arteejee

A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Uncle Hugh



My uncle, Hugh Wesley Cathers, passed away this week. He went peacefully, and I was grateful that his actual passing was quick and quiet after months of suffering. As the closest family member — his room in the rest home was a little over a mile from my house — I had many opportunities to watch him struggle with his pain. In retrospect, too many of those visits were heart wrenching.

He was the third of seven children born to Jack and Bonnie Cathers, the youngest boy, and possibly the most intelligent one of the family. His work through the years was mainly in electronics, and he entered the working world fresh from military service in World War II (Navy) in time to help bring the biggest innovation to society since the discovery of the wheel. That innovation was television. His first work was wiring bars and taverns for this new-fangled entertainment fad.
  
He married what was considered late for the 50s at the age of 30. His wife, Lillian, was a few years older than Uncle Hugh, but they lived many good years together until she died in 1988. For many of those years, they lived in a duplex in Northeast Philly, just off Roosevelt Boulevard. Uncle Hugh would probably still be there if he had not surprised a burglar about 12 years ago. The intruder knocked my uncle out with a blow to the head, an injury that my family does not believe he ever fully recovered.

Uncle Hugh was also a bit eccentric. He was very well read in science and mathematics, but unfortunately his intellect kept him isolated from normal relationships with the average Joe on the street. He had some outlandish ideas over the years, such as building immunity to poison ivy by eating it. I never worked the courage up to try his home remedy.

More recently, he had an idea to keep food warm in his room. All he needed was an empty coffee can, the wiring guts from a table lamp, and a light bulb. He described the idea to me, and I realized that his invention would never be endorsed by United Laboratories. I never brought the parts into his room, and the other residents of his facility were spared the trauma of having to escape a fast-moving electric fire.

He never had children of his own. He made up for it by keeping dogs. Uncle Hugh was famous in family lore for bringing strays home. I don’t know if anyone kept count of how many canines he brought home, but to hear the family talk it became a habit for him. He found one small dog in a downpour and brought her home to his mother, who called her Patsy. She may have been good company for Grandmom, but I recall that she was always cranky around me when I was small and just learning to walk. Fortunately, Grandmom made up for Patsy’s bitchy attitude by doting on all of us grandchildren.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive eulogy. There are many things I will never know about him; perhaps his surviving siblings will shed some light on his personal life soon. One thing I didn’t know until recent years was his artistic talent. He played harmonica since childhood and he would play it often in the home. I didn’t realize that he was an accomplished artist, preferring to use color pencils to paints. He concentrated on nature studies — exotic birds (as below) and other animals.






His very dry wit could easily be misinterpreted by the overly sensitive. I had an opportunity to spend a few weeks in the city in 1975, and he would take me wherever I wanted to go. Once he observed me buckling my seat belt when I got in to his car.  “Good idea,” he said, “At least then there will be one survivor to tell the cops what happened.” I should mention that his driving skills, like his wit, were also not for the feint of heart.

I will miss him, as will his 3 surviving sisters, assorted nieces and nephews, and millions of stray dogs all over the world.

(Thank you for reading!  RIP, Uncle Hugh.)

5 Comments:

Blogger Nadege said...

I am sorry for your loss! Your uncle sounds like he was a brilliant man (and a good artist).

June 20, 2013 at 6:59 AM  
Anonymous Janey said...

Dear RTG,

My condolences on the loss of Uncle Hugh...

He sounds like a character about whom more should be written!

Love,
Janey

June 20, 2013 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

So sorry for your loss.
He sounds like an exceptional man.

June 20, 2013 at 9:28 AM  
Blogger GuyS said...

I knew your Uncle very well. As I kid, I grew up across the street from him. Every time I fix my plumbing, solder wires or even diagnose an electrical issue I think of all that your uncle taught me. He treated me as an adult since I was 8 years old. Never talked down to me and taught me so much that I carry thru life. It should also be noted that he made some excellent Chilli :) I visited him quite a few times after the burglary and regret that we lost touch. He was a great mentor and a good friend to my family.

June 20, 2013 at 2:56 PM  
Blogger todd gunther said...

Thank you all for your condolences.
Thank you Guy, for sharing your memories with me. Uncle Hugh was still making his chili when he lived with his sister Vera in Jeffersonville as recently as five years ago. He was a very caring person who will be missed.

June 20, 2013 at 6:47 PM  

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