I mentioned recently that I had ordered a death certificate from CA for doing genealogy. It arrived in record time.
The certificate was for the older brother of my ill-tempered Greek grandfather who died about 15 years ago. I'd been tracking this uncle online and knew he was having a long life.
My grandfather and his brother had a big falling out in the 50s, so the family divided. For many decades, their father had owned a bar in a tourist town and he had his sons work the business. According to my grandfather, it seemed that the brother was robbing the till, so the father ultimately gave the business to my grandfather, them both of the iron will and nasty disposition.
The brother still lived in the same small town for over a decade more, at least until his children graduated HS, then they all moved to CA. Because of Greek naming patterns, his daughter had the same name as my mother and it really pissed my mother off to be mixed up at school with her apparently slutty cousin. My mother, however, did inherit a good bit of her father's temperament and it was the repressed 50s, so I don't know if my mother's impression of her cousin is deserved.
The other day, I told my mother that the uncle had finally died about two years ago. He was a week shy of 92. She took down the information so she could tell her brother, who also has the same name as this uncle's son.
As of yesterday, I have a few more details I'm not sure I want to pass along, whether they would heal or hurt. I got an online volunteer to seek out his obit, but she couldn't find one on microfilm, just as I couldn't find it online. I knew this uncle worked as an engineer in CA, but this volunteer helped me learn something else of great significance. Without me requesting it, she graciously went by the cemetery listed on the death certificate and looked at the headstones for him and his wife. The carving for him read, "Author Songwriter and Humorist."
It seems that he was the artsy, jokster brother and it makes sense he couldn't function in the (bipolar?) rigidity that was my grandfather's and their father's lives.
I am grateful for this glimpse into my grandfather's brother. You can learn a lot from a death certificate and a willing volunteer.