Family grieves loss

Published 10:29 am Monday, November 5, 2012

My family lost a great man last week.

Not only did my family lose him, so too did the church he loved, the community he graced with his warmth and charm and the friends who had come to appreciate the man he was.

My uncle, Frank Aultman, lost his battle to cancer last week. It was not unexpected, but it was difficult nonetheless.

As a child, I remember being as scared of my uncle as I was a bear. He was a big, strong and tall man with a booming voice. When he spoke, people in the next county listened. He never did anything to make me scared of him. I was just intimated by his size and presence.

I remember, as a child, sitting at the dinner table at the home he shared with my Aunt Myrna and their children. She had cooked so much food I’m not sure how it all fit on the table. My uncle put stuff on my plate.

Included among the items on my plate was a small spoonful of cabbage. It was the most disgusting thing I had ever seen. I looked at it like a monkey doing a math problem and then told him I didn’t like it.

Being a typical father, he asked if I had ever tried it. I hadn’t and honest to goodness did not want to. I though a shot would be better than putting that nasty stuff in my mouth. It wasn’t an option.

I can’t tell you I liked the cabbage because I didn’t. I can’t tell you that I grew up to appreciate it later, because I didn’t. I can tell you that he reinforced what I was taught at home, respect for elders and listening to adults.

As I grew older, I saw my uncle more when he and my aunt visited my father. We played cards and laughed and ate together on a semi regular basis. Last Christmas, my aunt and uncle joined us for our family dinner at my father’s house, which I usually cook.

I cannot tell you how proud I was when my uncle not only ate two helpings, but three. He complimented the meal, which was only spaghetti and some bread and told me how much he enjoyed it. It meant a lot.

Over the last few years, I got to know more of my uncle as a man. I learned more deeply the love he had for my aunt – the love he carried with him to his grave, never wavering after 54 years of matrimony. Five decades after saying “I do,” he still had a gleam in his eye when he talked about his bride.

Along with his wife, he deeply loved his children and grandchildren. He was proud of their accomplishments and it was obvious how much he cared about their well-being.

I learned about the man of God who sang in the choir, led people to Christ and was the person many turned to when they wanted someone to pray for them. I learned how much he cared about his fellow man and how much he wanted all of them to make the same trip to Heaven he made last week.

We lost my uncle – and a great man – last week. Even though we are comforted that he is no longer suffering from the dreaded disease that took his life and even though he is at rest with God, he will be greatly missed.

I hope that when I leave this world, I could leave behind half of the legacy of Frank Aultman.


Thadd white is Managing Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be reached via email at or by telephone at 332-7211.