For Father

My father has passed away—40 days exactly since life-saving treatment suspended and he left the hospital to decline in his home. A few minutes after 9 this morning, my sister Nan telephoned to say that he had taken a sharp turn downward and wasn’t expected the last much longer. She called again, almost exactly four hours later, to let me know he was gone.

Some weeks ago, Nan asked me to write the obituary—a task I resisted. Top reason: In this age of Artificial Intelligence scanning and rampant criminal scamming, I was reluctant to share much family information publicly. For some people, death is an opportunity to take advantage of others in their grief.

But as I thought about my father dying today, and there being need, I pulled out Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio and sat down to write the obit. According to the metadata, I created the document at 11:15 a.m. PDT and stopped writing at 12:27 p.m. Timestamp on the email attachment to my sister is 12:32 p.m. Our father passed away 15 minutes later: 12:47 p.m. (3:47 p.m. EDT, where he was). Lucky timing.

The obituary:

On April 16, 2024, Joseph Elwin Wilcox of Woodland, ME, passed away on the family farm where he grew up. Born on May 24, 1941, the second son of Glen and Evelyn Wilcox (both deceased), he is survived by sisters Dawn Soucy, and her spouse Chris, and Marie Newell. Eldest child Glenwood Wilcox also is deceased. At age 16, Joseph eloped to Canada with Linda Devoe (deceased) of Caribou. They had four children: Yancy Wilcox, fraternal twins Annette Boucher (deceased) and Nanette Atherton, and Laurette Bellerive. He later remarried, Rosetta St. Peter; both are survived by her children: Carla, Craig, and Tamara (Tami) Jordon (all).

Joseph boasted having lived to see seven generations of the family, including his grandparents who purchased the farm in 1895. Surviving nephews and nieces: Carrie, Daniel, Glen, Lisa, and Robert. Deborah is deceased. Nine grandchildren: Ben, Brian, David, Elisa, Lisa, Lynnae, Mark, Molly, and Nicole. Ten great-grandchildren: Aiden, Akhyla, Ayden, Brice, Brielle, Cerridwen, Charlotte, Jacob, Reiley, and Tucker. One great-great grandchild: Sunny.

As a young father, Joseph was an avid outdoorsman, hunting and fishing with his brother and the troupe they would eventually call the Falls Brook Rangers. The group spent summers in the Allagash wilderness when it was rugged, inaccessible, and unknown; the area is now more of a tourist destination. Joseph once shot the largest black bear on record in the State of Maine, a feat for which he was quite proud. During his thirties, he started shooting wildlife with a camera, rather than a rifle. Nevertheless, he remained a proud gun owner and concealed permit holder for the remainder of his life.

As an older gentleman, he returned to his Protestant family roots after going to church service on Christmas Eve 1988. A decade later, he rededicated his life to the Lord more resolutely. Joseph attended the Intervention Church of Perham, where he was known for consistent tithing and generosity.

The family would like to humbly, and graciously, thank co-pastors Matthew and Kathy Palmer—and other members of the congregation—whose 24/7 support allowed Joseph to pass away with dignity in his own home. Their parental kindness brought his life full circle: Joseph’s parents fostered dozens of other children over several decades during his youth. His life started in an atmosphere of care and love and ended that way because of his church family. Amen.

The obit is stately and succinct but lacks charm and character that I would have preferred to write. For example, my parent’s sense of humor, at least in his youth, was legendary. At age 5, he reportedly burned down the family farm’s barn while sneaking a cigarette. Later, when he was perhaps 10, he drove the tractor over his brother, who had been throwing rotten potatoes. My uncle had come home on liberty from the military to help with the crop. He was laid up for weeks. Then there is my name! Read the obituary and ponder that.

Oh, the stories that could be told about this troublemaker from Woodland. But I guess those are saved for family and friends gathered together remembering the man. He will be missed.

Let’s talk Featured Image. Some years ago, I asked my father to document making Bean-hole Beans. He sent a CD of photos that contains the portrait taken somewhere in the North Maine Woods. Camera and photographer are unknown but the date, as you can see, is July 1981.