When Doug asked me to speak about Uncle Tom I really had no idea what I would say. I have been away from
Fairbury for a long time and my contact with him has been limited over the years to an occasional visit home, and
Christmas cards. I was fortunate to be able to come home for his 80th birthday and see him before his health really
diminished. I was struck then, as I am now, looking at you all on how incredibly rich he was . Rich in the love of his
children be they natural or step children. Rich in the love of so many grand children and great grandchildren. Rich
in the love of not one but two truly wonderful women, our beloved Aunt Stell and our dear sweet Aunt Marge. And
the love and respect of so many extended family and friends here today.
How do you adequately put to words the love and respect you have for a man. You know, when I would come home
on from the service to visit my folks. There were always hugs and kisses from and for my mom. My dad and I would
shake hands and clap each other on the shoulder, because that’s what men did. Well after my dad died I regretted
all those missed opportunitys to show him my love. I told my son, Noel, that no matter how old or embarrassed he
was, I would always hug and kiss him hello. Well, at Tom’s 80th birthday, I was able to give him a hug and kiss
showing this man how much I loved him. A gift I will be ever greatful for.
Tom was not a physically big man. But in character , he was a giant. Tom Aaron lived a life of service. Service to
his country. A skinny towhead from Strawn, Illinois answered our countries call and stood the watch for us all in
Korea. Service to our veterans through his active involvement in the VFW. Service to his community. Always
ready to answer a neighbors call for help as a volunteer fireman. Service to his family. Sometimes holding down 2-
3 jobs, he always had time for his children. Instilling into them a love for the outdoors, a sense of family, and a his
sense of service.
I remember Uncle Tom was always in the woods. Many times bringing the woods home with him. There always
seemed to be fox kits and raccoons around and in the house He used any excuse to get to the woods. They were
his lifes blood. He was a true outdoorsman. An outstanding breed of people. You cannot spend all that time in the
woods without gaining a special perspective of our creator. God endowed him with an extra measure of all the finer
qualities of human nature. It is written that "If you really want to know a man get him into the woods with a rod or a
gun as far away from civilization as possible. Then you will see the stuff he's made of . The outer shell drops away
and a mans soul lays bare." Tom Aaron’s soul shined in the woods.
We lost Grandpa Ray Aaron in 74, Betty, Fran, and Helen in ’82. Jean in ’84 and Grandma Aaron 1990. Uncle
Tom became our family patriarch. My bond to him was always strong but now he was the only one left. Tom was the
conduit or connection to my Mom and the Aaron side of my family. He was the memory for me of all those family
Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings. He would smile and I would see my Mom. He would laugh and I would hear
her. Much like when I hear Ronnie laugh, I look over my shoulder for Uncle Harold. Thinking back, he was always
there for me.
One hot August day, in all of my 11 year old wisdom, I decided to ride my bike down the south side of shaft hill. A
place all the local kids went to ride their bikes down on the west side. Notice I said I decided to ride down the south
side. The side no one rode down. I wanted to be the first! Well, I quickly learned why I was the first. Nobody else
was that stupid! I managed to stay on the bike through all the rocks and ruts but then I hit a myriad of scrub stumps
before finally face planting against a steel rail of the TP&W tracks. I broke my front two permanent top teeth and
lost most of the skin on my face, elbows, knees, and shins. I lay their realizing I was alone and no one was coming
to help me. I got up bleeding and sobbing, I walked my now decrepit bike for home. Rather than face my folks I
headed for the the Hicks station where Uncle Tom was working. Upon seeing me he rushed to me, scooping me up.
Taking me into the restroom he tried cleaning me up and saw I needed stitches. He locked the door, shut off the
pumps and closed the station before rushing me to the emergency room. Two days later he brought my bike to
house, all repaired.
After high school, I had no idea what to do. I decided I wanted to work on the Great Lakes frieghters. I only needed
a seamans card and a union card. Trouble was, you could not get one with out the other. My Dad said, call your
Uncle Tom. Well I called Uncle Tom who was a member of the steel workers union out at Pittsburgh International for
thirty years. He called union brother so and so, who called so and so in the seafarers union. Within 30 minutes
Uncle Tom told me I could pick up my union card in Chicago the next day.
Tom is at rest now and will be buried in sight of his childhood home in Strawn and he will finally get to meet his sister
RitaBell who was lost to them in 1930.
I’ll finish now with a short poem.
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there - I do not sleep.
I am the sunlight on the green fields of corn and beans.
I am the gentle autumn rain falling on the back of a trophy buck.
I am the swift-up-flinging rush of Canadien geese on their annual flight.
I am the cool summer breeze that blows through my grand children’s hair.
I am the glint of mischief in my great grand children’s eyes.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there - I did not die.