Don Eddleman 1934-2010

     It is probably a tribute to modern medicine and an understanding of healthy living that we can lament the passing of a man in his seventy-fifth year of life and somehow feel that he was taken from this life prematurely. Such was the case with the recent passing of Donald Wilson Eddleman, husband of Coya Creel Eddleman, uncle and aunt respectively of my wife Shirley. Don and Coya were married fifty-six years, and it was during the early years of their marriage that they were most influential in the lives of Shirley and me…not to mention an entire group of young people who grew to adulthood in the fifties and early sixties and attended Peace Tabernacle United Pentecostal Church in Baytown, Texas. Don and Coya were a few years ahead of the group of young people with whom Shirley and I associated, but it was to them that many of us looked for guidance. We who at that time were just beginning to become aware of the enormity of the future with ideas of jobs, homes, and marriages starting to flit around our heads were awed by the control that Don and Coya seemed to have over their lives. Don, at an age when most of today’s young men are contemplating whether or not to live with Mom and Dad another year, had already built a new home for Coya, established himself with a skill and job, prepared a financial plan for the future, and just seemed to be so with it! We younger guys secretly envied Don and wished we could be assured of a future in his footsteps.
     In those early years when the churches of our denomination had what were called fellowship meetings (meetings where several churches met together for…well, fellowship,) Don and Coya were faithful attendees to these gatherings, and with their customary graciousness, would offer rides to other young couples or groups to these affairs. By this time, Shirley and I had developed a certain…um…affinity for each other, and we enjoyed the privilege of riding with Don and Coya to these meetings. What I am about to describe will be a shock to the Eddlemen kids, but it is the truth and totally contrary to what they may think of their dad or “Poppy.” In those days Don had a reputation as a fast driver. At the same time my dad had a reputation of keeping me on a pretty short leash when it came to riding with other people. There were some young people in the church I was forbidden to ride with. I won’t say who, but for one, his initials were Ronnie Smith. My dad told me one time if he ever caught me riding with Ronnie Smith…er…R.S…that I would be grounded till the rapture. Later, under great peer pressure, I rode with R.S. and I remember that ride to this very day, but that’s another story. I saw R.S. at the funeral home for Don’s visitation, and he seems to have turned out pretty well. His wife, Joye, has done a remarkable job. Shirley and I may go visit them and borrow their motor home. Anyway, even with Don’s reputation for rapid transit, his reputation for responsibility was even stronger, and Dad never quibbled when I told him I was riding with the Eddlemans to a church service.
     On this particular night, we were in Don’s 1952 (I think) Chevrolet coming back from a Pasadena fellowship meeting. It was very late and Don and Coya were in the front seat, with Coya snuggled up next to Don (bring back bench seats!) and Shirley and I in the back enjoying the privacy. With no air conditioning in the car, the windows were down, and I noticed it seemed to be especially windy. Quietly I leaned forward and looked at the speedometer…the needle was rocking (literally) between 70 and 75! This was on a narrow, two lane road with a speed limit of probably 50-55. I had never ridden so fast in my life (this was before I bought my own car and broke my record.) Though I thought we were nearly airborne, I felt no alarm, because Don was driving. But to this day, I can see the glow of that speedometer in my mind.
     As Shirley and I became more serious about our relationship and I began to haunt the Creel home probably more than I should have, we began to feel that Shirley’s dad was being far too restrictive. It wasn’t that he restricted us from going out on dates; it was just that when we were at their home, we could never be sure of any privacy, which, of course, to a young couple in love is as important as fresh air and sunshine. It’s hard to be dignified when the father of your girl friend walks in the room and your glasses are on the coffee table and you know that he knows that you are blind as a bat without them and why are they off in the first place?? These were called awkward moments. Before you feel I am negative about my father-in-law, please read my blog James L. Creel. He was one of the finest men I ever knew. But Don and Coya to the rescue! Shirley and I began to visit the Eddlemans on our dates, and we would have fun visiting and playing games. At some point into the evening, however, Don and Coya would suddenly and discreetly disappear, and Shirley and I had the dimly-lit living room all to ourselves. We would discuss sports or the weather or politics for a couple of hours (cough), and then quietly turn off the lights, shut and lock the outside door, and go home. It was heavenly. And just in case you’re one of those people who assumes the worst in every situation, let me make it clear that Shirley and I were respectful of where we were and of each other. We did not forget our parental teachings and church upbringings…but we enjoyed those moments together in the quiet of Don and Coya’s living room.
     We continued our visits to the Eddleman home even after we married in 1961, and all the characteristics of Don which were mentioned at the funeral were evident even then…methodical, caring, conscientious, and gracious. In 1963 I joined the United States Air Force, and Shirley and I traveled to other states and Europe, and during this pre-computer/email/Facebook era it was hard to keep in touch. We returned to Baytown in 1967 and renewed our friendship with Don and Coya as we worked together again as members of Peace Tabernacle. Don spent much of this time as the song leader during our church services, and I can see him even now in my mind with his right hand beating a steady rhythm on the pulpit as we sang the songs of worship.
     In 1974 Shirley and I moved to Wyoming, and we were able to visit Don and Coya during our annual treks back to Texas and the Creel Christmas Reunions. Both of our families grew in number, and we enjoyed hearing of the successes of kids and grandkids. In 1991, Shirley and I returned to Texas, and we again renewed the church and family relationship with Don and Coya. When the new church was built in Baytown a few years ago, Don designed the complete electrical system and practically single-handedly wired the entire building himself. Electrical inspectors who looked at the building said it was a work of electrical art.
     In retirement, Don became a wood craftsman…not just a craftsman, but an artist in wood.  His handiwork was incredible. I have built a few things of wood that I value, but I never showed Don any of my work because, after looking at his craftsmanship, mine was embarrassing. As was mentioned at his funeral, he built not for himself, but to give to others. We who have been recipients of his good will and craftsmanship now have priceless mementos of an incredible person. When we received word of his misfortune, we were on our way to church, and we quickly changed direction and headed to the hospital. Upon hearing of the circumstances surrounding his sudden collapse as he and Coya were entering a restaurant, I had a horrible flashback to the death of my own father at age 73 a few years earlier. Sitting in his favorite rocker, my dad suddenly collapsed and within fifteen minutes, it was over. Though the doctors were able to keep Don technically alive through Wednesday night, I feared for the worst, and on Thursday morning we received the sad news.
     I have written before of the legacy we parents leave for our children, and the word was used at Don’s funeral. Don and Coya married at ages 18 and 15 respectively and made a commitment for life. Theirs was a marriage built of trust, love, and mutual respect that is a template for children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to seriously consider following.