Saturday, September 07, 2013

The Eulogy for Alvin

Several people asked for this. It will be easy to share this link by email. It was my great honor to present this at the funeral for Alvin Enfinger:

Eulogy for Alvin - Exodus 20:12

Honor thy father and thy mother ..
… and thy brothers and sisters
… and thy uncles and aunts
…. and thy cousins and thy in-laws
… and thy neighbors
… and thy community and thy country
and thy fellow man.

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
Alvin  Henry Enfinger - A man of honor and respect. NOT that he expected YOU to honor him or even to respect him --- but he would RESPECT you and HONOR your presence. IT was a part of his nature. Built in. A heritage ingrained in him from birth by family that carried a sense of honor forward to the next generation.

I think some of us here witnessed yesterday a continuation of this respectfulness and honor of family and neighbors among the descendants of Alvin and Annie Doris Gilman Enfinger.  They stand proud. They look you in the eye. They KNOW who they are and they show respect and honor for this extended family in the life of their father / grandfather.

This HONOR - This RESPECT  as it is given  - it is returned with Admiration.  The lives of Alvin and Doris Enfinger gave the world a next generation and a next that Honors their union.  
Alvin’s honor and respect were directed toward the future generations and just as much toward the generations and the heritage that brought him into our world.  His respect and admiration and honors given to  his own and other families who set the stage for this  “LAND THE LORD GAVETH HIM”  was legendary - in his care of churches and cemeteries where those pioneers worshiped and were laid to rest.  You cannot bring the historic Coon Hill Cemetery into a conversation without an expression of gratitude for Alvin’s work there.
His childhood sweetheart, Annie Doris Gillman - the mother of his children - was an ardent  historical researcher and helper until her death at far too early an age. She dug far into the Campbell lineage and found records that added color and honor and remembrance to the memories of Alvin’s grandmother’s family. She found lost civil war records and more. Alvin’s grandmother was my grandfather’s sister. His dad, Lewis was my dad’s first cousin. Alvin is my second cousin.
In the hard times of the depression - which was essentially an extension of the long years of Southern Reconstruction -- the small and tightly knitted family relationships around the hamlet of Chumuckla thrived on integrity and hard work and honor and respect. They did not have a lot of anything else to trade on. Alvin talked of the many meals of biscuits and molasses when other food stocks were low or out of season.  
Alvin’s mother died after her fifth child (1931), leaving a lot of young children and a lonely father to try to care for them all.  Lillian and Floyd became cooks and housekeepers and other chores were taken up by the others including Alvin. Soon, some of the children were put in the care of other family members. Adrian, Alvin and Ora Dean went to live with their Grandmother (my Great Aunt Mag Enfinger). Jessie Jean went to Aunt Fannie Steadham Wilson --- Gaston. Lewis was able to keep working and maintain an income.
Alvin’s mother was Jessie Ora Steadham Enfinger. She brought a tremendous heritage of honor and respect to the union of she and Lewis.  Her heritage tracks back to the surviving Steadham brothers, famous for their close escape from the great massacre at Fort Mims in 1813, 200 years ago last week. The Steadhams in this area trace roots back to one of the brothers, Jesse Steadham.  The Fort Mims legacy is a part of many families in our county.
Depression times yielded to the war years and all the young men were subject to winds of war. In closing those depression years - Floyd helped Alvin break a horse in late 1939 on some fresh plowed ground. Floyd put on the halter and Alvin took the horse onto the fresh earth to let him buck out on soft ground. This was done riding bareback.  

Soon after, Floyd left to join the Navy. Alvin and Adrian remained in school. The principal at Chumuckla was the father of Alvin’s sweetheart, Annie Doris.  In 1941 they watched as their very own Chumuckla Basketball team went to the Florida state finals and WON the championship. Those players were all off to war within months. Some left early - before graduation - Empty chairs in their honor were on the stage among the graduating class who were present. Alvin saw that. He honored that.

In 1944 the war was still raging and more young men were needed. Alvin and his older brother Adrian (who had a temporary exemption for farming) were ready to sign up. Alvin joined the Navy. Adrian wanted the Navy but a fluke on the day he signed up - put him in the Army.
Alvin joined a small coastal patrol vessel designed for convoy protection and for his first week tried as hard as he could to heave his insides out over the side of the ship. But he survived. He had some convoy duty and soon the war was over. HIs brother Adrian, in the army in Europe, was killed in battle in Germany within days of the end of the war.

The loss of Adrian would affect all the family forever. Only a year before Adrian joined the Army - he had pledged funds to build the Chumuckla Methodist Church near the crossroads.  He and others in the community were HONORING one of their own , Seif Kilpatrick, a merchant marine, who died with his ship - lost without a trace in early 1942 - in the desperate attempts to get arms and material to Great Britain.  

The Kilpatricks, yielding to a plea from Alvin’s grandmother, Margaret Campbell Enfinger, donated the property for a Methodist Church in  HONOR of Seif. Little did he know at the time, but Adrian himself would soon become a sacrifice for the sake of freedom.

These things are a part of the fabric of a community and a family and the life of Alvin Enfinger and all those who were living those days with honor - and respect  - for one another.  When Alvin had an opportunity to retire from his business, years later, he would devote his labor of love to the building, expansion and care of the Chumuckla Church. He could serve God and honor his community and his forebears who gave him a heritage of honor.
After the war .. Alvin made many good decisions in sequence. He married Annie Doris. He attended the Alabama Polytechnic Institute (WAR EAGLE) and became a pharmacist. He worked for a time for others and then took an opportunity to go on his own making use of a loan secured through suppliers. He always poured the largest part of his earnings back into the business and the results of good management and a reputation for honor led to success with his business and his family. The business success allowed him to retire right back to his roots in Chumuckla - “the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.”
He was hardly retired though. He threw himself and his younger children into the farm life. A Red Angus dynasty of beef genetics grew and developed a worldwide reputation. At one time, he sold and shipped a plane-load of breeding stock to South Africa. The plane flew to Miami, then to Brazil and then to South Africa -  full of cattle and all survived and thrived.  Alvin’s work with the Red Angus breed is seen throughout the world to this day.
Annie Doris passed away far too soon. The children became managers of the business or found careers. Alvin continued to honor his past with friends and family in the area.  About a dozen years ago, my Dad, J. Lee Campbell contracted a blood disease that would eventually take his life. Dad was one of Alvin’s many friends and cousins who were a part of his life from boy to war to man to retiree ….. to the grave.

As dad gradually lost his abilities, Alvin added more care. His visits were frequent. He’d take dad for a meal of oysters at every opportunity - a repast they are both enjoying at this very moment in heaven if they have East Bay oysters there. But any oyster will do.

In his last months of mobility, Alvin physically put dad in his truck. There were several times when a loss of body control - would leave the Tom Thumb or Alvin’s truck awash in waste. Alvin would hose it out, clean up my dad and never complain. He’d take him again in a few days for more oysters or a ride in the open air of Chumuckla … “the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.”  
To Alvin, this was honoring his heritage, his people, his cousin, yes -- but honoring and respecting humanity.  There are few who would do what Alvin did for my dad in his closing days on earth. It is my great honor to speak for him today.

Did you notice the American Legion HONOR GUARD yesterday at the visitation? They came to render honors to their fellow veteran, my cousin, Alvin Henry Enfinger.  The honor guard itself was aged, disabled and marked by the years. They were here to honor Alvin.

YET -  It was such a moment of respect when everyone there stood in HONOR of THEM as they departed the building. Honor begets honor. Respect begets Respect.

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. … And all God’s Children said AMEN. … and Amen.

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