Friday, January 9, 2015


In the scheme of things, this man probably had as much influence on my young life as his best friend, my father, did.  He wasn't a "real" uncle, so I don't have a lot of genealogical data for him.  But he truly was special in my life, and since there is no way of memorializing him on my own Family Tree, I'll do it here.

He was born Wilmer A. Funk, in Beatrice, Nebraska about 1906 ; he was called "Bill."  As I recall, he attended Colorado School of Mines, but when his father died, he dropped out to help his family. Somewhere along the line he met my father in Colorado Springs and they became fast and lifelong friends.

The two fellows set out in 1930 for California, where they headed to Angels Camp to check out a possible gravel mine for some Colorado speculators.  This first venture came to naught, but in the meantime my father met my mother, also a relocated Coloradoan, and they married in 1932.  In those days everyone was trying to survive through the Great Depression.  Dad started his family and Bill brought his whole family to the Los Angeles area, where he felt there was more opportunity for them.

My father did not serve in WWII but Bill did.  He was on the South Pacific island of Pelelieu, and if I remember correctly, he worked on building military bases.  Meanwhile my father bought a house iin Long Beach, California, for a pittance.  It sat on property that was needed for expansion of the City Bus lines, so whoever bought it had to move it somewhere else.  Since my father owned some property a few blocks away, it was a match made in heaven.  The house ended up at 1620 Gardenia Avenue in Long Beach.  There was plenty of space in it, and it was at that time Bill moved into a small back bedroom and lived there with our family for many years.   I must explain for the younger readers that when we kids were little, we could not call people by their given names.  It either was Mr.. So and So or Uncle So and So; my dad's best friend became "Uncle Bill" to my younger sister Ginnie Lou and me - and later we called him "Unc."

It was in 1945 that Unc and my father became partners in a small appliance business in Long Beach. My dad handled the sales department and Uncle Bill the repair department.  That arrangement, in all its various future iterations, worked  and they remained partners until they retired.  In the mentime, Unc married in the mid 1950s, after my sis and I both had gone off to college.

Unclc Bill was a perfect counterbalance to my father in all ways.  Dad was high strung; Bill had a stolid German disposition.  Dad worked with fleeting financial figures; Unc worked with machines that needed repairing.  What dad missed in his schooling, which rendered him somewhat useless in helping us with our school work, Bill, with his training, is the only reason that both my sister and I were able to pass algebra in 9th grade (which was when we were introduced to it in those days.)  Night after night he patiently explained to us - me first and then two years later my sister - how algebra worked.  It was SO difficult for both of us; I don't remember a lot of fussing on our part, but I'm sure we weren't the easiest kids to teach.  Unc methodically sat with us on the couch and went over the problem again and again until we caught on.

My mother was not really well a lot of the time, and to make matters worse she became pregnant again at age 37.  She had terrible morning sickness and could barely get out of bed.  My father had always been the first one up each day; his job was to turn on the floor heater, set the coffee percolating on the stove and the bacon frying.  Uncle Bill took over the duty of making sure Ginnie Lou and I got out of bed each morning.  We would hear him at the door of our bedroom give a fairly substantial knock, then in a sing-song voice say "SADDLE BLANKETS" and then he'd crack open the bedroom door a bit so we could smell the coffee and bacon.  If we ever knew the significance of "Saddle Blankets" it has escaped me in my old age.  But it did the job.  Ginnie Lou and I would be more than half-way dressed before mother would pop out of her bedroom and run into the bathroom quickly.  Poor mother.  She was so sick.

Unc never talked much about his time in the service, but he had foot problems for the rest of his lie.  He called it "Jungle Rot."

Unc was a part of our life.  He was truly a member of our family and wasn't a time that he wasn't with us.  He was an unassuming man who didn't fuss over things.  Although they truly were partners in business, my father drove a Cadillac and Uncle Bill drove one of the store repair trucks. Looks just didn't matter to him.  Through the years we came to know his brother Claude, Claude's wife Lois, and their sons, Ronnie and Davy.  We vaguely remember a sister Betty - and I know we met his mom several times.  But it was only Uncle Bill that we really knew well.

After we went away to college, he met and married a woman with two young children, Barbara and Frank.  I don't believe we kids ever met his stepchildren, but we did know his wife Betty, because they often socialized with my folks.

The marriage didn't last but a few years, but Barbara and Frank had experienced Unc the same way my sister and I did.  They stayed in his life after the divorce, and when he suffered toward the end of his life with a crippling case of arthritis, they were there for him.  He and my father retired from business and both lived long lives, although neither as healthy as they wish they had been.

We were SO lucky to have Unc in our lives.  I have often wondered how I could find a way to immortalize him on the internet and share with everybody about his goodness and kindness to our family.  I finally decided I would put him under "Immortal Nobodies" - who usually are quiet little folks that I've only read about in my never-ending genealogy reserach.  For Unc, I think I'll temporarily change the title to "IMMORTAL SOMEBODY!"

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