I received word late last night (Hiroshima time) that my uncle and godfather, Earl Leclere has died. He celebrated his 101st birthday in March. Early summer he finally ‘gave up the farm’ where he and Aunt Gloria lived and raised their family of five since 1952, and moved into a residential care facility in Tell City. I had a delightful visit with Uncle Earl in early July. While I am sad that his funeral will be the day I fly home from Japan, I am happy for him that his journey of life has reached its fullness and he is now resting in the Lord whom he loved and served faithfully.
I was blessed to have Aunt Gloria and Uncle Earl as my godparents. God only knows how much I benefited from their many prayers and spiritual accompaniment during my lifetime. Even more, their witness of faith and love was as strong as life and stronger than death.
Uncle Earl would readily give Aunt Gloria all the credit for raising their family, as he was a ‘working man’ on and off the farm. Even with his work, he was faithfully present to the family and showed up for all the family celebrations. His zeal for life shown in the sparkle of his eyes. I will miss that gaze from our many conversations. It said so much about his confidence and trust in God, no matter what he was facing. He had strong opinions, great wisdom, always ready to share, but never imposed upon anyone. He was not shy about discussing religion or politics. He had a great memory and was a great conversation partner right up to the last of his life.
My last visit with him, was my only visit with him at the nursing home. He could not hear very well (to say the least!) but his mind was sharp as a tack! I had to speak so loudly to him, that after about 30 minutes into our visit his neighbor pounded on the wall! Uncle Earl did not skip a beat…
Most of my memories of him will be at the farm and church at St. Mark, Indiana. They had a lovely place – I believe 160 acres – half forest and half tillable land for farming, with a small creek or two running through it. While he did not hunt, my brother, Bernie and I sure enjoyed access to his place for turkey and deer hunting. But more than that, there were so many family gatherings there when we were growing up, playing in the barns and feeding the cows and chickens. During our high school years more than once we helped put up hay. Each year we would butcher two cows and two pigs, one for each family. There was fresh milk, cream and butter and so many great home-cooked meals! Of course, as kids we would pull our share of bone-headed stunts, and Uncle Earl was never bashful about correcting us, but we always knew under -neath it all was love, care and concern for us.
Uncle Earl, as any farmer, had a pretty extensive tool shed, and he knew how to take care of his equipment. He gave up farming several years ago, and leased the property to others. He and Aunt Gloria always had a large garden as well, and we would spend hours harvesting the produce every summer, and reaping the benefits all winter long from everything we canned or froze. Some fond memories also of picking blackberries with Grandpa Etienne. Uncle Earl was not afraid of hard work!
Mostly, his faith underpinned everything in his life. He and Aunt Gloria were regular, daily Mass communicants. For me, that says it all. I could go on and on, but duty calls here in Hiroshima. I just could not let this moment pass without posting a tribute to this great man.
Rest in Peace, Uncle Earl.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. May perpetual Light shine upon him.
May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in Peace.