An honor flight of pelicans arose from one of the marsh ponds early Friday afternoon and circled the Chariton Cemetery gravesite as final preparations were under way to bury my venerable cousin and surrogate aunt, Cleo (Myers) Shore (at far left with her sister, Frances). Cleo died at 98 on August 29 in Des Moines.
I was a few minutes too late to see it, but her son-in-law, Larry, described the flight with a degree of wonder. It's an amenity not many cemeteries offer.
There weren't many of us there for the graveside service --- Cleo's daughter and son-in-law, Pat and Larry Van Sickle (of Overland Park, Kansas), her grandsons, Jaysen (also of Overland Park) and Ryan (of Atlanta) along with his wife, Heather; two long-time friends from Des Moines; Smith nephews Carl and Clayton and their spouses, a couple of Burleys and me.
There will be a much larger memorial service at 10:30 this morning in Des Moines at Cleo's church of some 60 years --- Union Park Baptist. She was the oldest member of that congregation.
But Cleo hadn't wanted her physical remains to be the centerpiece of any memorial, so the decision was made to hold the interment in Chariton on Friday.
It was a lovely, peaceful leavetaking without pomp or preacher, just the family saying quiet goodbyes. Then we went somewhere else, sat down and talked for a while.
Cleo was buried between her husband, Manuel Shore, and her mother, R.G. (Burley) Myers, on the lot purchased during 1925, when Aunt R.G. died and Cleo, then 7, and Frances, then 6, were left in something of a lurch because their father, John Myers --- a younger brother of my grandfather --- had no particular interest in raising them. And his second wife wanted nothing to do with them at all.
My grandparents stepped up, took them in and raised them, so my dad and his only sister, Flora, always looked upon Cleo and Frances as their little sisters.
And, yes, "R.G." was the only name Aunt R.G. had. The initials had no meaning beyond themselves. You'll have to ask her parents, Silas and Laura (Ryun) Burley --- buried out at Freedom --- about that one.
The two sisters were entirely devoted to each other, although they were dissimilar in some ways. Cleo married Manuel Shore, decided she was on to a good thing and that was that. Frances had multiple marital adventures. Cleo didn't mind travel, but preferred her home. Frances though nothing of flying off to China, Australia or any place else that struck her fancy.
Both were superior cooks. For many years, Frances operated one of the most respected catering firms in Tucson, Arizona, where much of her life was spent. Cleo's efforts were exceptional, but not shared on quite that scale. Two of her recipes --- cinnamon rolls and Swedish rye bread --- are included in the funeral folder. Just let me know if you'd like one or the other.
Frances, whose ashes currently repose on a side table in California, has a tombstone on the same Chariton Cemetery lot where Cleo was buried Friday and her sons keep talking about returning them to Chariton for interment. If and when that happens, the family circle will be unbroken.