Day 9: Frank D. Eaton

Oct 8, 2011 | 0 comments

Visitations are a traditional element of funeral ritual for some families. It’s a time for the family to receive the support of their community in a relaxed setting. This gathering prior to the funeral service is often held at a funeral home. Visitations allow family, friends and colleagues to share stories, to view the body, and to prepare for the more formal funeral to come.

The beautiful and impressive obituary for Dr. Frank Eaton drew me to the visitation his family held the evening before the funeral:

Eaton, Dr. Frank Delafield
Age 69, was called home to our Heavenly Father on Sunday, October 2, 2011. He was born on May 8, 1942 to Aaron Clarkson Eaton and Eleanor (Davies) Eaton in Cambridge, NY. Dr. Eaton grew up in Bennington, VT. He was accepted at the age of 16 into The Juilliard School for his musical accomplishments.

His educational achievements are vast, including degrees from the University of Arizona and a Doctorate in Biometeorolgy from Utah State University. He was an accomplished scientist and had over 300 publications in his name. He recently retired from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratories as a Senior Research Physicist.

Dr. Eaton was a loving husband, father and grandfather. He absolutely adored his grandchildren and loved to help them complete their science fair projects and learn to play musical instruments. He also enjoyed hunting, fishing and attending state fairs. Though not a gambler, he did like to go to casino buffets.

Frank is survived by his beloved wife of 33 years, Virginia (Gamble) Eaton of Rio Rancho, NM; children, Kimberly (Camron) Brawley of Albuquerque, NM, Leslie (Kevin) Brady of McKinney, TX, Brian (Kelly) Eaton of Rio Rancho, NM, Brett (Melissa) Eaton of Albuquerque, NM, Michelle (fiancée, Jeremy Chavez) Eaton of Rio Rancho, NM; grandchildren, Preston Brawley, Gwendolyn Brawley, Arthur Brawley, Laiken Brady, Brylee Chavez, and Gavin Eaton; sister, Mary Roberta Watilo; and numerous in-laws, nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents A. Clarkson and Eleanor Eaton.

Frank’s family warmly welcomed me to join in the visitation and learn more about this remarkable man. He loved music and his family was so proud of his acceptance into The Juilliard School at such a young age. During his service in the armed forces, he played clarinet in the Army Field Band. He helped his granddaughter with her violin lessons every Monday night for four years, and attended every recital.

Frank had retired about six months earlier from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratories and was enjoying life as chief babysitter for his six grandchildren. He loved watching birds, and the owl was his favorite. In recognition of his love of owls, the funeral home set up a display of six toy owls, one with each grandchild’s name, plus another one perched near his shoulder in the casket.

Owls at Frank Eaton's Visitation

He was not only brilliant as a scientist, he was handy. He could fix anything and built things from scratch. Several people mentioned the amazing dining room table he had made. His wife spoke of a Barbie doll house he build for his granddaughters that included an elevator. He was proud of his beat-up 1978 pickup truck that he kept running (he used a wire to keep the hood connected).

Frank’s death was unexpected. He had gone up onto the roof of the family’s two-story home to switch off the cooler and prepare for the colder weather coming in. One of his daughters found him dead on the ground after she and her mother came home from church. Since he had gone up on the roof many times before, they speculated whether he might have had a heart attack or stroke before falling.

While speaking with family members, I learned the obituary was drafted by the funeral director and edited with the input of all five children. One of them felt the mention of his fondness for casino buffets was an important detail to include. How wonderful to give all of the children a voice in the story for the newspaper.

The funeral will be held the next day at a local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. While Frank was not a member of the LDS church, his wife is. She said that the children will give eulogies and the granddaughter he taught so lovingly will play violin. Interment with military honors will follow in Rio Rancho.

The memorial program included this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which so eloquently describes Dr. Frank D. Eaton:

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Day 9: Dr. Frank Eaton Visitation
A Good Goodbye