|Birth: ||Feb. 4, 1955|
New York, USA
|Death: ||Jun. 23, 1975|
New York, USA
A Tribute to my Brother - By Laurie Gardner Pawlowski:
My brother Duane, or Shorty as we all called him, did not live with our mother and us growing up. He lived in the Lutz, Florida area with his father. There were a few times as a little girl, I remember when Shorty and my other half brother Larry, would get to fly up to visit us during summer. We had the best of times! Shorty was always smiling, always upbeat and extremely kind. He also liked to play jokes on people and be mischievous at times too. One summer when they were visiting, Shorty must have been about 16 or 17, somehow he had gotten his hands on some fireworks. I'm not quite sure where they came from but he had them. We lived out in the country growing up so it wasn't like you had a cop right around the corner. I don't recall if Fireworks were even legal in NY. At any rate, Shorty had all these rocket type of fireworks but he didn't have anything to launch them out of. We were out in the garage and he grabbed one of my brothers Tonka trucks, using the tail gate as a launcher except there was a slight problem. We were just inside the garage a few feet so when the rocket launched out of the tailgate of the truck, it hit the lip of the garage right at the top where the door goes up. The firework landed on the concrete floor. Next thing I remember was hearing a very loud boom! My ears popped and everything went muffled. Being about 10 or 11 at the time, I thought I'd just gone deaf. I put my hands over both ears and started frantically screaming, I'm deaf, I'm deaf! Shorty came running toward me, this look of sheer panic on his face. He grabbed my hands and started talking to me to see if I could hear him. I could, but he was all muffled. A few minutes later when my ears popped again, I could hear just fine!! I still laugh about this story even today at age 47. That same summer, our grandparents (Clyde & Marion McIntosh), had come down from Buffalo to visit with us. Shorty decided it would be fun to pull a prank on Grandma. He had these smoke bombs with him so he snuck into the bathroom, set the smoke bomb down into the sink drain and lit it. Smoke started seeping out the bathroom door into the hallway. Grandma stood in the kitchen, she was probably making some lunch. All of a sudden, Shorty comes running down the hall shouting Grandma, Grandma, there is smoke coming from the bathroom. The look on my grandmother's face when she looked down the hall and saw the smoke was priceless!! She wasn't however, very happy with her grandson for playing such a prank on her. Good times!
While my cousin Elaine Freer Herter and I were talking and compiling genealogy information, we were chatting online. Elaine's mother, Aunt Janet, had found a lot of obituaries, funeral cards, all kinds of genealogical treasures on members of the family in her possession. Some of those documents included the obituary and funeral card for my brother Shorty. As I started reading the newspaper article about the day he drowned it brought back memories. I remember that day like it was yesterday! We were camping that week and weekend at Country Hills Campground in Lapeer, just outside of Marathon, NY. Our family had camped there for years with a group of friends they worked with at Smith Corona and their families. Shorty was on leave from the Air Force so he rode his motorcycle up to NY and went camping with us. Mom and dad had to work during the week so Shorty, 20 years old, stayed with me and my siblings during the day at the campground. I was 13, my brother Jim, 14, my sister Linda 15 and my younger brother Mike was 9. It was a hot, humid day. We had run out of soda pop until mom and dad could get some more when they got off from work but there was beer in the cooler. Shorty, not a drinker by nature, had a bottle of beer that day. Shortly after mom and dad arrived from work to camp, all of us kids went swimming. We swam in a huge pond at the campground. The pond was oval shaped about 100-150 yards in length, shallow at one end for quite a distance and very deep at the other. My brother Jim, sister Linda, myself and some of our other friends were all out on the deep end on the raft. Shorty, along with another guy named Randy Fisk (a son of my parents friends that went camping with us all the time), were at the shallow end opposite us. Randy and Shorty decided to swim out to the raft to join the rest of us. It was about to start raining so I headed off the raft into shore. Linda and Jim and some other friends were still on the raft. Just as I was exiting the water I heard someone hollering. It got louder and louder. I turned around to look in the direction of who was hollering and realized it was my father. He was running to the side of the pond we were on pointing and hollering. When I looked into the water, I saw my sister Linda. She had just gone under the water, and then popped back up. I thought she was drowning. What I didn't realize, was she wasn't drowning, she was trying to save my brother Shorty who was drowning. She had Shorty by the hair as he was below the water. She was trying to pull his head and upper body above the water so she could get a hold of him and help him to the raft. Shorty, in a panic, grabbed Linda trying to climb his way up above water. In doing so, he pulled her below the water with him. She lost her grip on his hair. By this time, people were all coming out of their campers and out from their screen rooms to see what all the noise was about. There was a couple there, no clue who they were or what their names were, that were divers. They grabbed there gear and jumped into the pond, swimming in the direction they knew Shorty to be in. Linda had swam back to the raft. My dad grabbed a ski belt, put it around his waist as he was not a very good swimmer, but he tried diving below the water looking for Shorty. By this time, he'd been below the water probably 10 minutes. Calls had gone out to local rescue for help. My mother had made her way over to the shore where I was and sat there, completely helpless. My mother did not know how to swim. I sat by her side trying to console her while she watched and waited, as we all were, for someone to find him. By then, the rain had moved in. It started raining fairly hard. Rescue hadn't shown up so a second call was placed. By the time rescue arrived the wind was blowing pretty good and the rain was coming down at a steady pace. We all headed back to our screen room and waited, watching and waiting. Rescue put a boat in the water and started dragging the pond for Shorty. I don't remember seeing them actually pull him out and place him in the boat but they had found him. I remember my father walking to the other end of the pond from our camper and identifying his body. It was a horrible day! Shorty was dead. We got into our car and made the 45 minute ride back to our house. It was a silent ride for sure; stifling sadness and quiet, completely quiet. When we got home, my mother had to place a call to Shorty's father in Florida and tell him about the tragedy. It was the hardest thing I'd ever watched my mother do. His father, distraught as any parent would be, was a bit unkind with his words to my mother. What people don't know that the article tells in the newspaper is that when Shorty first went under, my brother Jim was the first one to go out and try to get him. Shorty, in a panic, grabbed Jim and pulled him under. Jim swam back to the raft and that is when Linda swam out. I never saw Jimmie other than on the raft. When I heard my dad hollering, I only saw my sister in the water.
Later, from what I recall, the Coroner had determined Shorty had severe cramping that contributed to his drowning due to the distance he had been swimming. From what my mother told me, that one beer Shorty drank earlier in the day had also contributed to dehydration that would have caused such severe cramping on such a humid summer day.
To this day I think about Shorty a number of times throughout the year. He was an awesome brother! You would not have known we didn't grow up with one another our whole lives, we were all that close to him.
Two points of sharing this story. The first, Shorty didn't know how to float on his back in water. A few days before his drowning, he was in the water with my dad swimming. My dad typically just back floats or paddles around water on his back. Shorty asked him how he did it, indicating, he doesn't know how to back float and could never figure it out. Had he known, this tragedy that took his life might well have been averted that day.
Secondly, because of losing my brother that way and seeing it happen, I try to teach my children how important it is to learn to back float. I tell them the story of my brother. I tell them that knowing how to back float could very well save your life one day. I also teach them that water is something you have to respect. That sometimes something you think is just fun, can turn into a tragedy in an instant.
I had never before, seen my father cry in my 13 years of life at that time, until Shorty's death. My father took his death extremely hard. Shorty touched everyone's life that he encountered. This year (2010) marks the 35th anniversary of his death and I can say without equivocation, he has sorely been missed all these years. When my mother died in 2002, as she lay in her ICU bed barely clinging to life, Shorty is who came to mind. Just before my mother died, I leaned over and whispered into her ear, it's ok mom, I know you are tired, you can go if you need to, your son is waiting for you. I love you.
When my mom flew to Florida for Shorty's funeral there with the rest of his other siblings and family, she found out that Shorty's favorite song was "Mother and Child Reunion" by Paul Simon. She went right out and bought an 8 track with that song on it. As I sit here and write this, I am overwhelmed with emotion, even 35 years later. That's how Shorty touched my life. That's how Shorty touched the lives of everyone who knew him. God Bless you Shorty! God may have taken you at the young age of 20, but I can only believe he did so because he so needed an Angel like you in heaven.
Your Sister Laurie
Shorty was a member of the U.S. Air Force, stationed at Lackland AFB just outside of San Antonio, TX. He was visiting us on leave at the time of his death in Upstate, NY. Because he lived with his father the majority of his life, he received 2 funerals at the time of his death. The first being in NY, then his body was flown to FL where there was a second service before he was laid to rest. There were obituaries and newspaper articles listed in 2 newspapers, one in NY, one in FL with the following:
Lapeer (NY) GI drowns at camp
An Air Force serviceman stationed in Florida was the victim of an accidental drowning late yesterday afternoon in a pond at the Country Hills Campground, Lapeer. Sgt. Duane E. Spicer II, 20, of 1906 N. Mobile Villa Dr, Lutz, FL was drowned at about 5 p.m. when he apparently became exhausted while attempting to swim across the pond. An attempt to save him was made by his 15 year old sister but panic made it unsuccessful authorities reported. Sherriff's deputies said the airman was camping at the site with his mother and step-father Virginia and Alfred Gardner of Marietta, RD2. The body was recovered in about 12 feet of water by divers L. A. Price, Thomas R. Huttleston, William Icenogle, Bruce Ashcroft and David Hughes, part of a group who donate their time and are the subject of negotiations for recognition as the sheriff's diving squad. he was pronounced dead at the scene by Dr. John Eckel, Cortland County coroner. The investigation of the accident was under the direction of sheriff's department Lt. E.K. Vernum, assisted by county police officers Andrew Kopley and Ronald Bradford. The Marathon Fire department emergency squad assisted. Private services were conducted today at Briggs Memorial Home, Homer, The Rev. Earl W. Kierstead of Homer Congregational Church officiating. Burial will be in Lutz. In addition to his mother, he is survived by his father, Duane E. Spicer of Lutz, a brother Larry D. Spicer of Lutz, his half-brothers Jimmie and Michael Gardner of Marietta and Vernon, Daniel and Robert Spicer of Lutz., three half sisters, Linda and Laurie Gardner of Marietta and Peggy Spicer of Lutz, his maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Clyde McIntosh of Titusville, FL and several aunts and uncles. Born in Buffalo, he was on leave between Air Force assignments at the time of the accident.
Obituary from Florida Newspaper Reads:
Sgt. Duane E. Spicer II, 20, of 1906 N. Mobile Villa Drive, Lutz; passed away Monday afternoon. Funeral services will be held Friday afternoon at 4:00 o'clock from the Chapel of F. T. Blount Company Funeral Home, 5101 Nebraska Avenue, with Chaplain C.T. Howes, of MacDill Air Force Base, officiating. Interment will follow in Hillsboro Memorial Gardns, where the personnel from MacDill Air Force Base will accord full Military Honors. A native of Buffalo, New York, Sgt. Spicer had resided in the Tampa area for 12 years. He had graduated from Tampa Bay Technical School in 1973. He was of the Protestant Faith and was currently serving with the U.S. Air Force. Survivors include his father Mr. Duane E. Spicer, Lutz;; Step Mother, Mrs. Carol E. Spicer, Lutz; Mother, Mrs. Virginia Gardner, Marietta, New York; seven brothers, Larry Dennis Spicer, Vernon Spicer, Danny Spicer, Bobbi Spicer, Devlyn Spicer, all of Lutz; Jimmy Gardner, Michael Gardner, both of Marietta, New York; three sisters, Miss Peggy Jo Spicer, Lutz, Miss Linda Gardner, Miss Lori Gardner, both of Marietta, New York; and Maternal Grandmother, Mrs. Marion McIntosh, Titusville, Florida.
Visit my baby sister here
Visit my maternal grandfather here
A Special Thank You goes out to Dawn Morgan without whose generosity I would not have had a photo of my brothers grave marker. According to Dawn, "Shorty" is buried in the Veteran's Garden at Hillsboro Memorial Gardens.
Note: Shorty's mother, Virginia Marie McCubbin Gardner, b. 7 Dec 1935, Elma, Erie Co., NY d. 4 Aug 2002 in Dade City, Pasco Co., FL. Her cremains are with her family.
Hopewell Memorial Gardens
Plot: Section 31 C 3
Created by: Laurie Gardner
Record added: Jun 01, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 53115693
Added: Feb. 4, 2013
~ Those we love don't go away, They walk beside us every day, Unseen, unheard, but always near, Still loved, still missed and very dear ~|
The Grave Hunter
Added: Apr. 22, 2011
Added: Jun. 2, 2010
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