When Ted emailed us this week about the passing of Uncle Paul a flood of memories came rushing back to me. Uncle Paul was married to Ruth who was my Granddad Glenn's baby sister. So, although Ruth was my mother's aunt, they were close enough in age to have been sisters. Growing up in the late 50's and early 60's, our families spent a lot of time together.
When the Bartleys moved to Florida, it was a big deal around our house. They said come visit, and we Wests did visit - several times. Like the Beverly Hillbillies, we would pack up and the first week in June we would make the 2 day trek from West Virginia to Florida without the benefit of interstates and air conditioning. Once we arrived, the fun would start. For me, it was the beach. To this day I have never seen more beautiful beaches than those beaches on Anna Maria Island.
Uncle Paul was the "cruise director". It seemed like everyday he had something new and exciting planned for us. I remember learning about Hernando de Soto, seeing manatees, alligators, riding his scooter, riding bikes, collecting shells, and rough housing in the gulf with Uncle Paul and my dad. They would love to launch us into the waves. It seemed like we kids always got sunburned on the first day and then spent the rest of the time swimming with Tshirts on. There was no sunscreen in those days. To this day if I smell Solarcaine, I think of our Bradenton trips.
Uncle Paul's laugh was infectious. He seemed perennially happy. I know as a kid, I loved to be around him. He was mischievous and had great stories to tell. That's probably why he and Dad got along so well. I don't think I ever saw him get angry and we kids on vacation gave him every opportunity. He would discipline us if we needed it, but I don't think his heart was ever in it.
I remember he always had a camera ready. This was back in the day when cameras weren't handy. Taking a photo was a big deal, but he made it seem easy. Every year we returned to W.Va. with a professionally done family photo - some hilariously candid.
Obviously, over the years our families drifted apart and we somewhat lost touch. However, fortunately, cousin Ted ended up going to work for Uncle Paul for awhile and settling in nearby Palmetto starting his own photography business. So we've been able to keep up with the Bartleys through him. Uncle Paul was a great man who lived life to the fullest and was a model to us all. He will be missed by all of us who have known and loved him. My sympathies and prayers to Aunt Ruth, Linda, David, and Becky.