I didn't know LaVerne Wubben well. We had met only a couple of times, but he was the father of my brother Harold's wife, Connie, and, judging by all I know and have recently learned, would have stood a good chance of being awarded the title of "salt of the earth," were there a competition open for that title. His home for all his life was in rural Hazel Green, Wisconsin. Hazel Green is a tiny community of one main street, located in the Southwest of the state only a few miles north of the Illinois border. "Verne," as he was known, was baptized, married, and buried from the same parish, and laid to rest in the adjacent church yard. Himself one of seven children, he fathered seven of his own with his wife, Darlene, and had accumulated, so far, twenty grandchildren, ranging from attractive and self-posessed young women (among whom I number three of my nieces) to babes in arms. Like many men in that region, he maintained a family farm while also working a full-time factory job for John Deere in Dubuque, Iowa, while that lasted. After jobs at Deere went away, he worked as a school bus driver and later part-time for F&H supply. He died this last Wednesday of congestive heart failure. Verne was a good father-in-law to my brother, and they found a common enjoyment in hunting. "Avid outdoorsman" would also be an apt description of Verne as he hunted deer, bear, and goose, and fished and taught his children and grandchildren to fish. During the family reminicense portion of the funeral, one of his daughters wryly recounted the dubious joys of spending a long fall evening boning a deer, or tracing a blood spoor through a cornfield by flashlight. Among the "gifts" laid on the coffin during the ceremony were an orange hunting hat and a clay "pigeon" target. He wrote letters to his grandchldren, unusual for this age, and filled them with riddles and wisdom they evidently cherish.
Family stories were the best part of the funeral. I am afraid that, since the doctrrinal change that a funeral is to be a celebration of the departed's life and entry into a new life in Heaven, Catholic funerals in particular have become--well, wimpy, for lack of a better word. The commonly used music is dreadful. I don't know what I'll do if I hear "On Eagle's Wings" one more time, although, given my number of Catholic relatives it's probably inevitable. This was followed by an even more insipid song called "Taste and See (The Goodness of the Lord)" which reminded me of nothing so much as a margarine commercial jingle. There was also one to the tune of "Danny Boy", but with very forgettable words, and "Amazing Grace." If they are going to adopt hymns written by Protestants, why not borrow some muscley ones like "Old Rugged Cross" or "How Great Thou Art"?
The priest did an adequate job, although unfortunately he was a somewhat dull speaker, insisted on explaining everything happening during the service although the great majority attending were surely churchgoers if not Catholics, and evidently did not know Verne well, since his eulogy, in fine, boiled down to "he was born/baptised, he got married, he had children and grandchildren." To his credit, he kept everything moving along, and involved the family a great deal. Besides the reminicences, one of Verne's grandsons was an "altarboy", another relative assisted serving the Mass, and three granddaughters sang. Since Verne was enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War, the American Legion color guard turned out and fired the tradition salute at the grave site and "Taps" was played.
My brother, sister-in-law and nieces and other family members were doing as well as might be (the death was not unexpecred) but it is apprent Verne will be keenly missed.