The loss of a loved one is one of the hardest of life events, and when it is a child, be it a young child or an adult child, it is even worse. For my uncle, Lester “Jim” Wolfe and my aunt, Ruth Wolfe, the loss of their adult son, Larry Wolfe in an explosion on May 16, 1976, was a devastation. They, like any parent, had a really hard time coping with the loss. They were living in Vallejo, California at the time, but after their loss, they could no longer stay there. They had to get out of California. It was then that a move to Washington state seemed their best option. I don’t know if Washington had been on their radar prior to Larry’s passing at 26 years old, or not, but they moved the entire family to the mountains outside Newport, in eastern Washington state. They purchased basically the entire mountain top, and built three cabins, where they would live out their lives.

They lived a good life on the mountain top. They were completely off the grid, something that is common these days, but not so much back then. Nevertheless, they craved total isolation, and the mountain top provided just that. Still, while they wanted to be left alone, they still enjoyed traveling, and they came out to see our family several times after that. Aunt Ruth was my dad, Allen Spencer’s sister, after all. Uncle Jim lost Aunt Ruth to cancer, on May 11, 1992, when she was just 66 years old. I’m sure he quickly learned to dread the coming of May. After that, we lost touch with them unto shortly before Uncle Jim passed away on January 30, 2013. We had reconnected with his daughter, my cousin Shirley Cameron in 2011, but by that time Uncle Jim was already in a nursing home with Dementia. We were always sad about that, but for the most part Uncle Jim was happy. His favorite things to do were strolling down the halls in his wheelchair singing and flirting with the nurses that worked there. They all loved him and thought his flirting was cute, and knowing my uncle like I did, I’m sure he was also a great jokester. He always had been, so playing pranks on the nurses came naturally. He once tried hiding in the nurses’ station but got caught. I’m not sure if his plan was to scare them or to catch one around the waist when she wasn’t looking. I wouldn’t put either choice past him. Uncle Jim was always a lighthearted person and great fun to be around. He loved to take his family camping, and maybe that was a big part of the reason the family moved to the mountains of Washington in the first place.

It was with heavy hearts that we attended the funeral of our uncle. My mom, Collene Spencer, sister, Cheryl Masterson, and I all made the trip to Washington. It was a bittersweet trip. We were happy to see their family again. We had not seen my cousin, Terry Wolfe, Shirley’s brother in many years either, although we had texted back and forth a little. We just wished that the reason for the trip had not been my Uncle Jim’s funeral. While it would have been hard, we would much rather have been able to visit him at the nursing home just once before his passing. Today would have been Uncle Jim’s 102nd birthday had he still been with us. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Jim. We love and miss you very much.

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