The passions of Craig Stiniker – motorcycles, hot rods, Corvettes, and travel – drew me to his funeral. He was 64, born in 1945, the first of the Baby Boomers. A cancerous brain tumor took his life, but not his dear friends who came to pay their respects.
Upon entering the funeral home, everyone was given a black wristband with the word “Remember” highlighted in white. In the chapel, Craig’s Harley Davidson motorcycle was on display, next to the open casket holding his body. An American flag was draped over the closed lower half of the casket. Images of road trips he’d taken flashed by on the screen above.
The funeral director introduced Pastor Floyd, who offered a few prayers, psalms, and background about Craig Allen Stiniker. Craig was from Waterloo, Iowa, an only child. He served in the Navy in Vietnam and worked as the paymaster on a ship. After the service, he worked as a special ed teacher for 20 years at Valley High School. He was always working on, buying, or selling Corvettes, and hot rods and motorcycles were his passion.
Then came the photo-montage of his life, starting with his Navy years, his wedding and the birth of his daughter, Danielle, and then images of lots of road trips and good times with family and friends. He was a tall, lanky redhead with blue eyes. The images were set to the songs “Forever Young,” Joe Cocker’s “Feelin’ Alright” (with the prophetic line “Too much to do before I die”), and “Stay Just a Little Bit Longer.”
At the invitation to share stories and remembrances, five people came to the front of the room to speak. His closest friends painted a picture of a man who was a good friend who would come out to help you in the middle of the night, a fussy eater who liked his hamburgers well done and extra-extra crispy fries and bacon, someone who could fix just about anything mechanical who preferred to fix an item than buy something new. He loved animals, taking road trips on his motorcycle through mountains and deserts, attending drag races and hot rod shows, and keeping his neighborhood safe.
One especially moving speaker was Sharon, who had been friends with Craig for 24 years. In the time before the Internet, there was a local paper called Singles Scene, where people seeking relationships placed personal ads and letters were written in response to an anonymous box address. Sharon had kept the letter that Craig had sent her to describe himself at the age of 40, and she read it at his funeral. Hearing him describe himself in the letter was remarkable and moving. It would be awesome for everyone to be able to speak at their own funeral in this way.
At the end, attendees were invited to embrace the family and friends, and say goodbye to Craig before the procession to the cemetery for burial with military honors. The Corvettes and hot rods his friends drove with him on happier days had been left at home. Would it have been disrespectful to Craig’s memory to drive a hot rod behind a hearse or have a procession of Corvettes follow him to his eternal rest?
After the burial, friends were invited to gather for a reception at the home of his good friend Donnie. May Craig Allen Stiniker rest in peace.