Author Archives: Byron

About Byron

Widower, father, student, USA Retired.

End of the War to End all Wars

One hundred years ago:

My great uncle, Private William Thomas Graham, was serving in France with Company F, 348th Infantry, 87th Division. The division was under orders for service at the front lines and was actually in movement when peace broke out on November 11th at 1100 hours, bringing an end to World War I.

WW1 100 Years


On My Wife’s Passing…

In May of 2017, my wife Ashli died at the age of 45. A few times I tried to write about it here, to share the tragic news with my cousins that read this journal. I thought that writing about it would help me to deal with it, but I couldn’t do it then. The emotions were too raw. Even now, seventeen months later, opening up about it is only slightly less painful.

Through the gray days of grief, I would often make little observations to myself about how people reacted to her death and interacted with me. I’ll post of few of them here to clear my thoughts.

There will be some swearing.

When Did She Die?

I’m not even sure when Ashli actually died. She went into cardiac arrest on Friday, 28 April, as the paramedics were taking her into the ambulance. They performed life-saving measures there and got her back. She went into cardiac arrest again in the emergency room, this time for around twenty minutes.

The hospital kept her sedated over the weekend and attempted several procedures to reduce the swelling of her brain. Brain damage was likely considering the amount of time she’d been in cardiac arrest in the ER.

On Monday, her doctors and nurses all gathered in the room to see if she could survive without a ventilator. That was the moment of truth. If she took a breath on her own, she’d probably live, albeit with some kind of impairment. If she could not breathe on her own it would be because the damage was too significant.

She could not breathe without the ventilator, so she was declared brain dead on 1 May 2017.

Ashli was an organ donor, so they kept her body alive. We had a memorial service in her room on Tuesday, then she was prepared for organ donation.

Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network is the group that handled that process. Our contact there, Jenny, was amazing. She helped us prepare some things to remember Ashli, gave me some workbooks on grieving for the kids, and helped settle some of the hospital bills related to the donation. I cannot say enough good things about her.

When is a person really dead? Is it when the brain goes? Or is it when the body expires? Ashli’s mind left on 28 April, but some time after 1 May is when her body really died.

Ashli’s body was cremated in accordance with her wishes. The kids picked out a beautiful flower-etched urn that has become its own memorial to mommy as they decorate it and hang pictures nearby.

The bastards cremated her on her birthday, 17 May. Though, I suppose Ashli might think that fitting.

What Plans?

A short time after Ashli was declared dead, her father asked me, “What are your plans for the future?”

I realize now that he meant well, acting out of concern for me and the children. But my thought at that moment was, What the fuck?! Your daughter just died! I simply said, “I don’t even know what I’m doing on Friday.”

Later that same day, my mom asked me, “So, what are you going to do with them kids?”

I had a similar reaction to mom. What the fuck? Do you think I’m just going to wish them into the cornfield? “Raise them,” I said incredulously.

“How did she die?”

This is the first, and most annoying, question people would ask upon hearing the news. I am standing there emotionally destroyed, struggling just to speak the word “died” without breaking down, and now you want details?!


In the days that followed, Ashli’s mom would call every couple of days and take me back to those dreadful moments. Was there anything she said? Were there any signs? Was there something we missed? Tell me everything again.

No. Just, no.

Bereavement Leave

My employer pays only four days of bereavement leave. It was not enough. I took three unpaid weeks off from work, and I really needed to take six months. I couldn’t afford that, so I returned to work and remained in a zombie-like state for several weeks, not giving any fucks about anything.

“If there’s anything I can do…”

I can’t tell you how many times someone said this to me.

“Well, now that you mention it,” I would say, “I could use some help paying the hospital bills.”

Then a panicked look would cross their face, and they’d back out of the commitment they just made. Oh, I didn’t really mean anything, that look would say.

“Okay, I need someone to watch the kids while I…”

And there would be that look again.

Don’t ever – EVER – say that phrase to someone unless you mean it.


Sometimes I would try to open up to my friends about what I was going through in the days that followed. Some of them would, with no ill intent, suggest that I talk to someone else – a grief counselor.

Discussing death makes people uncomfortable. I get that. But I didn’t want to talk to some stranger. Friends and family have a history together, and a kind of verbal shorthand develops between people where ideas and feelings and references can be conveyed with just a few words. You don’t get that familiarity with a grief counselor.

If a friend wants to talk to you, be a friend and listen. Don’t ask questions, don’t say anything. Just… listen.

Dying Is Expensive

Ambulance rides. Hospital room. Medication. Tests. More medications. Medical procedures. More tests. And then, the dreaded eventuality of death.

The medical plan provided by my employer is pretty good. It cut down the total of my bills from the hundreds of thousands to just the tens of thousands. Life insurance policies covered most of the remaining costs, but I still have one unpaid hospital bill that went to collections.

If you are one of those people that say things like “If there’s anything I can do…” and mean it, there is something you can do! I started a fundraising page at GoFundMe last year to help out with the bills, and it only raised half of its goal. Please consider helping.

And if you really want a description of how she died, it’s on the GoFundMe page.

Well, that’s it for now.

Obituary for Alvin Jesse Graham

Published in the Appeal-Democrat of Sutter County, California from 2 June to 3 June 2018.

Alvin Jesse Graham

Alvin Jesse GrahamAlvin Jesse Graham went to be with his Lord on May 30, 2018 at the age of 92. Born in Marshall, Arkansas on August 20, 1925, he was the third of four children to Cornelius Jesse Graham and Callie Watts-Graham.

Alvin came to California in 1947 where he worked in a sawmill before becoming a general building contractor in 1962, building homes in the Yuba-Sutter area for over 40 years. He served in the Navy during WWII as a Signalman Third Class aboard the U.S.S. Highlands, where he received the Navy Letter of Commendation for participating in D-Day landings on Beach RED ONE at Iwo Jima in 1945.

Alvin is survived by his loving wife and lifelong sweetheart of 71 years, Dora, and his two sons, Michael Graham (Loretta) of Roseville and Larry Graham (Wendy) of Marysville. He is also survived by three grandchildren, Kristen Graham of Roseville, Ryan Graham of Yuba City and Kale Graham of Marysville. Additionally, Alvin leaves behind three great-grandchildren and a brother, Alpha Graham of Marshall, Arkansas.

Alvin was a devoted Christian who enjoyed studying his Bible and attending church. He taught Sunday School and Adult Bible Study classes and loved an energetic song service and anointed preaching. He was a member of Calvary Temple in Yuba City and Christian Life Assembly in Gridley.

Alvin was renowned for his bountiful vegetable gardens provided for family and friends. He was a fantastic husband, father, and grandfather, who always placed God and family first in his life. He will be sorely missed.

Reverend Dwight Deaton will officiate services to be held by Ullrey Memorial Chapel in Yuba City. Public viewing is scheduled for 9:00 am – 10:00 am on Tuesday, June 5, 2018 with graveside services at Sutter Cemetery following at 11:00 am.


Alvin was my first cousin once removed. Unfortunately, I never got to meet him. My sincere condolences to his family.

In 2015, the Appeal-Democrat published an article recounting the celebration of Alvin’s ninetieth birthday. It was accompanied by a full-color photograph of Alvin wearing his San Francisco Giants jacket. A cropped black-and-white version of that photograph was placed with his obituary.


Ullrey Memorial Chapel. “Alvin Jesse Graham,” published May 2018. Retrieved on Wednesday, 6 June 2018.

Civil War Survey

The Department of Arkansas Heritage is conducting a survey regarding the establishment of a Civil War museum. Below is the email they sent:

Good Morning!

Act 921 of the Regular Session of the 91st General Assembly directed the Department of Arkansas Heritage to conduct a feasibility study concerning the establishment of an Arkansas Civil War museum. The feasibility study is required to include research on the demand and interest in Civil War tourism in Arkansas, and a survey was created as part of that research.

To reach many different Arkansans across the state, your help is needed! Please take this short survey and let your voice be heard. 

Go to the survey here:

Department of Arkansas Heritage

Obituary for John Martin

Originally published in the Harrison Daily Times of Harrison, Arkansas.

John Martin

Oct. 29, 1934 – March 4, 2017

John MartinJohn Henry Martin[1], of Marble Falls, passed from this life on Saturday, March 4 (2017) at North Arkansas Regional Medical Center in Harrison. He was 82 years old. 

Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 7, at Holt Memorial Chapel.

Funeral service will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 8, at the Hasty Holiness Church. Pastor Dorvin Ricketts will officiate. Burial will be in Sexton Cemetery. Pallbearers will be his sons and grandsons. Honorary pallbearers are Dr. Tom Leslie and his staff. 

The son of Frank and Stella (Graham) Martin was born on Oct. 29, 1934, at Watts. 

John was a member of the Hasty Holiness Church and was a farmer. He married Ardith Reddell on April 14, 1956, in Harrison.

His parents; three sisters, Berniece Earwood, Emma Jean Davis and Matilda Martin; one brother, Kenneth Martin; and two great-grandsons preceded him in death. 

Survivors include his wife of 60 years, Ardith Martin, of the home; four sons, Darrell Martin and his wife Phyllis, of Yardelle, Derwin Martin and his wife Rhoda, of Everton, Dalton Martin, of Huntsville, and Dell Martin and his wife Karen, of Western Grove; 10 grandchildren, Becky, Robert, Melanie, Beth, Tye, Nathan, Brandon, Kim, Tim and Kendra; 17 great-grandchildren; one great-great-grandchild; one brother, Dalph Martin, of Hasty; one sister-in-law, Vinita Martin, of Couch, Missouri; and several other family and friends.


1. John shared his first and middle names with his mother’s father, John Henry Graham.


Harrison Daily Times.John Martin,” published on Monday, 6 March 2017. Retrieved on Friday, 16 June 2017.

The Graham Family

requests the pleasure of your company

at a Reunion of the descendants of
John Henry and Mary Matilda (Bohannon) Graham

to be held at the South Mountain Fire Department
on the morning of June the Fourth at ten o’clock
with a potluck lunch to be served at one o’clock

5420 South Mountain Road
(South Mountain Road & Wildwood Lane)
Marshall, Arkansas 72650

Obituary for James Leland Rains

Transcribed from the web site of the Roller-Coffman Funeral Home:

James Leland Rains

October 12, 1927  –  January 27, 2017

James Leland Rains, age 89 of Everton, Arkansas passed from this life on Friday, January 27th, 2017 at his home. He was born in Hector, Arkansas on October 12th, 1927 to Sylus Fredrick Rains and Thelma Drucilla Melton Rains[1].

James was a veteran of the United States Army during WWII. He joined in 1944 serving in the 32nd Division 128th Regimented Combat Team and participating in Villa Verde Trail[2], earning 3 combat stars and numerous other medals. He was discharged from his 2nd enlistment in 1953. He married Elsie McGuffin in 1954. James attended Evangel Assembly of God Church in Western Grove, Arkansas. He worked many years as a small instrument repairman for the United States Civil Service. James was a wonderful provider for his family. He will be remembered as a good man, full of kindness and good deeds. The steady, gentle presence of “Big Papa” as he was known by his grandchildren will be missed by all those close to him.

Survivors include his wife of 63 years, Elsie McGuffin Rains of the home; three sons, James Leland Rains Jr. and wife Lorna of Rockaway Beach, MO, Jon Lynn Rains of Ozark, MO and Roger Allen Rains, also of Ozark, MO; four daughters, Marsha Ann Verduzco and husband Ernie of Everton, Sharon Gail Nichols and husband Dave of West Sacramento, CA, Lanita Kay Longboy and husband Mark of Mt. Vernon, MO and Ronda Elaine Turner and husband Leslie of Harrison; grandchildren, Lisa Dahl, Sheri Oriyavong, Edilberto Doguiles, Lisa Williams, Tamy Keen, Melinda Gallardo, Grace Nalley and Sherolyn Nalley; twenty-four great-grandchildren including his namesake, James Leland Doguiles of the Philippines; and a host of other family and friends who will mourn his passing.

James is preceded in death by his parents; children, Jana Rains and infant son, Harland Joe Rains; grandchild, Richard Leroy Olt; brothers, Clifford Rains, Nolan Rains and Harrison Rains; and sisters, Myrldean Owen and Audra Fowler.

Arrangements by Roller-Coffman Funeral Home in Marshall, Arkansas. Funeral services for James will be 10:00 AM Wednesday, February 1st, 2017 at Evangel Assembly of God Church in Western Grove, Arkansas with Bro. Dorvin Ricketts and Bro. Jeffery Jack Owen officiating. Special music will be provided by the Ricketts family. Burial will be in Nubbin Hill Cemetery near Leslie, Arkansas.


1. Thelma Drucilla Melton was the daughter of Ezekial Henry Melton and Minnie Melinda Graham, and the grand daughter of Jesse F. Graham and Sarah Scott. This means James is my second cousin once removed.

32nd_infantry_division_shoulder_patch2. This article on HistoryNet recounts the horrifying details of the fighting on the Villa Verde Trail. World War II: The U.S. 32nd Infantry Division Battle to Control the Villa Verde Trail.


Roller-Coffman Funeral Home. “James Leland Rains,” published January 2017. Retrieved on Sunday, 29 January 2017.

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