My mom's brother Nolen and his wife Julia and their kids Pat, Charlene (Bunny), Nolen Jr. (Baby Brother) and Grace (Toots) and my family were very close. My sister and I are seven years apart. So we were not really ever close peers growing up. Although we were close at home, I was mostly fretting about having to let her tag along with me anywhere. These cousins although they were older than me were the kids I grew up with and idolized and considered my older siblings who I wanted to tag along with anywhere.
Pat was the quiet one. Good student, neat and soft spoken. Pat was the role model. Bunny was the wild one. She cut school like crazy, always in some kind of trouble and was the coolest teen on earth to me. There was nothing like Bunny coming by with the latest 45's and Chinese food. She was a party and she had the coolest friends. Baby Brother was actually the only boy among my first cousins other than Paul (Beebee) who lived in Alabama. Nolen Jr. was gorgeous and spoiled and we were all traumatized went he went off to Viet Nam and finally exhaled when he came home in one piece. He was my hero and I wore his dog tags to school and he took me to the Regal theater to see the Motown stars. Toots was kind of a combination between pat and Bunny with the edge toward Bunny. Although she was nearer to my age, I was closer to Bunny. Toots was not as outgoing and a bit harder to know.
Uncle Nolen could do anything. He could build a house from scratch. He could also charm the birds from the trees and would promise you the world and you would laugh and forgive him when he more than likely didn't deliver. Aunt Julia was one of the sweetest women ever. She had her hands full with her kids and always worked hard. She had to because Uncle Nolen's charm did not pay the bills. Aunt Julia was also funny. She had a way of turning her head that made you roar and we still mimic it to this day.
My uncle his wife and all of their children have passed away.
Toots the youngest, was the first to go. She drowned in Wolf Lake along with another guy during a midnight swim. She was about 17 years old.
Aunt Julia had a heart attack, recovered and then died in bed the day before she was to return to work.
Baby Brother came home from Viet Nam only to be shot to death in a Chicago alley.
Pat the quiet one, met the wrong guy and became a heroin addict and prostitute. After her brother died she got clean and came home. She died due to complications from some prescription meds she was on. I never knew exactly what happened.
Uncle Nolen was in Veterans Hospital for high blood pressure when he suddenly died on July 4, 1986.
Bunny the wild one, became the most stable and most dependable of all. Bunny and my cousin Lavern were my closest cousins growing up and after and hold the dearest memories. Bunny died of breast cancer in 1993.
It is weird how something like the Burr Oak cemetery tragedy can bring up so many bittersweet memories. I am grateful for those memories.
Toots, BabyBrother, Pat, and Aunt Julia are all buried in Burr Oak. We must wait and hope that their bodies have not been disturbed so that they and us can rest in peace.