My wife’s great uncle, Col. (Ret.) Capers Andrews Holmes died last week. A confirmed batchelor, Capers (the family always pronounced it “Capus,” and there was some debate last week as to whether that was really his name, as it is what is on his birth certificate) died peacefully in his sleep (in bed, arms crossed over his chest!) at his home at the ripe age of 93. A remarkable person, Capers lived his life in such a way that we all thought he would outlive all of us.

Several years ago, I was privileged to travel to and tour Normandy with active duty paratroopers, not only American, but also British, French, German, and Italian, along with a few of the survivors who jumped into Normandy on D-Day. When I returned, I had lunch with Capers so he could hear about my trip. It was during that lunch that I learned he flew 3 bombing missions on D-Day. I was floored! I had no idea! Yet this was typical, not only for the “Greatest Generation,” but in particular for this simple, humble, gracious and generous man.

A native of Culloden, GA, Capers maintained his membership in the Primitive Baptist Church there, even after he retired to Montgomery, AL and worshiped each Sunday at First Methodist Church there. He was a graduate of the University of Georgia, editor of the “Red & Black,” and joined the Army Air Corps, where he served with distinction during WWII. After the war, Capers stayed in the military, serving NATO, and enjoying his time in Europe.

He was the curious uncle in my wife’s family when I married into it. The one with the video camera who chronicled all the family gatherings, always had a smile on his face, but I could not quite comprehend. Then came that day in July a number of years ago.

Much of the extended family was at Lake Martin, AL, enjoying a mini-reunion, when Capers said to me, “You know, the final stage of the Tour de France is on TV today.” I commented that I was aware of that, and wanted to watch it. He did, too. So the two of us, two 40+ and 80+ men, rearranged the furniture and watched the race (while others suggested it was like watching grass grow.) From that moment, Capers was my hero. I listened to him, called him from time to time on his birthday, tried to sit next to him at family gatherings, and learned to pull stories out of him.

Capers was an incredible gardener, and the family is going to miss the produce from his expansive garden–especially the silver queen corn!

But I think I will miss HIM the most. He was a kind, encouraging man, who always smiled, and never had a cross word for anyone. This world is less than it was, since Capers was “promoted to the Church triumphant.”