On death and dying in Minonk

February 18, 2008       Editor: Dave Uphoff
I was saddened to learn of my friend Bob Cufaude's death this past week. Bob lived on West Second Street across from the parcel of land that I own. Many times when I would be mowing the grass there on a hot summer day, Bob would come across the street and bring me a cold drink. He also would stop in my building uptown and chat with me about current affairs.

Bob graduated from Minonk Community High School in 1943. He and his wife Myra left Minonk to work and raise a family in the Chicago area. He returned to Minonk after retiring. Bob was of the older generation that wasn't familiar with computers but he was an ardent follower of MinonkTalk on WebTV. I just wanted to take this opportunity to say good bye to a good friend. I know he would have appreciated being mentioned on MinonkTalk. I will miss him.

Most people probably don't know that years ago undertaking was handled by the local furniture store. Furniture stores used to sell caskets and became the accepted place to initiate the planning of a funeral. Logan Wilcox ran a furniture store and undertaking business in the north block of downtown Minonk and Sid Tallyn ran a similar operation in the south block many years ago. In the late 1930's the Wilcox furniture store and mortuary burned down. The Tallyn Furniture Store and Mortuary closed down in the early 1940's. Later, Sid Tallyn's son Harrison Tallyn would combine with Milan Folkers to form the Tallyn-Folkers Funeral Home in the home now occupied by Sean Cunningham at the corner of Fifth and Locust. Logan Wilcox's son Robert Wilcox later would establish the Wilcox Funeral Home at the site of the present Calvert Funeral Home on Walnut Street.

The first funeral I attended was for my great grandmother Kettwich who died in 1951 at almost 102 years of age. It was the first time I had seen a dead person and it was a shock to me. Since then I always felt ill at ease observing a dead body. The local custom of showing the body at a wake is not universally accepted. My sister-in-law from England said that funerals are always closed casket in her native country.

Another tradition that has disappeared is having a wake in the home of the deceased. When my grandfather died in 1952 they held the wake in the bedroom of his house. The other part of the tradition is that a person would stay up all night with the body.

Wakes have changed over the years. I have been to several wakes where objects dear to the departed would be placed in the casket next to the body. I have seen cans of beer, stuffed animals, pictures and other assorted items placed in caskets. I don't know the reason for this trend but it may be a way to reduce the aura of death about the body.

Another recent innovation in wakes and funerals is to play a video showing pictures of significant events in the deceased's life.

While not wanting to appear irreverent, I would like to finish with a true story that happened years ago at a wake in Minonk. My friend Jack Cullen and I were in line to pay our respects to the family of a departed woman. When Jack got to greet the husband, he told him he was sorry to learn of his wife's death. Poor Jack was taken aback when the husband replied with incredulity, "You're sorry! How do you think I feel?"

I know that if Bob were here today he would have chuckled at that little story.

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                                                             Viewer comments on this editorial

Dave Stokowski wrote on 2/20/2008 at 19:22:46

Dave: I'm sure Bob's family appreciates your tribute to him. Having been a neighbor of Bob's since he moved back to Minonk, Sherri & I will also miss him. He was never at a loss for words. The neighborhood won't be the same not seeing him out and about this summer in his big straw hat!!

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