Saturday 8/20/05 - Frank's Services, Saturday Night Fish Fry

I didn't really sleep very well overnight. Seeing Frank for the last time today would be difficult, and the anticipation led to a restless night. We woke up at around 6:30 a.m. and got dressed.

We met Bob and Angela at Bistro 65 in the lobby eating breakfast. There was a buffet for $10 per person which included fresh eggs and waffles cooked to order. We met Bob and Angela in the restuarant. Craig and I ate blueberry waffles, fruit, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, home fries, juice, and coffee. The chef was incredibly friendly. This hotel absolutely exuded Southern hospitality.

After our delicious breakfast, we went up to the room to finish getting ready. I had bought a new outfit especially for the funeral: a black pinstripe skirt suit with ribbon trim.

We met downstairs at 9:15. We drove to Karmilla's house and waited until the limo arrived to collect her and her daughter. We then followed the limo to Eloise's house. All of the family started to assemble and cars were lining up ready to make their way to church. Everyone we met was extremely nice and welcoming to us.

We went into Eloise's house. After talking to her on the phone and corresponding via letters, it was really nice to finally meet her. We also met Frank's brother David, who wouldn't be able to attend the funeral due to a diabetes-related disabilty.

Outside, we met Karmilla's 14 year old daughter. All of the cars followed the limo in procession to the Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church. We parked the car, and everyone stood in line in front of the doors of the church. The immediate family went in first, and then the rest of the line followed.

Frank was laid out in the front of the church.He looked very stylish in his suit and pink shirt. He had his B.B. pin on his lapel, and we knew that there was also a backstage pass in his coat pocket. We paid our respects and met Frank's 93-year-old widow Beatrice. We sat down in a pew a couple of rows back on the right-hand side of the church. There were several large flower arrangements, and from our seat we could see that one of the biggest ones (an arrangement of tropical flowers) was from B.B. King.

We were briefed on the order of the service, so that Craig and Bob would know when they would be giving the eulogies.

The funeral started at around 11 o'clock. There was a small choir. Karmilla's friend sang some beautiful solos, including a very touching version of "I'll Fly Away.". It was a very moving ceremony, and it viewed Frank's passing as a "homegoing celebration." It was really quite inspiring.

Craig and Bob spoke about their friendship with Frank, and Frank's nephew who had once visited him in Massachusetts several years ago also spoke. They read some sympathy cards aloud. The service ended at 12:30 p.m., and we joined the automobile procession to the cemetery.

Frank was driven to the cemetery in a very styling white hearse. We smiled and knew that he would be pleased to be traveling in such style. There are two cemeteries across the street from one another in Mobile. Frank was being buried in the smaller of the two; the black cemetery. His grandfather had actually been the caretaker of both of these cemeteries.

There was a small tent over his gravesite, so that people could get some shelter from the incredibly strong mid-day summer sun. They were also handing out bottles of water. It was so hot and humid! We saw the headstones for Frank's father, Frank Brown Sr., and Frank's brother John Thomas. The graveside service was very brief. We each took a silk flower from the heart-shaped arrangement as a memento.

We went back to the church hall for lunch. There was a punch bowl full of lemonade which was very refreshing after being out in the heat. They were serving fried chicken, homemade macaroni and cheese, green beans, potato salad, and rolls. It was delicious.

We sat at a small table with Bob and Angela. Eloise, Joe (the widower of Frank's sister Rebecca), and Jerome sat with us. We reminisced about Frank. Eloise and Joe told us that he used to deliver fish on a motorcycle, and we talked about how he used to sell peanuts at Mardi Gras. Eloise said that when Frank was younger and wanted to go somewhere, he would "hobo the train."

Joe asked us what our plans were for the evening. He lives across the street from Eloise and was going to have a fish fry. He invited us. We were quite touched and accepted the invitation. Meanwhile, Karmilla and Don had told Bob and Angela that they wanted to take us into downtown Mobile tonight. We decided that Karmilla would call us at around 5 o'clock. We would go to the fish fry for a while and then maybe go downtown.

The luncheon broke up at around 2 o'clock. While we were leaving, we shook Beatrice's hand. She asked how we were handling the hot weather. She said that she still wasn't used to it, and that she had lived in Mobile all her life.

We drove back to the hotel and rested for a while. I got some Gatorade from a vending machine by the pool and brought it back to the room. It didn't seem possible that Frank was gone. I kept catching myself thinking that I couldn't wait to tell Frank this or that.

Frank had always wanted us to take him to Mobile. In his slight dementia, he would tell us that we could leave Boston in the morning, drive down to Mobile, and be back home by dark. We know how much he had wanted to introduce us to his family and see where he grew up. Now we were finally here...but he wasn't. Frank had passed away with very few possessions. We had asked Karmilla what she had wanted us to bring down to her, and she the only thing that had interested her were his photo albums. So we had brought them with us, and planned to present them to her tonight. We looked though them one final time. We now recognized some of the people in the photos.

At 5:15, we met Bob and Angela at the lobby bar for a drink. By 6:15, we called Karmilla. We left her a message saying that we were heading over to the fish fry, and that we hoped to see her there. We arrived at Eloise's house shortly before 7.

Eloise and her daughter Patricia directed us across the street to Joe's house. We went inside and immediately recognized the house from a bunch of Frank's Christmas photos. It turned out that when he came to visit Mobile, Frank always stayed with Joe. We saw Joe and he was genuinely happy that we had come by. We spoke to him about his deceased wife Rebecca. It is obvious that he was totally devoted to her, and misses her terribly. Both she and Frank's other sister Jessie Mae died back in 2001. Joe showed us around the house. He showed us photos of Rebecca and let us look through some of his photo albums.

Everyone gathered around the table to say grace. We all held hands. As guests, they insisted that we eat first. The food was delicious. There were fried catfish filets, decadent macaroni and cheese, rolls, potato salad, corn, cole slaw, and fried chicken. They insisted that we sit on the leather couches on the back porch to eat. Everything was delicious, and we washed it down with red Kool-Aid.

After eating, we went outside to check out the fish fry operation in the garage. Charlie was battering and deep frying the fish. Another guy told us that he used to drive Frank an hour to the Florida border to buy lottery tickets. Both men raved about Mobile's Mardi Gras, and invited us to come down some year to experience it firsthand.

At around 8:00, Bob came out and said that he and Angela were tired and would like to go back to the hotel. We decided that Craig would shuttle them back to the hotel, and I would stay at the fish fry. Karmilla and Don arrived, and I told them they had just missed Bob and Angela. They managed to run outside and catch them before they had left.

Frank's family served me some warm poundcake, and put some aside for Craig when he got back. I talked with Don, who had literally been up the entire night before printing out programs for the funeral.

The kids were watching a video called "Meet the Browns" and one of the women displaced some of the kids from the couch so that I could sit there and eat my poundcake. I felt bad, and would have rather sat on the floor myself than make the kids move, but this was once again Southern hospitality at work, and with me being the guest, they would have it no other way.

I ate my poundcake and then wandered into the dining room where Karmilla and Don were eating. We chatted with various family members, some of whom had come in from Jacksonville for the funeral. Eloise's great-grandson was so cute, doing pushups in the middle of the living room floor.

Joe sat next to me and talked to me, asking how long we had known Frank. I told him the story about how we met via the newspaper article, which he had seen when we had sent a copy of it to Eloise. Joe said they tried to get Frank to move to Mobile in '99, but Frank wouldn't do it because all of his friends were in Massachusetts. Joe said that meeting us and Bob and Angela, he understands.

Craig came back to Joe's house after dropping off Bob and Angela and filling the gas tank. We gave Joe one of the memorial photo books that we had put together. He looked through it with interest and then handed it back to me. I told him it was for him to keep, and he got all teary-eyed. He thanked us and said he would treasure it. We knew that he would. It was obvious what a sweet man he was. On his way to put it in his room for safe-keeping, he stopped to show it to some other people.

We gave Karmilla Frank's photo albums that we had collected from the nursing home and brought for her. She sat with us and flipped through all of them, and thanked us very much for getting them to her.

We got ready to leave, and people came out of the woodwork to say goodbye to us. We got lots of handshakes and hugs, and they thanked us for taking care of Frank. Joe said that we would never understand how much it meant to them that we came down for the funeral. I think we understand; it means just as much to us that they all treated us like family. Don walked us to our car, and we left at 10:30.

We stopped at Karmilla's house on the way back to the hotel. Don gave us some extra funeral programs. Karmilla was going to give us one of her CD's, but it turned out they were all at Don's house. She said they would mail one to us, which she did. Her house was really nice, and historic too (it had slave quarters in the back). We talked about the Patriots, and Karmilla said maybe she'd come up to see a game with us sometime.

She said she had something funny to show us. Our sympathy card had arrived in the mail today. Bob and Angela gave her theirs in person today. It was the same exact card. And we had written almost identical messages inside. "It must be a white people thing," joked Karmilla. We got a good laugh out of that. We said our goodbyes, and she made us promise to call her when we got home. We left her house at 11:10, and were back to the hotel and asleep by 11:30.

Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church
Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church

Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church

Karmilla's son, Beatrice, Karmilla

Karmilla's son, Beatrice, Karmilla

Joe, Eloise, Jerome

Joe, Eloise, Jerome

Friends and Family

Friends and Family

Craig, Angela, Bob, Joe, Eloise, Jerome

Craig, Angela, Bob, Joe, Eloise, Jerome

Joe's Saturday night Fish Fry

Joe's Saturday night Fish Fry

Joe's Saturday night Fish Fry

Joe's Saturday night Fish Fry

Joe's Saturday night Fish Fry

Joe's Saturday night Fish Fry

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