Thursday, July 05, 2018

Deaths, Summer 30 Years ago

Thirty years ago, was the Summer of Death for my family and in-laws, and co-workers.

Memorial for Joe Wilke's Children at Noonday Baptist Church Cemetery

It started June 6, 1988, my mother’s birthday.  We had just bought a Chrysler Voyager van and went over for her birthday dinner and to show off our new van.  I remember she was so short she had a hard time getting in and out of it.  On our ride she told me I have been neglecting Daddy, and I needed to visit him more often.
On the way home that evening the traffic was backed up at the Bells Ferry Road and 4-Lane Intersection.  Many police cars and some ambulances were there with flashing lights.
When I went to work early the next morning I learned that our co-worker Joe Wilke’s wife tried making a left turn onto on-coming traffic and was hit, killing their three children.  His wife survived.
Joe is deaf.  He had a hard time with that.  He divorced his wife and decided he wanted to be alone as much as possible, bought some mountain land in Fannin County.  On his off days he and his dog spent their away from civilization on his new property.  At night he slept in his car and tied his dog to a tree outside.  One morning, when he got up his dog was bloody and almost dead.  Apparently, a bear came into their area and the dog barked at the bear and it mauled the dog.  Joe, being deaf, did not hear it.  Joe had to have his friend put down.
Joe bought him a motorcycle and some people think he moved to Florida and with a gang of bikers. 

About 26 days after Joe’s children’s deaths, in early July, on Sunday Morning we got a phone call from our sister-in-law, Anna’s brother Tommy’s wife, Thelma.  Thelma said something terrible had happened to Tommy.
Tommy and friends were spending time at Lake Juliette north of Griffin.  Like Juliette was built by Tommy and his co-workers.  They had built it for Georgia Power.  I think they had a deer camp there.  One of Tommy’s friends were rowing a boat and Tommy was swimming alongside him.  They were talking.  His friend said something   that would require a reply, and none came.  Tommy wasn’t there. 
The authorities looked and looked in the lake for the body and could not find it.  It surfaced in October 1989, about 15 months later.
After Thelma called it was up to us to notify her Dad and Mom.  It was Sunday morning, they would be in Church.  Anna is  good detective, somehow she figured they were visiting her mother’s sister’s church, Maple Avenue Methodist Church.  Anna called her cousin Stan, son of the sister, he lived in the area of the church and Stan went to the church and notified them.
We went to be with them.  They were very upset.

Twelve days later, two days before my birthday, my mother called and said Daddy was very sick and he would not let them take him to the hospital.  I drove over to their house and convinced he needed to go and have them check him over.  He reluctantly went with me.
While I was in the examining room with him with medical people coming and going I could see he was worried.  I wanted to tell him I loved him but could not work up the gumption.  We didn’t do that in our family.   I regret that.
He died later that day. 


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