Saturday, September 03, 2011

Funeral in Genesee

On top of a rounded hill sprinkled with trees which overlooked the small town, the man they buried that day, name Joseph Schooler, came from a family that had farmed the land there near Genesee for years and years. The wooden casket lay on a bier positioned next to the grave. The casket itself had heads of wheat carved into the light brown wood, a beautiful touch of artwork. Short's Funeral Home in nearby Moscow, Idaho, had supervised the arrangements for the family. The wheat wood carving fit the occasion because Joe (as Joseph was known) had lived and worked most of his life in this small town, which lies 13 miles south of Moscow in the wheat growing region known as the Palouse. The nearby rolling country was covered, nearly every square inch planted that summer, with wheat ripening beneath the cleary sunny sky. In the last few years of his long life, after his wife died, Joe had stayed with a daughter further north in the larger city of Hayden, Idaho.

Many of the gravestones had the name of Schooler inscribed into them, all relatives of Joe, for the family had a long history here, mostly now unknown to the world. Other gravestones there atop that hill had dates inscribed in them which takes one as far back as the Civil War days, people who were born in the early 1800s. An honor guard from the Genesee chapter of the American Legion came to conduct the funeral rituals. There was no church minister, which was Joe's request, although the Legionaire who spoke and led the brief prayer could just as well had been a minister for he spoke with a clear and firm voice regarding God and the last things common to all men.

During World War II, as a young soldier, Joe had been a pilot who flew a variety of aircraft, including bombers, for the Army Air Corps. During the funeral, there in the Genesee City Cemetery next to Becker Road about a mile southeast of the town , the Legionaires had arranged for a vintage B-17 to fly over the hill during the funeral. This was their salute to Joe, who it was said had loved flying. The funeral was short; they gave Joe a salute, a squad of riflemen firing three volleys; they played taps. We then left to go to the Genesee Community Center for a brief lunch with Joe's relatives and friends before returning home.

In Genesee, the grain silos make their stand and pierce the blue sky as they had for many years. This place was as American as America can ever get. —2011 Aug 1