He would have been 96 in December. Although Mike, his oldest son, wanted him to “have a few more months,” his body gave out. He died a peaceful death on September 6, 2019, with his beloved wife of seventeen years, Rosie, by his side. He had been in a hospital, and then a rehab facility, and had he lived another day, he would have been a hospice patient. But around noon on September 6, after being non-responsive for days, he opened his eyes briefly, took two more breaths, then made his transition. He had told several of us, including Mike, that he was “ready to go.” What a blessing for the family to know he wasn’t fighting death, that he was not giving up, but that he was “ready to go.”
Will M. Fralix, also known to the family as Dad, Gramps, and Uncle Will, lived not just a long life, but a good life. For all the time that I knew him, until the last year and a half, (more about that later) he was a satisfied man. He graduated from high school (at a time when many didn’t) and joined the Navy at seventeen years of age. He served in the Navy for twenty-three years, living around the country with his wife and children. He held the rank of Chief Petty Officer, and he and Mike’s mom, Arline, who he was married to for more than fifty years until her death in 2000, thoroughly enjoyed the Navy life. After retiring from the Navy, he worked for Westinghouse, and then as a civil servant for the FAA, retiring again after fourteen years. Not too long after retiring the second time Dad and Mom/Arline moved from North Carolina to Silver Springs, Florida, where he lived until a year and a half ago.
Dad loved Florida, having moved there to “get away from the cold and rain” of North Carolina, something I heard him say many times in the thirty-six years that I knew him. He left Florida against his will in April of 2018 when the family moved Dad and Rosie to Hendersonville, NC. That move was necessary because Rosie was no longer able to care for him alone, and she chose Hendersonville because she has a son who lives there. Dad told us almost until the very end how much he wished he was back in Florida. Rosie is still telling us that! (This is the not so satisfying part of Dad’s life the last year and a half referenced earlier.)
Dad was one of six children and outlived them all. He mentioned that more than once, noting their ages when they died, perhaps wondering about the length of his own life. He was born in St. George, SC, and in the last few weeks before he died, to the surprise of all who heard it, mentioned that he might want to be taken back home to be buried in the family plot. This was surprising to the family because once he left St. George, he never gave any indication of wanting to return there. We have heard that these wishes he expressed in his last days to be “taken home” for burial aren’t uncommon.
Dad has five living children, a daughter and four sons. (He and Mom lost their first child, an infant daughter, at eighteen months of age.) These five children have proliferated the family, giving Dad eighteen grandchildren and twenty great-grandchildren. Most of these family members have come together each Thanksgiving for the past thirty-five years, with the number around the tables the past few years reaching more than sixty. Dad will be so missed when the family gathers again.
What will we miss about Dad? I will not attempt to speak for anyone else, but Mike and I have our answers for that question. We will both miss his laughter. While he told an occasional joke, he laughed more about every day events. He was usually happy, although he had occasional health issues since 2006. He did not complain about those. Even his complaints about moving from Florida back to NC in 2018 were said as almost passing comments. He accepted his life and appreciated what it gave him.
We all know that none of us are perfect, and Dad, being human, wasn’t either. But I can honestly say that I could not have asked for a nicer father-in-law. He did not demand anything from anyone and was always so appreciative of anything that we did for him, and easily expressed that. He always supported himself and his family financially, never asking for or expecting money from anyone, including the government. He lived a simple life, and he lived within his means. He did expect his kids to be on their own once they graduated from high school, and probably never would have understood the number of adult children who come back home to be supported in some ways by their parents.
Mike remembers always loving to go fishing with Dad. Until the past few years, he also enjoyed going to Sawmill Tap Room and other eateries with him, sitting at the bar, having an adult beverage. Since Dad and Rosie have lived in Hendersonville, we enjoyed going to breakfast at Fireside. Breakfast was Dad’s favorite meal of the day, and he was a regular at Sunrise in Florida and Fireside in Hendersonville. When he came in, his favorite wait staff brought his coffee, piping hot, and knew to refill it often. The past few days the staff at Fireside have been so sweet to the family, expressing how much he will be missed.
I could go on, but hopefully, this is enough to celebrate Dad. He might even be a little embarrassed about the attention being given to him. But he is worthy of having his life celebrated. He leaves a legacy of faithfulness, strength, and love.
We will say our last goodbyes to Dad on Friday, September 27, 2019, at his home church in Silver Springs, FL, the church that he helped build. His service will include military honors. Interment will be at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell. It will be a bittersweet time. There will be happy times saying goodbye to Dad as a family and enjoying the memories of being together. And there will be sad times as his ashes to ashes and dust to dust make their final journey.
P.S. On this sad day, the anniversary of 9/11, it is appropriate that I mention all of the loss of life our country suffered on that day. May we never forget.