Saturday, January 1, 2011

Sympathy Saturday: Charles Morgan Tapley and Ethel Ranney Tapley

Mom and Pop Pop, abt 1972-73
Grandma with Alice, my parents, and me

My maternal grandparents both died on November 12, 1973.  A car accident you wonder?  Dare you think it, a double murder??  No, my grandparents both died on November 12, 1973 about six hours and 35 miles apart. 

My parents and I lived in Jacksonville, Florida at the time.  I was six years old and in the first grade.  I remember very vividly seeing my mother getting ready that morning and explaining to me that Pop Pop had passed away, and we had to go to Swainsboro. 

My grandfather had been in the hospital for several days with pneumonia.  He had a heart attack and died about 4 am. 

My grandmother had multiple sclerosis (or something in that family) and was in a wheelchair.  Her sister, Alice Ranney Thornburg, lived with Pop Pop and Grandma assisting with her sister's care.  When Pop Pop went into the hospital, Alice was unable to care for Grandma by herself so the decision was made to temporarily place her in a nursing home in Dublin... just until Pop Pop came home.  However, that never happened.

We arrived in Swainsboro, and my mother's brother, Bob Plumlee and his wife Louise, arrived from Marietta, Georgia.  We picked up Alice and all drove to Dublin to give Grandma the bad news and bring her home.  Of course, as soon as she saw all of us walk in, telling her the news was a moot point; she knew.  We wheeled Grandma outside to the car to head back to Swainsboro.

From this point forward, I remember it all like it was yesterday.  I was standing next to my mom with Aunt Louise on the other side.  My father picked my grandmother up out of her wheelchair and bent over to place her in the car.  Suddenly, my father urgently called to my uncle, "Bobby!  Help me!"  And my mother knew.  Her knees buckled, and if my aunt Louise had not caught her, she would have collapsed on the pavement.  My grandmother died of a heart attack right there in my father's arms. 

The doctors or scientists can say what they will, but I firmly believe that she just did not want to go on without Pop Pop.  She probably thought she would spend the rest of her life in the nursing home if he was gone.  I am sure my grandparents had their problems - every couple does - but he was very devoted to her and took his responsibility of caring for her very seriously.  He would have kept her at home and taken care of her to the very end, I am sure.  But unfortunately, that was not meant to be.  And my grandmother did not want to face a life without her husband.

The rest is a blur for me.  There was a double funeral.  A lot of people came to their house in Swainsboro to pay their respects.  I remember seeing family I had never met or had not seen in a long, long time.  My Uncle Hugh (Dorsey) Tapley took me to the flower shop and bought me a small plastic flower bouquet in a wicker basket.  I guess he wanted to cheer up a little girl who had just lost the last of her grandparents.  I have that arrangement still. 

In the "new" items I got from Mom recently was Pop Pop's funeral book, along with their obituary and this article.  They are not marked, but I am fairly certain the article is from the Swainsboro Forest-Blade.  The obituary appears to be from the Augusta Chronicle.

I cannot being to imagine how my mother felt that day.  I know she misses her parents very much.  I was close to them as they were really the only grandparents I had known.  Pop Pop doted on me; I always say that if he had not taken pictures of me when I was little, there wouldn't be any!

 Forever memorialized, side by side, in death as in life.


  1. Of course your family will never forget this. I hope there;s some comfort in knowing they didn't have to be apart from one another.

  2. That must have been a very sad day for all of you. I wavs thinking with Nancy that they did not have to spend time apart.