It was with a heavy heart that we recently laid to rest my Uncle, Leon Dickson Lambert. He was the last of my father's siblings and the last of that branch of the family tree.
There were three siblings, and my Dad was the oldest, born late in 1939. Uncle Leon was the middle child, being born in 1941 and Aunt Mildred was the youngest, born in 1945. Sadly, the baby of the family was the first to go after years of battling an uncompromising illness, in 2002 at the young age of 57. Dad was second, who left two years ago, in 2021, at 81. Uncle Leon also made it to 81, two years later, and was buried next to his brother.
Both Dad and Uncle Leon were men of the military, Uncle Leon remaining in service for 30 years and followed that with 20 years of dedicated service with the State of North Carolina. He retired to a quite life of farming in the middle of nowhere, with horses and chicklens and dogs and a love of dancing. I was really surprised at his passing at the same age as my father, as I recall he kept up the military regimen of physical fitness and ran 10 miles a day well into his 60's, as opposed to Dad, who really didn't take care of his health at all, had survived a heart attack, wasn't into exercise a great deal, and chain smoked until his passing.
A few resonant memories I have of my Uncle, that gave a deep look into his character, was when I lost a husband at an early age due to a terrible accident. He was in the hospital for several weeks before passing, but when everything first happened and I arrived at the hospital, Uncle Leon had beat me there. He was present and supportive through the whole turbulent and tragic time. Always a pillar of strength and concern.
On a humourous note, on another occasion, when I was stuck at work, and not able to leave to pick my youngest child up after school, Uncle Leon went to pick her up for me. He almost missed the opportunity, as he was asking for her by a version of her fisrt name, Kaitlin instead of Kayla, and by the surname of her older siblings, as she was by my second marriage. He was older and in retirement at this time, so I can't do anything but giggle. He'd forgotten the remarriage, but remembered the general sound of her first name. Thankfully, my daughter saw him and heard him and realized he was there to get her, although she was no more than 8 or 9. She walked up and said. "Here I am, Uncle Leon" and told the school personell that he meant her. They knew her older brother, so they realized the mistake he had made with the surname. Can't fault a man with 37 grandchildren mixing up the name of a great-niece just a little.
Yes, Uncle Leon had a very large family, especially for this day and time. His obituary didn't collect all of them, as the informant was probably his girlfriend, who may not have had knowledge of all who had gone before. As is common in our modern world, Uncle Leon had experienced more than one marriage in his life. By his first marriage, to a lady named Brenda, he had fathered two sons and two daughters, however, the youngest of those, Cara Lynn Lambert, passed away the day she was born, February 18, 1869, the day before my birthday that year.
|Cara Lynn Lambert
|18 Feb 1969
|Leon Dixon Lambert
|Brenda Mae Ritchie
Her death certificate noted that she was premature. The marriage did not survive long after that, no doubt a victim of the long absences that military sposes endure. Leon remarried to a lady he met in Korea, and this marriage produced two more children, a son and a daughter, in the 1970's. His first wife also remarried and had another son.
His oldest son, the second-born grandchild, myself being the first, married and had 3 children, whose names were in alphabetical order, A, B, and C. Upon his second marriage, quite coincidentally, he gained a stepson, younger than the first three, whose name began with "D". The pattern remained intact and soon the family had added an "E" and an "F". Bringing the total to six. Tragedy would strike a few years ago, when one of the children would pass away, leaving his own two children fatherless.
The second son and third child also had an interesting pattern in the naming of his children, all of them have names that begin with "A". There were 5, but again, the oldest passed away at an early age, leaving a daughter.
Despite those tragic losses, the family continues to grow and is a large one. In addition to the above mentioned grandchildren, the oldest daughter has 3 children and the youngest daughter has 4. The youngest son is married, without children. The older three are all grandparents and the oldest of the grandchildren have become grandparents themselves. This leads to a large family of descendants.
Both of Uncle Leon's wives are still living, as is my stepmom, my Dad's last wife. Other than these three widows, as the firstborn grandchild, this leaves me the oldest of this family line. Uncle Leon was the last leaf on that branch of the family tree. He is missed.