Wednesday, August 22, 2007

FROM THE PUBLISHER >>Sad news hits us hard this August

A death in the family and deaths of friends have made us think about mortality.

Soon after my father’s funeral two weeks ago, we lost a good friend when Bill Elia died in his sleep last Friday morning at the age of 73.

Shirley Bonham, a good friend of Elia’s, called later to tell us that her son Larry had suddenly died a week ago Monday at a truck stop near I-40 in Prothro Junction. He was 52.

He’d come to celebrate his father’s 75th birthday in Jacksonville and was going back on the road.

“He was hooking up his trailer to his truck when he died from heat exhaustion,” his mother recalled. “It must have been 125 degrees on that asphalt.”

She added, “He was so proud of his truck. He had his own living room in there.”

The funeral was last Wed-nesday. He leaves a wife and 2-month-old baby.

Funeral services were held Tuesday for Elia, who was one of the original organizers of the Jacksonville Museum of Military History. Bill was a youthful 73 who served in the military for many years.

Pulaski County Justice of the Peace Bob Johnson stood in front of Elia’s open casket and couldn’t hold back his tears. He wasn’t the only one.

The flag in front of the military museum has flown at half-mast.

The museum won’t be the same without Bill, who served his country with distinction in the Air Force during the Cold War, establishing backup communications in the air in case of nuclear war. He also flew missions over Southeast Asia during the Vietnam war.

Elia was born in Camden and spoke with a slow southern drawl that could disappear in this age of global communication. He worked out regularly at the air base gym and never said a bad word about anybody.

He was among the last of the southern gentlemen.

Postscript to my column on my father’s death: Thanks for the many sympathy cards, calls and flowers. Many of you have asked about making a contribution in his memory.

As you know, my dad was a Holocaust survivor (as is my mother, who survives him). Our family would be pleased if you send your donation to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 1000 Raoul Wallenberg Place, Washington, D.C. 20024-2126.