Monday, October 14, 2013

A Tribute to Dad

Don C. Bragg (August 8, 1920 - October 6, 2013)

Each of us treasure our own memories of Dad. Especially vivid in my mind is my last visit with him just a a few weeks ago. He spoke freely of memories of a long and storied life. We listened as he talked of family and friends, and days long passed.

His was a life filled with many obstacles. Even from the beginning of his life, it became clear that living would be an uphill battle. Late in life Dad discovered his own birth certificate inscribed simply with the name "Baby Boy Bragg." Dad told me that he was so small when he was born that his parents didn't think he would live so they didn't bother to name him. His first cradle was a shoe box. They kept him on the door of the stove to keep him warm and in a drawer to keep him safe at night. Within a number of weeks it became obvious that this little child was a fighter and, confident he would live, they gave him the name Don Cicero Bragg. And live he would, for 93 years.

As we sat together in his living room on what would be our last evening together Dad asked me if I had ever heard how he got started fixing car engines. During the Great Depression Grandpa Bragg helped support his family by dealing in used cars. He ended up with an old clunker parked beneath a tree. Grandpa promised Dad that if he could get that car running he could have it. So Dad went to work tearing it down piece by piece. Once he found the problems he reassembled what would become his very first car. It was the first in a long line of engines of various kinds that his hands would restore to usefulness.

He also spoke of his time of service in the military during World War II. Dad told of all the trouble he had to go through just to get military issue shoes that would fit his feet. He had to stuff socks into his shoes so they would stay on his feet while he marched. He spoke of that adventure which took him to Hawaii, the Philippines, and after the atomic bombs fell, to Japan. One thing he would never speak about were the horrific sights he saw especially in Japan. But he would tell of sitting on top of his truck and watching the bursting shells not to far off in the distance. He told of taking his truck down the hill to get water for the troops, and counting the bullet holes in his truck once safely back on top of that hill. Captured on film was the happy reunion with his siblings, Jane and Earl in the Philippines. There had to be some strings pulled just to get Jane to that reunion. It was a brief moment of joy even though they were so far away from home and without any assurance that any of them would see home or each other ever again.

And he most often spoke of his meeting Mom. It must have been love at first sight. Within weeks he was picking flowers for his bride, and thus would begin an adventure that would last 65 years. Their union would be blessed with 13 children. You can almost imagine him cradling a newborn Bob in his arms as he looked to Mom and said, "He's a keeper."

He would never conclude his trips down memory lane without talking about his love for Mom. It was just over two years ago we witnessed the end of their marriage as, held in the arms of Dad, Mom passed from this life. The end of their marriage, but not the end of their love. It was as if he was adrift without purpose or direction as he grieved in his own quiet way. But slowly, with the passing of time, he found his way back. What a joy to hear his laugh once more, to see that little sparkle in his eyes and the playfulness of his stories of mischievous antics. And there were always the stories about Mom, whom he truly loved to the end.

Dad spoke of his friends, one by one they were parted from him. He would say, "If I want to visit any of my friends, I have to go to the cemetery." That is one of the hardships of living a life so long. Over the years he stood beside many graves to bid farewell. The hardest, by far, must have been the graves of his own children, Bob and Bonnie.

Dad didn't have to tell me about his huge compassionate heart. He was always in need of helping others. For years Bonnie, with her special needs, gave Mom and Dad an outlet for their deep compassion. I remember sitting with Dad and Bonnie at the tailgate of the family station wagon parked outside the Bruce church. With church windows opened we could hear the praise wafting towards on its heavenward journey. With her passing Mom's failing health provided yet another opportunity to serve. Dad seemed so lost leaving the funeral home as the pall bearers prepared to carry Mom to her final resting place. Before long Dad was searching once again for others he could help. He ran errands, mowed lawns, and took food to those who were in need.

The next day came the inevitable time of parting as my final visit with Dad would draw to an end. This I will never forget. As I shook  Dad's hand I said, "I wish I could have stayed longer." As we drove away I felt confident that the future held many more opportunities to sit with Dad and hear his stories of the life he lived. But now I am convinced that Dad knew we would never share a night like that again. It was as if he was saying to me ...

"I wish I could have stayed longer but my heart can't bear another year without your Mom."
"I wish I could have stayed longer but I can not bear standing ever again at the grave of another of my children."
"I wish I could have stayed longer but each of your have your own families to love and support."
"I wish I could have stayed longer but my body yearns for rest from the pains that 93 years of living bring."
"I wish I could have stayed longer but I am ready to go, and I truly believe we will all meet again."

Dad, today our hearts are breaking as we struggle to accept that you are gone. Never again can we sit listening to your stories. Never again will hear your familiar laughter. Never again will we be able to call you up and hear your voice on the other end of the line.

Dad, I wish I had stayed another hour that last day. If I had known it would be our last you would have had a hard time getting rid of me. But most of all, I am so happy, especially today, that we had that last day together.

"I wish I could have stayed longer, Dad."
"I wish you could have stayed longer, Dad."

Don C. Bragg

(Died October 6, 2013) 

Don C. Bragg
Don C. Bragg, 93, of Sullivan, died 2:55 p.m. Sunday (October 6, 2013) in St. Mary’s Hospital, Decatur surrounded by his loving family.

Celebration of Life services will be 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in the Reed Funeral Home, Sullivan with Pastor Al Rennert officiating. Visitation will be 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday. The family requests casual attire. Burial with military rites conducted by the Sullivan American Legion Post #68 will be in the French Cemetery, Allenville. Memorials are suggested to Easter Seals or to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. Condolences may be sent to the family at

Don was born August 8, 1920 in Bruce, the son of O.B. and Gladys Gilbreath Bragg. He was a WW II Army veteran. Don retired from Wagners Casting in Decatur and had worked at Coffee International Harvester Dealership in Sullivan. Don also loved to farm. He was a member of the Allenville Christian Church. He married Mary J. Ethington on June 9, 1946 in Allenville and she preceded him in death on September 30, 2011.

Surviving are his children; Jess (Cheryl) Bragg of Mattoon, Charles (Rebecca) Bragg of Sullivan, James (Glenna) Bragg of Marshall, Larry (Donna) Bragg of Shelbyville, Phillip (Shirley) Bragg of Bullhead City, AZ, David (Ann) Bragg of Kernersville, NC, Ronald (Linda) Bragg of Havre, Montana, Mark (Becky) Bragg of Mahomet, Ruth Bauer of Sullivan, Reva (Ron) Martin of Sullivan and Debra (Michael) Green of Ribera, New Mexico; sister, Ruth (Lloyd) Stone of Sullivan; sister-in-law, Ida May Bragg of Pekin; thirty grandchildren; twenty eight great grandchildren and four great great grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents, son Robert, daughter Bonnie, a grandson, one sister, and two brothers.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Did You Know #45

While driving through East Tennessee I noticed a sign pointing out the Cordell Hull Dam on the Cumberland River and the Cordell Hull Lake which the building of the dam created. Knowing that my Great-Great Grandmother was Rebecca Hull, I naturally wondered just who Cordell Hull was and if they were related.

As for the first question, Cordell Hull (1871-1955) was a Spanish-American War veteran who represented Tennessee in the United States Congress, but is best known as serving F.D.R. as Secretary of State for 11 years (which means that he held that post longer than anyone else in American History). He was also received Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 and was recognized by his boss as the "Father of the United Nations" (which was established under his leadership). Hull was born in a log cabin but grew up to become a lawyer and political leader on a national scale.

On his mother's side he was descended from Isaac Riley, a
Revolutionary War veteran who, for his service, was given 200 acres of Tennessee land this family holds the "distinction of the most documented ancestors to have fought in the Revolutionary War" by the Daughters of the American Revolution.* You can catch Cordell Hull being portrayed by actor George Macready in Tora! Tora! Tora! and by Charles Trowbridge in the film Sergeant York.

Regarding the second question, Cordell Hull and our
Great-Great Grandmother Rebecca Hull (wife of William Bragg) were 8th cousins, making Dad and Cordell Hull 8th cousins three times removed.

Thomas Hull b.1547
Joseph Hull b.1594 
George Hull b.1590
Samuel Hull b.1645 Lieutenant Cornelius Hull b.1628
Samuel Hull b.1678 Cornelius Hull b.1655
Samuel Hull b.1703 Nathaniel Hull b.1694
William Hull Nathaniel Hull b.1726
Jesse Hull Ezekiel Hull b.1765
Allen Brock Hull b.1811 Platt Hull b.1787
William Pascal Hull b.1841 Ezekiel Hull b.1813
Cordell Hull b.1871 Rebecca L. Hull b.1841

Frank Martin Bragg b.1867

Orval Bishop Bragg b.1895

Don Cicero Bragg b.1920