Sunday, October 12, 2008

Stories of Starford Leroy Churchill Jr

These are some stories that my husband Star has put together about his father.

Starford Leroy Churchill Jr.
June 25, 1927 to October 7, 2008

Dad’s Stories:

When Star was still a baby (about four to eight months) his family had a dog named Expert Tippy King (German Sheppard, I think). One day while his mom (Dorothea) was doing some ironing in the laundry area, Star had rolled out of bed, between the bed and the wall, pinning himself there. The dog heard the noise and trotted out to the kitchen and began tugging at Dorothea’s dress, then went back to Star’s room with Dorothea following. As she entered the room she saw that Star had fallen between the bed and wall and was having difficulty breathing. She was able to move the bed and get Star untangled from the sheets. King was a hero for saving Star’s life.

When Star was in school (somewhere in the middle grades) he was harassed by a group of kids that were always chasing him home and/or beating him up. Star did everything he could to avoid this group, taking different routes home, leaving as soon as the bell rang and running all the way home or staying late after school helping his teacher with odd chores. One day as he was running home and being chased by the group of bullies, he was spotted his father, who was out with his crew from the fire house. When Star Sr. got home, he called Star down stairs under the house (away from Dorothea) to find out what was going on. Star explained what had been happening and Star Sr. registered Star in a boxing training program at the local gym. After several weeks of instruction and training Star was once more on his own. Once again Star was being chased home by this group of kids, when he rounded a corner into lot and discovered that his father and the squad were there. Star was caught between a rock and a hard place. He decided to turn and face the oncoming group of kids and to take on the leader first. With a few well placed punches he managed to quickly eliminate the threat of a beating, not of the group of kids, but from his father, who was watching from the fire truck.

As a teenager in high school, Star had a very eventful life with his school buddies. There are several stories that I will try to tell:

One such event was the story of the pipe bomb, which as I remember happened during the early years of WWII. The boys had made a pipe bomb and decided to blow it up, so one night they got together and buried it in a large field near a movie theater. A few nights later they decided that it should be detonated, so they went to the movies (with the exception of Star, because he had been grounded that night), at intermission, one of the boys snuck out, wired the bomb to a detonator, and set it off. As it turns out, it had been buried between an Anti-Aircraft Gun and a Barrage Balloon; the resulting explosion put the Pacific side of the Canal Zone on Red Alert and the Atlantic Side on Yellow Alert. Fortunately no one was injured in the incident, but somehow the culprits were found and taken before the Military Commander of the Canal Zone for reprimanding.

Along with the previous story, Star was making a pipe bomb of his own in the back of the family garage. It was not something he was in a hurry to do and he had been working on it for weeks, slowly. One day as Star was messing around in the garage, a police officer walked up the sidewalk and stopped in front, calling Star out of the garage, he asked the office if something was wrong, the officer replied simply, telling Star to dismantle the pipe bomb and dispose of the components. Star looked puzzled and asked the officer, what are you talking about. The officer replied: would you like me to tell your father. With that Star said that he would take care of the issue and the officer left.

In High School, in Study Hall, Star and friends were watching Anti-Aircraft Guns test firing and decided to attempt to plot their locations. They were able to get a map, a compass, a thermometer and a stopwatch. Using their education in sciences, they would await the firing of a gun emplacement. One boy would plot the direction using the compass. Another would start the stopwatch when the gun flashed and stop it when he heard the report. The two other boy using the time and temperature would calculate the distance to the gun and mark it on the direction line already marked on the map, plotting the location of the gun. One of the boys’ Father was in command of the guns for the Pacific (west) side of the Canal Zone. This boy took the map home to show his father what they had done during Study Hall. The Father about freaked out at seeing the map. After reprimanding his son, he explained that they had missed one of the guns, but that was only because it was not firing that day, because it was (down for maintenance) being overhauled.

Star and his friends rigged a camera on a board with a trip line so when the camera was raised to the back seat window of Star’s car (just as the lens made contact with the window) a picture would be snapped. So as the boy drove around on base and saw something of interest they would raise the camera (as fast as the board could be raised and lowered) to take a picture. They did this on all the Canal Zone Bases (Army, Army Air Corps and Navy). These pictures went into an album that was presented by the boys to the Military Commander of the Canal Zone as he was leaving the Canal Zone.

Star and his friends spent a lot of time in the jungle hunting and at sea fishing. One time, Star and a couple of buddies were driving through the jungle hunting (they had rigged seats to the front bumper and side fenders of the car. Star had also read in a magazine, that if you grab a snake by the tail and snap it like you would a rope, it will break the snake’s neck region killing it) when Star spotted a snake sunny in the oath ahead. Signaling the car to stop and handing his gun off to his friend, he run ahead without any forethought to want he was doing, grabbing the snake by one end and giving it a snap, like a rope (which fortunately worked, killing the snake), because at that moment Star thought about at which end of the snake had he grabbed, turned out he had the snake by the head. LUCKY!

Star and friends had designed spear guns that used compress air canisters to launch the spears which had fifty feet of lightweight rope attached so the speared fish would hang below the diver in case sharks came by to investigate. One time they took this so call expert diver from Florida with them for some spear fishing. On the way out to a favorite fishing spot they instructed the diver on how to use the spear gun. During the adventure and after having speared some fish, a shark showed to investigate. Seeing the shark, this expert diver promptly placed the gun down between his legs and pulled the trigger, propelling himself to the surface like a ballistic missile fired from a submarine.

Papa Eagle

It has continued to be an emotional week. Dad Churchill passed away on Tuesday October 7th 2008. Six years and almost 1 month to the day that Dee passed away. The three of us took turns for 6 days sitting at his bedside. After about three days he no longer could really communicate with us but Aaron (he used to own Canyon Cove Asst Living, he and Ann stayed on as Hospice care) had informed us that hearing was the last thing to go so we could still communicate with him. We would let Dad know when we were coming and going and tell him things occasionally. After the Priesthood conference session ended on Saturday Bishop Wright came over and gave Dad a blessing. It was another one in offering him a peaceful experience.

Someone was with him during all the conference sessions and he at least got to hear about the Panama temple. I know he would have loved to have seen it in person.

The day that Dad passed Eve had gone over extra early. I stayed and took a nap and was there about 11:15 am. His breathing had become very shallow but was still very rhythmic. Hospice had given us all these signs to look for. We kept looking and looking. About 2 pm I noticed his color was a little different and was contemplating getting something to eat. Which meant leaving Canyon Cove. Instead I opted to put on some makeup. It was while I was putting on mascara that Dad took deep breathe. It made us look up as it was different from what his breathing had been. Then I noticed that he wasn't breathing and I called Eve's name and said I didn't think he was breathing, so I got up and put my hand on his chest and it was still. Then he took another half breathe and that was it. It was finally over. Eve was so happy for him that she grabbed his feet and said "way to go Dad!".

We had been telling for days that when he saw Dee to follow her. That in his present condition there was no need for him to stay. We all had been praying for a peaceful passing and that is what Dad received. We often asked him if he was in pain and he said no. We were told often of how a lot of elderly lie in intense pain for days and days before they die.

Dad lived an incredibly full life. He had the ability to tell the corniest jokes and make them funny. He was wonderful at sharing stories about his childhood in Panama and even when they moved to the states. Stories of what some might consider harrowing at times. Dad had a sureness of who he was and it showed in him and in his work as a machinist. He and Dee were truly very generous people. Not just with money but time, talent, and knowledge. One of the things that I enjoyed about Dad was that when he smiled it reached his eyes and his whole face would light up. I am going to miss that smile more than words can say. I managed to get one of those smiles with every visit up until about a week before he died.

I will try to put some pictures of Dad on our next blog.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A huge emotional week

It has truly been a very emotional week. On Monday evening I was informed that my Aunt Sue was dieing. On Tuesday I started beauty school and Tuesday night Aunt Sue passed away. I was not prepared for the emotions that over took me. I spent any break I had at school to stay in contact with various family members. On Thursday I was informed that my Father-in-law had only a few days to live. We have been expecting this and even praying for it. So once again on breaks I stayed on contact with Eve for any updates. Thursday evening we got a call that he wasn't doing good and we should come over. Well it is now Saturday and we take turns going over and sit with him. At moments he is aware of us yet most of the time he is not. It is very difficult to see him with his face so hollowed out and with no fat on his body at all. He has a rattle when he breathes. He has had no food or enough fluids to sustain his body. We expect him to pass today or tomorrow. It has truly been a rough week. Not one I would like to repeat.

Even though our faith gives us comfort in knowing that he joins our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ , not to mention his dear wife Dee and Star's son Jonathon the physical loss is still difficult to deal with.

I promise to write something more uplifting next week sometime.

Dad and Sue, I love you both and thank you for being a huge part of my life. Thank you for sharing your love with me. God Bless.