Getting to know someone in death

Published 12:05 pm Friday, March 8, 2019

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never knew the late Walter Yelder, but after a phone call last week, I learned about the Greenville man who passed away on Feb. 2.

Its one of the interesting parts of my job when I take phone calls in the office. I spoke with one of Mr. Yelder’s nephews as he had called from Washington, D.C. to speak with someone at the newspaper.

Mr. Yelder was 92, and according to his nephew, he had been married to his wife, Bertha Mae Hunt Yelder, for more than 70 years. We talked about the struggles of losing a loved one. I can’t imagine the loss of someone that I had been married to for more than seven decades. As we talked, I smiled a little, thinking of my own late wife, Amelia.

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On March 10, my wife will have been gone 17 months. We weren’t married nearly as long as the Yelders, and yet whenever I hear of someone losing a spouse, I now feel a kinship to the one who has suffered a loss. For me, my move to Greenville is part of my healing. The nephew offered his aunt the same chance, a move. “I asked her to come up with me and she said ‘No.’” He said she could never leave Alabama.

Her late husband was born here in Butler County, on June 7, 1926.  He was a deacon who gave his life to God at an early age and joined the Pine Level Missionary Baptist Church where he served faithfully in many capacities.

“They were a special couple,” the nephew continued. “They influenced a lot of people — not just in Butler County, but in California, Chicago, Colorado and Washington, D.C. Families drew inspiration from them. They never wanted to leave Greenville. The north was too busy for them. They advocated us to come back to our roots.”

It’s interesting to think about folks so loyal to Greenville and Butler County. It says a lot to me a new resident about the place I’ve moved. During the course of my life, I’ve been a rambler of sorts. Alabama is the sixth state I’ve lived in, and I spent a year living overseas, in Iran, before the revolution.

I’ll always have an affinity for my hometown, Kent, Ohio, I even lived there since graduating from college, but I’ll likely never return to those roots. With my parents and my wife gone, my closest family is my son in Tennessee. For me now, home is where I am. But I can see how the Yelders spent their decades together here in Greenville — surrounded by family and friends.

Maybe I can learn from someone that I never knew, except in death; a man who was about the same age as my late father. I also hope that my family and friends show the love that his have. I’m certainly inspired by it as I begin the next phase in my life.

I’m looking forward to learning more about Greenville and Butler County as I continue to meet new friends and neighbors in my new home.