Monday, July 28, 2008

My uncle, Don Ogg

Donald L. Ogg
September 24, 1943 ~ July 17, 2008

Unique. Eccentric. Unusual. Odd. Curious. Weird. Exceptional. All of these are words I've used or heard used over the past ten days to describe my uncle, Don Ogg. They are all perfect descriptions, yet none by itself quite does him justice.

My uncle was the second of five children, and my aunts referred to him as the Odd Ogg. He lived a strange existence over the past decades, often living in warehouse space for cheap or for free for various employers over the years.

He had a childlike innocence and a happy nature that went to his core. He was who he was, and he was happy with his place in life. He took pleasure in his hobbies, his family, and his faith, not necessarily in that order, and he was a joy to be around.

It was often said that he marched to the beat of his own drummer. I can assure you that he marched to the beat of a drum he built himself out of sticks, dirt, some washers, and duct tape. And maybe some magic.

He was a Boy Scout leader for many years and led his scouts proudly. He was so good with children, from the scouts to Vacation Bible School, to my generation of cousins, to my daughter and his other great nieces and nephews. He had the patience of Job with the children, and was as trustworthy as they come. I always knew my child was safe when Uncle Don was on kid duty, and I was thankful for the times they spent together.

Dyslexic in the days before it was recognized as a learning disability, my uncle learned to get by in a world that was wired differently than he. I personally think the guy was brilliant, but on a different plane than the rest of us. He made things with his hands - clothes and tools and gadgets, and even built his own vehicle. Not once, but twice.

He served our country in the Navy and was honorably discharged. He was proud of his service to our country, and one of his wishes was that we bury him in the veterans cemetary, which we did on July 22nd.

I don't think any of us really understood this strange man. He loved the earth and was just happy existing in whatever place he happened to land. One thing that was clear was that he loved us, unequivocally and without question. And we loved him, too. We just didn't know that so many others felt the same way.

He was a "mountain man," fiercely proud of his group of friends. His hobby, inexplible to this city slicker, was historical reenactments. He and his cronies would get together and camp out the way folks lived in the 1800s, complete with homemade clothing, hats, tents, and black powder rifles. One of his friends memorialized him on his blog here:
Don Ogg Memorial, and it's clear to see that the mountain men loved him, too.

His church was important to him, and we knew his church family was a big part of his life. What we didn't know was that he was such a huge part of the church. We honestly didn't know what to expect when we headed to Yoakum, Texas, to lay him to rest.

We found a loving church family who is mourning the loss of my uncle, quite possibly as much as we are. This group could have looked down upon his long hair and beard and "mother earth" ways, but instead, they wrapped their arms around him and welcomed him into their church. They trusted him with their children and relied upon him for Vacation Bible School, Sunday school, and church celebrations. They celebrated his life and his passage to heaven, and I can tell you that no one in that church doubts where Uncle Don ended up.

We are so grateful for the people who traveled from far and wide to pay their final respects. Big, strong men cried with us as they told us of their histories with, and their fondess for, a man unlike any other. Young and old alike were touched by him.

We take comfort in knowing that so many people loved him, and we are thankful for the people who were with him when his time came to go to the great big campsite in the sky. The doctors tell us he probably went very quickly and did not suffer much.

The ones who suffer are those he left behind. Yet even that suffering is bittersweet, because we know he's moved on to a place where there are no tears, and there is no sadness. I suspect he's surrounded by others who moved on before him ... his parents, his grandparents, and my father, just to name a few. MrG speculated that upon Uncle Don's arrival, my father quit playing cards with his army buddies and welcomed him to the party. I'd like to think that's how it played out.

Life will go on here, and I hope that we all take something away from our time with Uncle Don. Whether it be the wonder of watching the sunrise over camp, the sheer joy of watching a child laugh, or the desire to build something out of nothing, it would be a shame to waste those lessons.

Rest in peace, Uncle Don, and I'll see you on the flip side.


Darla-Jean Weatherford said...


Beautiful; thanks!


Chad and Mary Kate Martin said...

You did that perfectly and beautifully. I feel affection for a man I haven't ever met based on your description. I bet he is grinning from ear to ear as he looks at his niece from heaven.

Lanni said...

Beautifully written, Stephanie. Thank you for sharing your delightful uncle with us.

daddyjack said...

I have just read this article and it does him justice. He visited us often when we lived in San Antonio and then later in Bryan.

Jack and Nell Weatherford