernacle choir director. He said that this had
been transferred to the Assembly Hall on Temple Square and was seen there
about 30 years ago but where it has gone from there is unknown.

We then thanked him and left to pursue our site seeing tour. It was a
wonderful visit and as we proceeded down the road, I remarked to Cindy
that considering Uncle Dee's age and the frequency of our visits to Cedar
City, this might be the last time for us to see him. On Monday, November
28, Cindy called me and told me that later that day on Saturday he was
taken to the hospital with a heart attack and, rather suddenly, on Monday
he passed away to join his lifelong sweetheart.

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