Lee Coleman; 1953 – 2017
It has to start with the Hiram Hilliard clan from the Winston/Kathleen area (Lakeland) of Fl. This was a railroad family, Lee’s mom and my own were two of eight – a family full of character; lots of good food, hard love and heartfelt laughs; kinda like M&M’s, hard on the outside but really soft and good on the inside.
The families met almost every year for at least one holiday – when packs of kids would run through our grandparents home continually slamming the screen door (drove Hiram nuts) while shattering all the peace and quiet they had been so enjoying. For us; they are the most wonderful memories in the best of a families time.
Being an air-force brat Lee’s family traveled alot – we envied them for their travels, so when they did make the reunions – running through the orange groves while tricking other cousins into connecting with a nearby electric fence was more than a lot of fun for our bunch.
Through the years Lee and I lost close contact, yet having many things in common and parents to keep us informed; we kept up with each others whereabouts.
Unfortunately through the years; funerals of those wonderful Aunts and Uncles added up; Lee was always there
In the year 2000 Lee visited with wife Sandy and his immediate family, we had so much in common. We spent a few days catching up on the years, his extended family, and then out of kindness he left me a really nice leather jacket – he cared. After that and from time to time, Lee would surprise me with a call, “happy birthday Tom” – I loved it.
Facebook arrived providing an easier avenue for us to reconnect even visit with Lee several times over the past ten years; he shared his life with me. While visiting, we walked a mile or so to the beach at Jupiter stopping at the local thrift-store along the way. Lee shared stories of that extended family (other children) increasing the admiration that I hold for Sandy. We joked about the past while skipping through the many interests and traits that we shared.
Lee worked with aircraft interiors and he was good at it – I suppose some of that hard shell of the Hilliards and Colemans had made him really good at what he did; quality control. On one visit I rode along to Miami to inspect some aircraft seats for a customer – he was really tough on those guys finding things that I would have never spotted. Lee was direct and “picky” for others to meet expectations, great for his employer.
We were tough on our kids too. Our fathers were are part of the ‘tough-love’ generation; instilling within us not to be “cry baby’s,” observe before speaking, do as told – without question, and to be diligent workers – for we would have to work our entire life. We were expected to exceed.
Well, we did the best we could with those; as grandparents we learned that ‘tough-love’ was easier to receive than to give; grandchildren easily became the soft-spot in our lives.
Lee came home early from his 6-month “project” in Texas, with cancer. There’s no easier way to say it – no way around it. Over the past year we communicated through text and private messages; his battle was real. Lee; a “dreadful disease that I wouldn’t wish on anyone” (5/10/2017)
Lee lost that battle a month after turning 64, – he took it like a man.
One day I’m going to cry me a river, and its going to flow like the Mississippi. A lifelong buddy and cousin, Lee Coleman; will be a large part of that current.
The gathering was simple, and where Lee and I had once sat discussing family and extended family. His family mingled, they were remarkable.
Above are some of the original Hilliard links, Lees immediate family had multiple links – and it was really great to meet those that we hadn’t before – family from afar.
I understand why Lee was so proud of each…..
I didn’t take alot of pictures; I think I was somewhat in a daze with how fast the past year had come – and gone, taking that special cousin.
If your wondering where Lee went afterward; well, I think that he rode home with each of us.
He, Kim, and I took a lackadaisical ride up A1A, stopping along the way to watch some guy put-in for a day of fishing with his spaniel
stopped to loot a thrift store or two
and even returned to the Castillo de San Marcos fort in St Augustine…….
I think Lee’s presence reminded me that it’s not only years that pass along the way – make time for those of your past. In Savannah we stopped and visited with a friend I hadn’t seen in 42 years, great visit – it helped.
Lees presence made it home with me too, where I took him straight to the garage to see Dad’s old pickup
and even though it was a Ford I think there was common ground to be found;
Last May Lee also told me “I’m going to fix up a van to travel… would love to see the lake house.”
Yep, I think that its the worst part of growing up.