Friday, June 01, 2012

Cousin Charles

Charles Raymond Tipton
December 24, 1934 - June 1, 2012

During my life I have come into contact with many people.  Most of these people don't affect the direction of my life but then there are those few who do.  What has always amazed me as I look back in retrospect form my vantage point of seventy years on this earth, is how some of the least likely people have affected my life the greatest.  One of those people was my cousin Charles Raymond Tipton.

My grandparents Fieldon and Hester Tipton had twelve children, eleven of whom lived to adulthood.  All of their children were boys.   I had ten uncles and thirty-eight first cousins on the paternal (Tipton) side of my family.  By contrast, on my Mother's side of my family I had six first cousins.  Growing up, there were always a lot of Tipton cousins around.  The oldest of those first cousins was Charles Raymond Tipton.

Charles was the oldest child and son of my Uncle Raymond Tipton, who in turn was the oldest son of my grandfather Fieldon and grandmother Hester Lewis Tipton.  

Growing up I was closer to some of my other first cousins than I was to cousin Charles.  It wasn't until 1994 that I really started to develop a relationship with cousin Charles.  

What brought that about was a phone call from Charles inquiring as to the dates of birth of myself and my brothers.  Charles told me that  Professor Lloyd Bailey of Duke University was preparing his family tree and our Tipton line was in it.  Professor Bailey was related to our family through my great-great grandmother Martha "Patty" Bailey who was married to my great-great grandfather John Tipton who died fighting for the Union cause in North Carolina during the Civil War.

I had always been interested in my roots or family genealogy but didn't know where to start.  This phone call from my cousin Charles is what got me started.  From that random phone call I started on a journey to which I continue to this very day.  I record my family history on my account at  Through my genealogy research I also became a volunteer for Find a  A few weeks ago I returned from a trip to my ancestral homeland in the mountains of western North Carolina taking pictures of cemeteries in those hills which contain many Tipton headstones.

This afternoon I was on my computer updating the photos I took of the Tipton-Griffith Cemetery in Tipton Hill, North Carolina when I received a phone call from Charles sister, Pauline Jones.  She called to tell me that Charles had died this afternoon at 5:35 pm.  

Charles had suffered a heart attack yesterday.  Pauline told me that Charles was actually dead at that time but the medic had resuscitated him to the point where he was breathing again. Only problem was that he was brain dead.  He was put on life support.  Pauline told me that Charles had often told her and his family that he "didn't want to go the way his dad did."  

Today his family decided to take him off of life support.  He died a few hours later.  

While I was never particularly close to Charles I will miss him nonetheless.  He was a wise and gentle man with an earthy sense of humor.  Charles always knew that he was the Senior Cousin and carried that responsibility with grace, dignity and pride.  

I will miss my occasional phone calls to Charles updating him on the latest interesting tidbit that I found on our common family history.  I will miss hearing the way he would say my name "Ron."  Charles had a gentle masculine voice which I found very comforting.  

These days when it seems that so many of my friends and family are leaving me, I sometimes feel melancholy for times past.  Times that will never be duplicated again.  Then I think that my time isn't that far away either.  

I don't fear death but I do sometimes feel waves of sadness sweep over me.  Not a sadness over my impending departure but a sadness that yet another link from my past is gone.  A sadness knowing I am one step closer to the loneliness of old age. 

I always remember what my maternal grandfather George Hadfield (the only grandparent I ever knew) told me shortly before he died. He said "Ronnie, the bad thing about getting old is all of your friends are gone."  

With each passing of a friend or a relative I knew exactly what he meant.

Goodbye Cousin Charles.  Thank you for your kindness.


  1. I'm sorry for the loss of your cousin.

    My family is the same way Mom is one of 12 and I'm the oldest of 41 grandkids. I knew many of my second cousins too. My father has not a single living relative - the last one, my grandmother died when I was 12.
    Unfortunately, my aunts and uncles all fight with each other and that has kept the cousins apart. We have tried from time to time but we have just become stranger.

    1. Sean,

      You're the oldest cousin? How cool is that? Do you feel a special responsibility? Have you researched your family tree? If you give me your last name and the name and date of birth of your maternal grandfather I can search my account. I'm sure there is already a family tree in Ancestry's records for your family. There usually is for such a large family.

      It's a shame that some of your aunts and uncles fight. We have some of that in my family too. I try to ignore it and get by it, but at times it is difficult. Just last night I returned a call to my Aunt Shelby who had called me inquiring about Charles, her nephew. Then she started going on about how Charle's wife wouldn't let her see him in the hospital even if she tried to go. I just didn't want to go there so I changed the subject. Sometimes with relatives it's like walking a minefield.


  2. Your tribute to your cousin Charles is very touching. There is nothing more disheartening than losing a family member, and there are no words of comfort that can ease the pain of such a loss. You said that "I sometimes feel melancholy for times past". I can fully identify with that.
    I'm in my 50's now and have already lost many people close to me - - including both of my parents, most of my aunts and uncles, even several lovers. With each loss, I feel more alone, more isolated, and more acutely aware of my own mortality. It's not easy......

    1. Thank you Jon. You state it so well, "I feel more alone, more isolate, and more acutely aware of my own mortality. It's not easy...."
      No, it isn't easy. I just feel sadness for what was and will never be again.


  3. anne marie in philly6:15 AM

    you have such an interesting family tree; and thanks to cousin charles you know hella more about your ancestors than I do about mine. a nice legacy.

    1. Anne Marie,

      Everyone has an interesting family tree. You just have to dig and find all the dirt. That's the good stuff!


  4. Ron,

    Very sorry to hear of the lost of your cousin. It was also a reminder that beside a Living Will one needs a "Do not resuscitate Declaration" as well.


    1. Thank you Larry. Yes, one does need a "Do not resuscitate declaration." Charles' sister told me he had already died from his heart attack and they brought him back to life. But he was brain dead. God, I hope that doesn't happen to me.

  5. Sorry for your loss.
    He sounds like a good man.

    1. Thank you Bob. Yes, he was a good man. Perhaps his only fault (that I could see) was that he was of that generation who didn't understand gays. At least he didn't preach to me about my "sinful ways."


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