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
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
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."