Community honors beloved veteran with drive-through funeral

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  • April 17, 2020
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A community in Oklahoma honored a beloved veteran in a way that’s appropriate during these social-distancing times – with a drive-thru funeral. Such services are becoming more common across the country, as families try to follow federal and state guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while still celebrating the lives of loved ones and friends. The parking lot was full Thursday at Shawnee Bowl, where Robert Cearley, 87, enjoyed spending his time. “If you all would just indulge me for a minute, if Bob beat you bowling would you just give a little honk right now,” the minister told the crowd of parked cars.Many honked in return. “He knew he had lots of friends but I don’t think he realized how much he was loved,” said Cearley’s daughter, Karen Hilditch. “He has so many names I’m sure if you went by every car they would have a different name for my daddy,” she said. Cearley was a father, family man, veteran and mentor. He loved bowling and played in four leagues as recently as three years ago. And he loved his wife, Jo. Their story was like a fairy tale. She was a friend of his cousin. Cearley was serving in the military at the time, so he never had the opportunity to meet her. For two years, the two exchanged letters.Cearley met his future wife shortly after he was discharged. “They were married 59 years, and it’s almost six years now he’s been without her,” his daughter said. After her father died, Hilditch said, she wanted to give him the send-off he deserved – no easy feat in coronavirus-mandated social distancing. A drive-thru funeral seemed the most fitting choice. The nontraditional funeral was fitting for a trendsetting father, she said. Hilditch plans to have a traditional memorial for her father when the bowling alley reopens.

A community in Oklahoma honored a beloved veteran in a way that’s appropriate during these social-distancing times – with a drive-thru funeral.

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Such services are becoming more common across the country, as families try to follow federal and state guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while still celebrating the lives of loved ones and friends.

The parking lot was full Thursday at Shawnee Bowl, where Robert Cearley, 87, enjoyed spending his time.

“If you all would just indulge me for a minute, if Bob beat you bowling would you just give a little honk right now,” the minister told the crowd of parked cars.

Many honked in return.

“He knew he had lots of friends but I don’t think he realized how much he was loved,” said Cearley’s daughter, Karen Hilditch.

“He has so many names I’m sure if you went by every car they would have a different name for my daddy,” she said.

Cearley was a father, family man, veteran and mentor. He loved bowling and played in four leagues as recently as three years ago.

And he loved his wife, Jo. Their story was like a fairy tale. She was a friend of his cousin. Cearley was serving in the military at the time, so he never had the opportunity to meet her. For two years, the two exchanged letters.

Cearley met his future wife shortly after he was discharged.

“They were married 59 years, and it’s almost six years now he’s been without her,” his daughter said.

After her father died, Hilditch said, she wanted to give him the send-off he deserved – no easy feat in coronavirus-mandated social distancing. A drive-thru funeral seemed the most fitting choice.

The nontraditional funeral was fitting for a trendsetting father, she said.

Hilditch plans to have a traditional memorial for her father when the bowling alley reopens.

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