Cousin Donald Yates (1943-2016)

Donald Yates was my late mother’s first cousin. As I explained when his brother Robert died last year, they, their late older brother Raymond (d. 1978), and their older sister Frances were my mother’s closest relatives, though Raymond, the oldest, was a decade and a day younger than Mom.

They lived in Binghamton until their dad Ernie died suddenly in 1954, when Charlotte and the kids moved to St. Albans, Queens in New York City. The Greens would go down and the Yates would come up at least annually. Their kids, including Don’s’s kids Donnie and Tanya, were the closest relatives my siblings and I had, even though they were a decade or more younger than us.

My late father arranged the flowers for Donald’s wedding to his first wife, Carole – who I saw at the funeral – as he did for Robert and Audrey back in the 1960s.

I’d see Don only occasionally in the past couple of decades, always with Robert, but they would always be memorable. My wedding in 1999, the birth of my child in 2004, a few mini-family gatherings in Binghamton (one definitely in 2006), and Thanksgiving 2013 at the home of their niece Anne outside New York City. They were always generous with their resources – my wife specifically recalls their generous monetary gift after the Daughter was born.

The last time I saw Donald was at his brother Robert’s funeral. My trek to Donald’s funeral was nearly a carbon copy – early train to NYC, the E subway out to Queens, then local bus (Q4) to the funeral home where I spoke, open casket, the trek to the cemetery in Long Island, trip back to Jamaica, Queens for a 2 p.m. repast that was closer to 3 p.m., and a train back north. The repetition does NOT make it easier.

There WAS one significant difference, though. At the cemetery with Robert, there was just the ceremonial burying. At this service, there was a drape covering a pile of dirt, and after we all flung flowers on the casket, it was lowered, and a backhoe that was nearby was driven over to the gravesite and filled the hole with dirt. I had heard of such things, but I had never actually seen it happen in the dozens of burials I’ve attended.

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