Thursday, October 13, 2005

A Candle for Dad

Today we remember the October 13, 2000 car accident, and the wonderful life of Jack Urner. My uncle Lightfoot came by for some coffee. We talked about his adventures in publishing, now that his new book is available. Dad and Bill both worked in Alaska for a spell, had similar adventures. Dad's side of the family really digs Alaska.

Carol, my mom, born in Chico, California, grew up in the midwest and Seattle, her dad a union linotype operator for newspapers. She met my dad at the University of Washington. Dad's lineage traces to Swedish settlers on Mercer Island on his mom's side, and to Urners emigrating to North America in the 1700s on his dad's side. He studied urban/regional planning with Dr. Richard Meier at the University of Chicago, after a stint at Johns Hopkins in international affairs. He then moved his family to Portland, where he joined the Planning Bureau.

Dad's dream all along was to see the world and do planning abroad (a civilian lifestyle -- he'd become a convinced Quaker by this time) and his first overseas client was Libya. He always worked closely with counterparts in the client country, which were then the Philippines, Egypt, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Lesotho.

The car crash happened between Maseru, Lesotho and Bloemfontaine, South Africa, on a dangerous section of road. I flew out to tend to mom in the hospital, arrange the memorial service, settle accounts, and sell or ship our family possessions. My sister Julie spelled me after about a month, and got mom back to the States once she could be moved.

The US Embassy in Maseru, and the one in Johannesburg, were helpful in our time of grief, as were many engineer and diplomat families of many nationalities, the funeral director in Bloem, the police, many Southern African Friends, the Bleekes of Multnomah Meeting. My profound thanks also to the professional staff at the hospital, including the rescue team, who saved mom's life. Thank you to my parents' friends in Lesotho for making their years there so enjoyable, and to Emily for all her good work.

I am also lighting a candle for the driver of the other vehicle, who also died as a result of the crash.