Part of growing up is understanding that death is as much a part of life as birth, growth, and development. In Western culture, death is often somber and naturally so. We mourn the presence of a person we lost, and our hearts break at the thought of being unable to share special moments and memories with the departed. While this is true, many other cultures, even within our American society, find ways to find joy and celebrate the life and memory of the deceased, even as we process the grief of loss.

Today, I want to celebrate the life of a great man who has left a deeply felt void for my family but has also been a rock and foundation on which many others have stood — I being one of them. This man is my uncle, Elquie Murray, or Uncle Buddy, as I called him, who passed last month.

Uncle Buddy was a man’s man, a loving father, and a sterling example of what it means to be a man about his business. An entrepreneur and a service veteran, Uncle Buddy was no stranger to hard work. He was a master plumber with his own business in East St. Louis at a time where Black people didn’t have many national figures to look to. Those who did gain national attention weren’t necessarily coming around to his neck of the woods regularly. Nevertheless, he inspired so many, and his example is part of why I am who I am today.

Uncle Buddy’s four remaining sisters and his daughter: (left-right) Juanita [my mother], Loraine, Melinda [Uncle Buddy’s daughter, Emma, and Essie.

Please keep my mother, Ms. Juanita Smith, and her three remaining sisters in your prayers as they continue to honor and remember their brother, my uncle.

Rest on Uncle Buddy, and thank you for leaving a solid legacy for our family to build on.

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