By Ron O’Clair
Friday the 23rd of May, 2014 was my 53rd birthday, and it was also the day that I laid to rest my fellow United States Air Force Veteran, William G. (Bill W.) White Jr.
As was reported to you reader’s of InCity Times in the last issue, Bill died from complications of COPD, which is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. That diagnosis encompasses many lung ailments, and a lot of those are caused directly as a result of lifelong cigarette smoking. That was what did him in, smoking cigarettes.
Bill asked me, his longtime sponsor in the A.A. program of recovery if I would make his final arrangements for him, and I agreed. He knew he was dying, and accepted that fact as stoically as one can. He had a lot of courage, but the disease made it impossible for him to catch his breath even with the maximum amount of oxygen that the hospital could provide.
He wanted to get out of the hospital and go fishing, and get things done, but realized that that was impossible, and that the end was near. He wanted me to thank all of the people that he associated with in the A.A. and the N.A. programs of recovery for being the only family he had outside of his nephew Lyle C. White of Auburn, and Bill’s sister Judy Cota, her husband Ken, and their daughter Jennifer up in Claremont, New Hampshire. So I circulated the date and time of his service far and wide in the program of A.A.
I had a devil of a time finding who his living relatives were, and where they could be found, and for that, I wish to thank the efforts of Pat, who dispatches for the Millbury Police Department, and Detective Thibodeau of the Shrewsbury Police Department, and the many other municipal employees whom I burned up the telephone lines with trying to locate next of kin as the funeral home required in order that I may have published his obituary.
It is quite expensive to publish an obituary, and if you don’t, the only thing that gets published in the paper is a brief statement of facts, date of death and calling hours mostly. I felt that Bill deserved to be remembered for his helping other alcoholics and addicts into the recovery programs that were such an important aspect of Bill W.’s life, so I authored the obituary that was published the day before the funeral in hopes that the people that go to the meetings would attend his services.
I anticipated a huge turnout of homeless, down and out junkies, crack heads, prostitutes, and other assorted riff raff, as those were the ones that Bill W. worked with the most, those that needed his help most desperately to try to beat their addiction problems. Bill spent vast amounts of money on these people, money that he got from the Veteran’s Administration for his disability and the Social Security Administration for his retirement, and the forced sale of his beloved cottage on the shores of Lake St. George in Liberty, Maine. If not for the insistence of his Uncle Ernest Bridges, the cottage would still be in the family, and Judy, Ken, Jennifer and Lyle would have inherited Bill’s share.
Druggies would often flock towards Bill in the meetings asking for his help, and he would gladly peel off a twenty dollar bill in the belief that he was helping someone into recovery. The amount would vary depending on the circumstances of the story they told Bill, but I never saw him turn anyone away empty-handed.
So, when it came time for his funeral, I expected a lot of these people to show up to pay their last respects to their benefactor, who was known in certain circles as “Captain Save-A-Ho” for all of the working girls that he tried to help into the Methadone Clinics to get them off the street. I had a 50 seat school bus waiting outside to take the anticipated crowd out to the Veteran’s Cemetery to see what a proper funeral is all about, instead of erecting a shrine of cheap junk on a sidewalk after defacing the area with graffiti as they have become accustomed when one of theirs is killed in the drug business that goes on in our Worcester streets daily.
I wish to thank Eddy J. and Doris P. the only two that had the decency to come. The bus went to the burial service with me and 6 other people. The hearse was followed by two cars and the bus. 11 people attended the burial.
Thanks for the support on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend for a fallen disabled Veteran, shameful show of ungratefulness on behalf of those whom he tried to help.